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Strategic Management in Sports

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By Dr. Tomi Wahlström |

Sport, as a field and industry, is rapidly changing. Therefore, there is an increased need for strategic management to adjust to these changes. It is important to have a clear road map and vision for the future. It is no longer sufficient to rely on old business models and outdated management practices. Sports is a business and requires sophisticated management and leadership skills. Venues are becoming increasingly sophisticated and operations more complex. The success of a sports team depends as much on good strategic decisions as it depends on the performance of the athletes. It depends on proper supply chain management and selection of quality vendors. It also depends on quality recruitment of staff and administrators. Sales and marketing functions must be able to maintain proper branding and navigate the new marketing channels. Meanwhile, information technology must be able to keep up with the organizational demands. It is no longer sufficient for sports managers to have had successful athletic and coaching careers to qualify to manage these complex organizations. Proper business and management expertise, and education, are needed.

Strategic management is a three stage process including strategy formulation, strategy implementation, and strategy evaluation. It starts with the development of clear vision and mission statements. The vision statement should provide a solid foundation for the long term objectives that the strategic goals will be based on. The mission statement should provide a core purpose and seek to satisfy all stakeholders. It should also express a sense of social responsibility and summarize the aims and values of the organization. Once these statements are agreed upon, there is a need for detailed internal and external audits. This is typically done by conducting an Internal Factor Evaluation (IFE) and External Factor Evaluation (EFE). They are based on the SWOT analysis. Part of this process also requires a detailed financial ratio analysis for at least three years. After this environmental analysis is conducted, there are several well-known matrices that can be utilized to match identified factors to formulate strategic recommendations. These typically include the SWOT, Boston Consulting Group, and Strategic Position & Action Evaluation (SPACE) matrices. The alternative strategies can then be evaluated using the Quantitative Strategic Planning Matrix (QSPM).

The most important part of strategic management is strategic implementation. It is also the most difficult part. Implementation involves budgeting, project management, staffing, and leadership. It also involves the selection of the tactics used to gain the strategic objectives. Many strategies require organizational structure and culture changes in order to create a strategy supportive culture. With it no strategy will ultimately succeed. Strategic management also requires proper evaluation and control. This involves financial projections and a balanced scorecard. After all, there is no point to any strategy if its success cannot be measured and demonstrated in a quantifiable manner.

Strategic management is not just a management task. It involves everyone at every level of the organization. It takes time and focus, but it is worth every effort and every minute spent.

Dr. Tomi Wahlström is Vice President of Academic Affairs at the United States Sports Academy.

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