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What the Print Industry Can Learn From The Last Dance

The late and great Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause once said, “Players and coaches don’t win championships, organizations do…” This statement sent shock waves throughout the sports community and raises conversation today with the release of the “The Last Dance.” A documentary highlighting the legendary run of the Chicago Bulls in the ’90s.

I would argue that Jerry Krause is right to an extent. Players and coaches don’t win championships, neither do organizations… Teams do! It takes General Managers to identify great players to add to the roster. It takes diehard fans in the stands cheering and adding validation to every play. It takes owners investing in stadiums and marketing. And yes, players and coaches too. All of these moving parts are a team.

Although each of these roles has different names and responsibilities they all have to be on the same page to accomplish big goals. While you probably never notice it great teams plan for and execute proper communication that keeps all of those parts moving in sync.

The same is true in the print industry. Our industry brings together many roles to accomplish the championship of delivering customer satisfaction and encouraging repeat business.

Clear and accurate communication between the players in these various roles is paramount. When adequate channels are created, and solid plans are put in place, proper communication is facilitated and goals are met. Without plans and a means to carry them out, communication breaks down and critical goals are impeded.

Picture this scenario…

Tom, the top sales representative has taken a 3-week vacation to a remote location where he will not be easy to contact. He has forwarded all of the files needed for the next three weeks to a colleague, Philip, who is as reliable as they come. Philip reads all of Tom’s notes and listens attentively. Tom is confident that Philip has grasped everything and leaves for vacation feeling everything is in good hands.

Everything is going smoothly until one of Tom’s accounts calls. They planned a big project with Tom that was supposed to run five weeks from now, two weeks after Tom gets back. But they need to move it up. This is great news! The company has a light week coming up, can fit the job in, and it will boost this month’s revenue over the top.

Philip pulls up all of the files Tom sent him. There’s nothing there about this job! That’s because the job wasn’t planned to go to production until two weeks after he returns so Tom didn’t send it along. No one can get into Tom’s other files and this big job that was looking better than ever is suddenly at risk.

How would your company handle it?

Teamwork was definitely in play in this situation. Tom and Philip seemed to be on the same page, communication happened and information was shared. Unfortunately, there was still a breakdown. The communication that happened and the information that was shared was incomplete and in a silo. Had adequate means been planned to make sure that all information, not just what was thought to be necessary, was accessible; this change in plans could have been the windfall it was supposed to be rather than the pitfall it became.

Over the decades, we have found that many companies are like the one in this scenario. It’s not that they don’t try and strive for proper communication because they do. Rather it’s that they don’t have adequate means to make it happen. They rely on notes, email, and files that are not centralized, unified, connected, and universally available when situations like the one that blindsided Tom and Philip’s company happen. And if you don’t think they happen, now’s the time to start believing, because they do happen and never when you expect them to.

Companies that communicate like championship teams work like championship teams. They need the tools, mechanisms, and plans in place to move down the court and take the shot regardless of what gets in the way or when the opportunity comes. Information needs to be shared, nothing less than total collaboration needs to be the norm and nothing can be sealed in a silo. Although we’ve been known to have people who can more than hold their own on the hardwood amongst our ranks, building the software that makes championship-level communication happen for printers and print buyers alike is our game. While you probably shouldn’t be looking for anyone to be making a documentary about great communication in the printing industry anytime soon, when you are looking for the means to make it happen, we’re here to help you make it a slam dunk.

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