Business planning, Leadership, Team

Who’s in the war room?

I have recently been to one of our regular ActionCOACH conferences. I always return from these conferences buzzing with new ideas to help the businesses I work with. Here is one thing I would like to share with you.

Sir Clive Woodward and Jonny Wilkinson

Sir Clive Woodward was our guest speaker. I was expecting him to be good but he exceeded my expectations by miles, with real stories from rugby, the Olympics and from business. The War Room is one of the ideas he spoke about that I am taking back and using. I’ve used the idea myself in business over the years but Sir Clive has taken it to a new level.


To step back a moment, one of Sir Clive’s key themes was ‘Teamship‘ ; his take on how to build a group of excellent individuals into a world beating team. Teamship means that members of the team write the rules which all team members will adhere to. In the case of the successful England rugby team of 2003, they created a 50 page book detailing the rules they all committed to follow – and it was written entirely by the team. The manager’s (ie Sir Clive’s) role was simply to endorse (or veto) the content and the team members’ role was to adhere to the principles they had written. The book was bound in a leather cover, regularly updated and it was presented to every new member of England’s World Cup winning rugby squad when they were first selected. Compliance was 100% in the rugby team and the same principles were used to mould Team GB into a unit for the 2012 Olympics where of course GB competitors won more medals than ever before.

Back to the War Room. The idea is to use this not just as a way of dealing with crisis (though it’s a great way for that) but to bring it to life in a more proactive way. In the rugby example, the squad would sit in a room with a clock. The clock would be set to a certain time (e.g. 5 minutes to go) and the score would be put up on the board. A scenario would be set (e.g. a line-out at 25 metres). Then the question to each team member was “what will you do next in this situation”. By thinking this through in the War Room, all members of the team were ready when a similar situation arose on the field.

So how does this apply to business? The idea is to pick on key business issues, opportunities or potential threats which could derail the business and deal with them with the same sense of urgency as we would if they were a real crisis. I’ve started using this with clients already.

One of my clients has identified a list of 10 priority War Room scenarios. They will have a team of people allocated to dealing with their plan for each one of these issues. In 10 weeks they will have a contingency for all the above, enabling the owner to take some time away during the year, knowing that the team can deal with crises if they arise.

So what are your 10 priority War Room issues and what will you do to make sure you are prepared if one of them actually happens?



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One Response to Who’s in the war room?

  1. Pingback: Why facing up to a crisis can be good for you | Nigel Scott

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