There’s a joy in learning new things in unfamiliar places, and applying them to your situation. Today, I read a blog on my Android arguing that sales and marketing experts should know how to “call the audible”. I Googled relevant keywords to capture the original posting, instead discovering another writer who told a similar story.
In football quarterbacks will have a play that they’ve called in the huddle. Sometimes he will get a gut feeling, see the way the defense is lined up, sense the defense will blitz him (rush him) so he may want to “Call an audible” and change his plan. The quarter back will have a sign or an audible command that he shouts out so his team mates know there is a change in the plan. The quarterback may run with the ball when he originally planned to throw it or he may hand off the ball to the right instead of to the left etc. Some of the best plays in football are when the quarterback “Calls and Audible” and makes a spontaneous play that allows his team to score. If he had not called the audible he may have lost the ball, thrown an interception or got sacked (defense tackled him behind the line of scrimmage.)
In other words, “calling an audible” reflects a last-minute (even second) change in course to a carefully made plan because of an unanticipated or out-of-your-control external development.
At the highest level, you can plan your “audible” through rehearsing your Plan B with your colleagues. This requires a very urgent, brief message that immediately communicates the course change to your team-mates and allows an effective crisis work-around.
However, in most cases, “calling an audible” requires some swift, almost spontaneous, thinking.
Epp offers this example from a marketing perspective:
You are in a marketing job and have a plan to mail out thousands of copies of your advertisement but just before you send them out you find that your competition has mailed out an advertisement that is very similar. By staying with the plan you risk producing something that may look like a copy to your potential clients and it may backfire on you. You may want to “Call an Audible” and change your advertisement or make a new plan.
Of course, no one suggests that everything be spur-of-the-moment, or that you tear apart well-conceived plans just for the whim of change. Yet sometimes we need to change course, quickly, and I think it is wise to be able to build this sort of rapid-response capacity into our business management systems.