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The Business Playbook

There are some terms and phrases that can get up your nose. I confess that one of them for me is the word "playbook". It seems to have penetrated articles and podcasts in an attempt to draw people in but without any explanation as to what it means. So I decided to look at the word and see if it has any relevance to those of us who are into frameworks.


It seems that the term playbook originates in sports teams, especially in American football. Successful American football teams have found it is helpful to write down their formula for winning. Businesses are never slow to copy a good idea and it wasn't long before the "business playbook" was born. This is a handbook for a specific business – your business. It contains everything you need to know about the company including its processes, its policies and its operating procedures. Everything is in one place and can be shared among people within the business so that, like a successful football team, they can develop winning strategies. It is also a blueprint for growing the business. A business that wants to scale up needs a plan and strategy for doing so. If that plan and strategy resides only in the heads of CEOs, it is more difficult to share.


A playbook has four important elements:


A description of the company. This is a good starting point. What does the company do and why does it do it? What is the company good at and what makes it better than other companies? Some history of the development of the company wouldn't go amiss here.

A description of the team. The most important contributor to the growth of the company is the people that work within it. A critical framework for any company is an organogram. This shows who does what and who is accountable to who. There are some companies that get away without an organogram, claiming it to be flat and where everyone is a leader. Nice in theory but I'm not sure how effective this is in practice.

A description of the policies. Every company has a way of doing things. It's useful to have these documented so that people know why they are asked to work in a particular way.

A description of the processes. This part of the playbook shows you how to do things and is the equivalent of YouTube within the business.


So, I have changed my views on the “playbook”. It is a place to write down and capture the experience of the founders of the business so that it can grow because everyone will be aligned, consistent, and accountable. Every business needs a playbook.