Mur­phy hopes to take the Pack­ers from ‘Good to Great’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Business - C-Level Steve Ja­gler Milwaukee Jour­nal Sen­tinel USA TO­DAY NET­WORK – WIS.

Back in 1991, Bob Har­lan, then the pres­i­dent of the Green Bay Pack­ers, was not a “foot­ball per­son.”

But the hum­ble Har­lan was smart enough to know that he didn’t know what he didn’t know. (That is a qual­ity of wis­dom that has been re­cur­ring fre­quently lately among ef­fec­tive busi­ness lead­ers in this col­umn.)

So, Har­lan went out and hired a “foot­ball per­son,” Ron Wolf, to over­see the foot­ball op­er­a­tions of the team, al­low­ing Har­lan to fo­cus on the busi­ness as­pects of run­ning the Pack­ers, in­clud­ing the then-con­tro­ver­sial ex­pan­sion of Lam­beau Field.

“We wanted a foot­ball per­son mak­ing all of our foot­ball de­ci­sions,” Har­lan told Pack­er­ “The peo­ple on my ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee were very tal­ented busi­ness­men, very suc­cess­ful busi­ness­men and very valu­able to the or­ga­ni­za­tion help­ing us with our busi­ness struc­ture. But from the foot­ball side, I just felt we needed one strong foot­ball per­son and give him that au­thor­ity.”

Of course, the di­chotomy of du­ties served the Pack glo­ri­ously well. Su­per, you might say.

It paid off again with an­other Su­per Bowl ti­tle af­ter Har­lan brought in Ted Thomp­son to be gen­eral man­ager, and Thomp­son hired Mike McCarthy to be

head coach.

Fast for­ward to 2018. Har­lan is re­tired, and Pack­ers Pres­i­dent and CEO Mark Mur­phy a “foot­ball per­son.” And he’s re­struc­tur­ing the team’s front of­fice again.

Time had passed by the pre­vi­ous struc­ture.

As gen­eral man­ager, Thomp­son had com­plete con­trol over all of the foot­ball op­er­a­tions, just as Wolf did be­fore him, and McCarthy made the most of the ros­ter Thomp­son built for him.

In re­cent years, Thomp­son had lost his touch in player eval­u­a­tions, mak­ing sev­eral ques­tion­able de­ci­sions.

When the Pack­ers fell short of ex­pec­ta­tions, as they did this past sea­son — even tak­ing into ac­count the in­jury to quar­ter­back Aaron Rodgers — who was to blame? Thomp­son, for not cre­at­ing a ros­ter that could com­pete? Or McCarthy, for not mak­ing the most of that ros­ter on game day?

Per­haps both, ac­cord­ing to Kay Plantes, a busi­ness strat­egy and lead­er­ship ex­pert.

“Or­ga­ni­za­tions are only suc­cess­ful if their parts are aligned to­wards achieve­ment of a shared goal. A ter­rific R&D team can­not cre­ate com­pany suc­cess if the mar­ket­ing team is un­able to build aware­ness and con­sid­er­a­tion of its in­no­va­tions, for ex­am­ple. The Pack­ers need both bet­ter play­ers and game plans less de­pen­dent on Rodgers for the Pack­ers to build sus­tain­ing suc­cess,” said Plantes, prin­ci­pal at Plantes Co. LLC in La Jolla, Calif.

Mur­phy is fix­ing that quandary by hir­ing Brian Gutekunst as the Pack’s new gen­eral man­ager. How­ever, Gutekunst will not over­see all of the foot­ball op­er­a­tions. He will be in charge of what he does best: col­lege and pro­fes­sional player eval­u­a­tions.

Gutekunst will be as­sisted by Russ Ball, who was pro­moted to ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent/foot­ball op­er­a­tions. Ball will do what he does best: salary cap man­age­ment.

That leaves the man­age­ment of the team on the field to McCarthy. That’s what he does best.

“I thought it would be re­ally helpful for Mike McCarthy to re­port to me,” Mur­phy told the Jour­nal Sen­tinel. “I think it’s best for the or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

Thus, Gutekunst, Ball and McCarthy each will re­port to Mur­phy, the “foot­ball per­son.”

In the end, all of the ex­ec­u­tives will be tasked with do­ing pre­cisely what they do best.

Or, to put it in the par­lance of Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great,” Mur­phy, a for­mer All-Pro safety who earned an MBA in fi­nance from Amer­i­can Univer­sity and a law de­gree from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity, ap­pears to have placed all the right peo­ple on his bus. Fur­ther­more, he’s put them in the right seats on that bus.

“In fact, lead­ers of com­pa­nies that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by get­ting the right peo­ple on the bus, the wrong peo­ple off the bus, and the right peo­ple in the right seats,” Collins wrote.

It turns out that Mur­phy in­deed has read “Good to Great” and dis­cussed the im­por­tance of get­ting the right peo­ple in the right seats on his bus, ac­cord­ing to Aaron Pop­key, Pack­ers direc­tor of pub­lic af­fairs.

Mur­phy said 13 other NFL teams have sim­i­lar front-of­fice struc­tures, and seven of those clubs ad­vanced to the play­offs this year.

Gutekunst sees the ben­e­fits of the new hi­er­ar­chy.

“No red flags,” Gutekunst said. “I had to think about it when I was try­ing to process it or what­ever, but the big­gest thing to me was just the peo­ple in­volved. My re­la­tion­ship with Russ is re­ally strong, and my re­la­tion­ship with Mike is re­ally strong. So I needed to hear how it was go­ing to work, but once Mark laid it out, I was all for it. I was pretty jacked up about it. Be­cause it ac­tu­ally takes some things out of my way, so I can re­ally do what I’m good at. So, I was happy about it.”

The new struc­ture also as­sures bet­ter di­rect ac­count­abil­ity. Af­ter all, it re­mains un­clear why backup quar­ter­back Brett Hund­ley failed when Rodgers went down. Was it be­cause Hund­ley never should have been drafted so high by Thomp­son to be­gin with? Or did Hund­ley fail be­cause McCarthy could not coach him up to be ef­fec­tive? We’ll never know.

With the new struc­ture, if the Pack­ers fail, Mur­phy, the “foot­ball per­son,” will have the fi­nal say about who needs to get off the bus.


Green Bay Pack­ers Pres­i­dent and CEO Mark Mur­phy (right) ad­dresses me­dia af­ter hir­ing Brian Gutekunst as gen­eral man­ager for the or­ga­ni­za­tion on Mon­day at Lam­beau Field.

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