Succession Planning: Lessons from the Philadelphia Eagles – Part One

Special Characters-Speed Demons

Succession Planning: Lessons from the Philadelphia Eagles – Part One

In the aftermath of Super Bowl Sunday, I walked into our office, still bleary-eyed from the late night before, and still reflecting on the nail-biting finish. Super Bowl LII was one for the books – one that would go down in history for so many reasons.

As I walked in, I looked at the art on my wall – the art that is always hanging there – and did a double take. On this day, it took on a new meaning.

Surrounded by the individual players, the center image is the team. The “characters” are individually represented, but the quote under the team photo is, “you need special characters to create a winning team.” That seemed to be the founding philosophy behind the Philadelphia Eagles 2017 team.

In Doug Pederson’s post-game speech, he said,

“An individual can make a difference, but a team makes a miracle.”

Pederson, in his second year of coaching the Philadelphia Eagles, led his “underdog” team to a Super Bowl LII victory and brought the city of Philadelphia its first Super Bowl championship win. While Pederson was not what most would consider a frontrunner coach or one thought to have all the talent it takes to lead a team into a winning post-season, Pederson beat the naysayers and emerged from the big game as a history-making leader whose leadership style seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

But being the exception is what makes him exceptional and has made this team a unified, passionate, family of winners.

So how did all of this happen? How did the Eagles franchise build a powerhouse and win a championship for the first time ever?

They did it by making the right strategic decisions and knowing what the results of those decisions would look like on and off the field.

Through the past two years, Coach Pederson, alongside the strategic direction of EVP Howie Roseman, architected and built a team with heart that became relentless in its pursuit to make history.

These leaders built a team that runs deep – both in its design and its principles.

While not everyone agreed with spending the money on a solid backup quarterback (and specifically one who was considering retiring), this strategic decision resulted in acquiring backup quarterback, Nick Foles. By the end of the season, Foles earned the status of starting Super Bowl quarterback and now holds the title of Super Bowl LII MVP. Now that is succession planning at its finest. 

And the depth of this Eagles team reached far beyond the individual abilities and talents of its players – and the players knew it. Their overall “mentality” is that this team was not simply a collection of individuals based on top performers, but instead a strategically built puzzle full of intentional pieces [people] that worked together to create a winning vision – and actually earn those wins.

These strong leaders made smart decisions at the executive level and were able to identify the strengths and challenges of their players to recruit within the gaps. They created a team where each individual was successful – and then united the individuals to form a respectful, winning team that turned into a family.

This is a team that is the result of smart leadership, patience, strategic decision-making, and getting the right people into the right places. It’s a team with heart and passion and a collective and dedicated understanding that teamwork is the only way to make the dream work.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this two-part series, which will identify how the Philadelphia Eagles applied the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program criteria to create a winning team.