Brandon's Blog: Strategic Initiatives Important for Championship Teams
One leg of the "decathlon"

June 11, 2012

University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page,, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.

With a collegiate model that has seen its foundation shift with too many rules infractions, significant realignment of conferences, more television exposure, social media issues, rising costs, etc., the need for constant vigilance on the part of everyone in an athletics department is more important today than at any other time in collegiate sports.

The heightened real-time nature of how these departments operate creates a need to prepare everyone to be ready at any time. Just like any great college athletics team, the entire athletics department must be ready to perform their role from the same playbook at a moment's notice.

In order to prepare for this desired outcome, the University of Michigan Athletic Department is steadily working on ways to improve ourselves in every area of our organization.

Friday was MGoBlue Day, one of our most important quarterly, full-department meetings. This specific meeting was built around planning. Summer is no longer a time when our team members can sit back and think of what they want to do for the upcoming seasons; it is a time to update goals and set specific, measureable and achievable objectives. We fed everyone a great lunch -- and then got to work!

At Michigan Athletics, we build our annual strategic plan each year using what we call "The Planning Pyramid."

We start with our mission statement: "Relentlessly striving to make Michigan Athletics the Leaders and Best in every way."

We quickly follow with our eight guiding principles of our department:

  • We demand integrity;
  • We all work hard to win championships;
  • We are a great place to work;
  • We will grow and remain financially self-supporting;
  • We create 'wow' experiences for our student-athletes, fans and department team members;
  • We respect our traditions while also believing that change is good;
  • We create positive academic and athletic experiences for our student-athletes and prepare them to be successful in life;
  • And, we will always remember what HE taught us: "The Team, The Team, The Team!"

We then establish our long-range goals, strategic drivers and initiatives, annual departmental SMAC objectives, and individual SMAC objectives. SMAC means the objective needs to be specific, measurable, achievable and compatible to our overall goals and plans.

This planning process allows everyone in our athletics department team to have something akin to a position-by-position playbook. It is our annual game plan, which allows all team members to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities -- as well as their accountabilities.

Team building was also a part of the day's activities. Our Smile Committee (a special volunteer committee that plans events and programs designed to make everyone smile!) developed a decathlon competition. After teams were randomly selected, they went from the meeting room to the Michigan Stadium football field to participate in a 10-event competition. Some of the events were physically challenging and others were mentally challenging. The activity gave the department team a needed break in the session. As everyone walked back up the tunnel, the Smile Committee's objective to create a 'wow' experience was clearly evident. It was time to return to the business at hand to set department and personal objectives.

This is truly what we are striving to achieve in our Michigan Athletic Department culture. Each team member needs to be goal-oriented, highly motivated and enthusiastically committed to doing great work.

Putting all these pieces of the puzzle in place and then holding ourselves accountable year after year is vital for Michigan Athletics to be "leaders and best in every way!"

As the outside temperature climbed and the day finally ended, an ice cream truck awaited our team members. Some individuals returned to the department meetings to complete their objectives, while others who had completed the tasks headed home.

Talent is a must to win in athletic competition and to win in the world of college athletics. Culture is just as important. We are blessed to have many incredibly talented, hard-working team members who have high expectations for themselves, our teams and our department. It is an exciting culture that understands the importance of "The Team, The Team, The Team!"

Thank you to our athletic department team members for the good work that was accomplished in our sessions on Friday.

And, by the way, at Michigan, you don't have to spell out who taught us about 'The Team, The Team, The Team!' Everyone knows it!

Thank you Bo, and Go Blue!

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