What Football Can Teach Us About Top Software Development Companies

Most business professionals know that leadership is a vital and crucial element to any company, and it’s especially true in a fast-paced, high-growth industry such as software development.  This time of year, with the Super Bowl coming up, we thought it might be fun to look at the way that professional football teams approach leadership and management, and see if there are any lessons for firms that want to be top software development companies.

Much as businesses often arrive at their end goals by taking different paths, this past weekend the National Football League’s Conference Champions arrived at their goals in wildly opposite fashion. While the New England Patriots removed any doubt as the outcome of the game early in the first quarter, the Seattle Seahawks clinched with the largest fourth-quarter comeback win in NFL championship game history.

Consistency in Leadership, Consistency in Philosophy

Bill Belichick is the longest tenured active coach in the NFL. He hasn’t had to worry about filling the most difficult position in sports because Tom Brady has been his Quarterback since 2001. It is no coincidence that they’ve been successful during this time frame.

Consistency is important in any company, especially when it comes to the people in power. It breeds loyalty and enables long-term planning, not just the type of decisions that save people’s jobs in the short term.  Ok – so there’s one common trait.

Indeed, the best software development companies maintain not just consistent leadership, but consistent philosophies. For example, we strive to draw on a broad range of skills to provide solutions, not just the ones we want to do. Sure, philosophies, processes, and business models evolve over time, but having a consistent core belief system empowers employees to make better decisions and builds a brand with customers.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure

Even the most successful businesses periodically struggle. Therefore, the best time to evaluate something is when times are difficult. How does the team resolve personality conflicts or budget crunches? Software development projects are similar to football in that a deadline is like the end of the game. As the Seahawks just showed us, sometimes the only thing that matters is how you finish.

What about the high pressure nature of software development and professional sports?  Granted, you are less likely to end up with a concussion in software development, unless you smack your head on your keyboard enough times while debugging a particularly difficult piece of code.

However, in either situation, we find that many people think that “practice makes perfect”.  Pete Carroll, the Seahawks head coach, puts his players under constant competition – even during practice. He believes players should always be competing: with themselves or even teammates for a roster spot.

In the case of the best software development firms, it comes down to transparency. Having an open discussion with employees about why a project is important and details about the project’s economics is a form of competition – because developers take pride in finishing a project on budget and making customers happy. It offers everyone the opportunity to learn from the past and continue to measure themselves against their own personal and team history.

Despite the obvious differences between sport and business, many lessons can be drawn from this Super Bowl’s contestants. In between the hard-hitting action of the game, the comedic value of the commercials, and the extravagance of the half-time show, perhaps you’ll even find time to grasp more insights.

Enjoy the game!

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