4 steps to create a Winning Game Plan

By Julie Choo

Published: April 30, 2020

Last Update: June 12, 2020

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In all walks of life, in business and in sport…

In all things that drive people… the 4 pillars of a good life: health, wealth, knowledge and connectivity… there are many problems to overcome.

And they just keep coming from the disruption caused by our fast-changing and increasingly digital economy as well as times of uncertainty and instability (such as a coronovirus pandemic or a global financial crisis), that inevitably lead to economic downturns.

Your ability to problem-solve, and define appropriate strategies and tactics to overcome those things that challenge you, is what’s going to make that difference to winning or losing … in the ‘game of life’ and the ‘game of business’.

This is why you need to be good at developing and executing ‘game plans’, that will help you to overcome your problems and achieve the best possible outcomes.

When you go to battle in anything, against any opposition, including invisible enemies such as a virus, it’s best to have a good or even a great game plan, with as much data as possible to help you make the best decisions, and take the best actions.

Your ‘game plan’ is your best chance of winning, and if you don’t have one, then you have definitely lost the fight because you will waste both time and resources… your money on the wrong activities and actions during your battle… that can leave you in danger of even more losses in the future, when you have drained those resources with little left in the tank.

Why you need a ‘game plan’ should be obvious, even if many people rush to building solutions, without one, which result in poor results. And they do this because they don’t know how to develop a good game plan.

In THE STRATEGY JOURNEY Framework, we have developed a process and tools, to help you develop a winning game plan, including templates canvases such as the Game Plan Designer and Game Play Map. We also have a fast track course called Game Plan Lab that shows you how companies, projects, governments and people, who have applied the 4 steps that we recommend, have managed to achieve better outcomes, faster in their problem-solving and business transformation efforts. The training will teach you how to do the same with your business, project and career, to solve whatever problems you might have, step-by-step.

Here’s an introduction to this training…


What is a game plan?

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.

– SUN TZU

A ‘game plan’ is a set of strategies and tactics with actionable steps to help you solve a specific problem based on the context and consequences of the problem, that give you the best possible set of outcomes in your solution proposal based on the inputs and resources that you have at your disposal to fight the battle in the ‘game’.

The best possible input and the more your resources, then the better your outcomes and your ability to achieve them faster too. This is ‘science’ of gamification.

And how good your game plan is, and how you might execute it, so the ‘game play’ that you chose to take, is the ‘art’ of gamification.

The best analogy for this is in sport, and this applies to different sports.

Take the example of a football match or basketball game or motor race such as a Formula One (F1) Grandprix. I like these examples because they explicitly have coaches and strategists, that need to make decisions on how to start the game, play the game and change the game, during the game in order to win.

In basketball, you see coaches draw on clipboards during timeouts to direct their players into a specific set of actions in their gameplay, to score a goal. In football you have the same, when coaches substitute players during the game with instructions to change the style of play, to score more goals as well as prevent more goals from being scored by the opposition. And during any F1 Grandprix, you have different teams and their drivers, using different tire strategies, settings in their cars, which are all built different subject to regulations of course, based on the data they collect and analyze, to perform at their best during qualifying as well as during the race in order to outwit and outpace their opposition. This is science.

In all of these sports, you also need the brilliance of the players and drivers too during the game or race, as that brilliant pass or goal, or overtake, is what actually wins the entire team a game or a race. Of course, these moves take practice and skills, from dedicated professionals operating at the pinnacle of their professions. If you read Sir Alex Ferguson’s book, ‘Leader’, which is a Harvard Business School textbook, he will tell you how many times David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo practiced their shots, and also how he built ‘Manchester United’ into a winning team, for nearly two decades. This is art.

A winning ‘game plan’ has both ‘science’ and ‘art’ to make it perform at its best, to deliver the best possible outcomes.

So to be clear, a game plan is not a ‘solution’, as we have illustrated this using our sporting examples. A game plan comprises the solution or solutions in ‘what’ outcomes it achieves and ‘how’ it achieves them.

And this is true in business as well as in sport, and in the pursuit of finding and executing the best possible solutions to any problem, in all walks of life.

You won’t find it difficult to prove that battles, campaigns, and even wars have been won or lost primarily because of logistics.

General Dwight. D. Eisenhower

Just look at those countries like South Korea and Taiwan who were prepared with game plans for a viral pandemic, versus countries like the United Kingdom who weren’t ready having spent their resources on other things and cut infrastructure spending on their health care system, and even reacted late, because they were making it up as they went, reacting to only new data, while trying to hide old data that reflected their poor decision making. It’s a case of poor inputs as well as poor resources, that led the UK such a high number of deaths.


The science of gamification

In the science of gamification, there are 4 steps in the process to create a winning game plan, that give you the best possible outcomes based on your inputs and resources.

The 4 steps to create a winning game plan are:

1. Identify the PROBLEM REALITY

Clarity on the context of the problem you need solving, who its for, and what makes it problem is the first step, because this sets the direction of what actions you will take to solve that problem.

In business and in your career, there are many problems to solve. There are problems in society too, from climate change, to social inequality, to health pandemics.

There is a lot of data to gather that will inform you of what this problem is, who is impacts, why its important, that will help set you up on your problem solving journey to define your game plan.

If you don’t have enough data, then you are likely to go in the wrong direction and build solutions that are inadequate, that do not solve the problem, and that address the wrong problem, or worst you are wasting your time and resources on a problem that doesn’t really exist.

So what makes up the problem or problems?

In the sporting examples that we have alluded to so far, the problems that clubs like the Manchester United Football Club, or the Ferrari Formula One Team have are multifaceted. These sporting businesses are big businesses too that make yearly revenue in the many 10s to 100s of millions. The big problems that they need to deal with in their businesses include:

  • Winning games and races
  • Scoring a certain number of goals or points in order to win a championship
  • Building loyal fans and interest among spectators who would pay for their services, by purchasing tickets or tv subscriptions to watch games and races, buying merchandise
  • Finding the funds to run their business activities, from sales as well as sponsorships, or investment backers and owners

… the list goes on…

Different types of businesses or organizations big and small will have their own sets of problems that they need to deal with in order to run and operate their enterprises, from getting traffic to their website, to making sales, to cutting costs, to training staff, to packaging and delivering goods to customers, to maintaining quality, health and safety or speed of delivery …

There a lot of problems to solve, and lots of ‘logistics’ to sort out, and this is why a grand game plan and many smaller ones too, are required. And they need to be prioritized, in order to ensure resources, in the people, processes, data and systems that the business and teams have, are not wasted on the wrong things.

Your ‘game plan’ is only as good as the inputs in data that you have on ‘what is the problem reality?’ – to help you clarify its purpose and set direction as you start to define its proposed solutions.


2. Prioritize based on CONSEQUENCES

Once you have all the data that gives a clear indication of the problem reality, where there is a big problem with lots of smaller ones too, then the second step is to prioritize these different smaller problems that manifest. It is important to prioritize so that you can work out the order by which to address them in your solution, based on the resources that you have. If you don’t then you will run out of resources and not achieve anything. This is what leads the whole game plan to fail, or the cause of failure when you don’t have a game plan. You are taking the wrong actions based on making the wrong decisions, and wasting time and resources, including precious funds in your business.

It is important that you realize you can’t fix everything, and sometimes, somethings have to give way, to more important things. And there are often tough decisions to make, and depending on your role in an enterprise, you may be that decision maker or you are the data scientist or analyst that is putting the scenarios together to help the boss make that decision, or possibly someone that contributes to the data or needs to be informed by the data. There are actually four roles here, of people who are:

  • Responsible,
  • Accountable,
  • Contribute, or
  • Informed

The objective of this step is to work out what happens in different scenarios, if different problems are not fixed and what could happen if it was, and even play around with the order or sequencing of these activities.

This analysis is what give the enterprise and its decision maker different options, by which to act on.

So in the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, we see all these different data scientists along with input from their Chief Medical and Chief Scientific Offers working for their respective governments, analyse the data that they have from STEP 1, to determine how the virus could spread, depending on how they manage their lockdowns, from timing how different services are closed or restrictions lifted.

These scenarios backed by the data that they have of different quality and accuracy, are the options that they present to the decision makers, like a Secretary of Health, a Governor, a Prime Minister or President to make or take the right decisions.

And again in business, the best example comes from Amazon, where analysts and AI systems in a company, would be mining and then analyzing all the data in the company to show different options in how Amazon can increase sales, manage costs and perform different business activities, such as adding a new system, or buying another business in an M&A acquisition, and so on…

The goal is to prioritize, including ruling things in and ruling things out, as well as sequencing activities to form multiple scenario options for consideration.

3. Define the IDEAL SCENARIO (Outcomes)

With the different scenario options available from STEP 2, the next step is to agree what is the IDEAL scenario and hence the recommendation to the decision maker.

In this step, the decision makers will evaluation the options presented by the analyst and scientists, and make the decision on what to proceed with.

Recalculations may be needed, as the decision-makers will ask questions related to the pros and cons of each option, what data was used, how good is the data, and what makes the recommended IDEAL scenario the best one.

The goal is to dive into the outcomes and both qualify them and quantify them – another step in the data science process.

The outcomes which form the objectives of the ‘game plan’, need to be S.M.A.R.T in order to enable the quantification and qualification process.

S.M.A.R.T objectives or outcomes need to be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

It is when you are performing the data science through quantifying and qualifying of your smart objectives with their outcomes that you consider what resources you have to make the best IDEAL scenario possible too. This is what makes it ‘realistic’. You can’t move into STEP 4, when you are starting to action the game plan, if you don’t have the resources to make your gameplay.

4. Develop the SOLUTION PROPOSAL (Gameplay & Roadmap)

The fourth and final step of creating a winning game plan is to take the final IDEAL scenario from STEP 3 and break it down into stages in that form the ‘gameplay’.

The ‘gameplay’ is the sequence of events that the enterprise and its players will execute, to take the game plan ‘live’, and that gives it that chance to win the game.

And in each game play stage, there is a ‘priority play’, that first step or first move. When you play a game of chess or participate in any strategy game, this first move can often be the decisive one that set the direction for what comes after. They don’t call it first mover advantage for nothing 😉

So, you have to determine what is that first move.

And within each gameplay stage, you can breakdown the stages into activities, those actionable steps, that are also specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound that can then be sequenced out in a ‘roadmap’.

In Tesla’s strategy, which is a major case study we discuss in THE STRATEGY JOURNEY Book and part of our training course Game Plan Lab, you will see how Elon Musk came up with this strategies and tactics, and this first mover gameplay that Tesla used to set itself up for success to achieve its mission and vision.

Tesla’s first move was to create an electric sports car that was relatively expensive for car and tech enthusiasts who would move likely be willing to pay a premium to experience a new innovation, our innovators and early adopters in the Innovation Adoption Lifecycle. This move was set to increase brand awareness and help the company to build out its infrastructure to support the logistics of not just building more electric cars better and faster, but also batteries and solar cells, which would support the company’s long-term strategy in its mission and vision to become a major energy player specializing in re-newable energy and storage in the energy market.

In the science of gamification, you have there are three key secrets to that the create winning game plans:

1. Play to win

2. Take your shot

3. Enjoy the ride

Step 4 is is where you have moved from ‘Play to win’ to ‘Take your shot’, as its where you begin to put your game plan into action through your gameplay.

And when you have the roadmap of activities and those next steps to execute the best strategy and tactics that you can play based on the resources that you have, then

And let’s use the game of monopoly to illustrate the Telsa Case Study…

Tesla is a ‘player’. It has chosen a ‘car’ to represent it on the board.

The game is the energy market

Tesla is trying buying up lots of land and infrastructure, represented by all the properties on the board, to support its mission to be a major player in the game.

Tesla is also building lots cars and batteries, all backed by the latest technology, which are the little houses and hotels that it is can build on each of its properties.

And Elon Musk has been pretty transparent on his game plan with Tesla’s gameplay stages. He even published them in 2016, in his article ‘PART DEUX’ for everyone to see in on Tesla’s website. Supporting Tesla grand game plan is a pretty extensive roadmap of activities that the company is trying to execute which requires a lot of resources and funding – hence investors spent much of 2019 speculating on Tesla’s cashflow issues.


Through executing the 4 steps to create a winning game plan, you will start your journey to to learn and practise the ‘art’ and ‘science’ of gamification, and play the game where you get to see how your strategies and tactics will help you win the game.

Gaming should be fun, and for many people including nearly 900million online gamers around the world, it is and they are addicted to it.

Using gamification, with the process we have set out in the 4 steps to creating a winning game plan, you too can have fun as you solve different problems in your business, projects and career, and in all walks of life, to support those 4 pillars of a good life that drive us all – health, wealth, knowledge and connectivity.

Julie Choo

About the author

Julie Choo is lead author of THE STRATEGY JOURNEY book and the founder of STRATABILITY ACADEMY. She speaks regularly at numerous tech, careers and entrepreneur events globally. Julie continues to consult at large Fortune 500 companies, Global Banks and tech start-ups. As a lover of all things strategic, she is a keen Formula One fan who named her dog, Kimi (after Raikkonnen), and follows football - favourite club changes based on where she calls home.

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