Coaching Tip: Who is the Quarterback

Bob Milligan Dairy Strategies

A frequent issue I have been discussing with my clients is ensuring that employees know what to do next and who to listen to for assignments. Often there is lack of clarity.


This is an understandable and challenging issue, especially on the crop side where there is less routine and more need for constant adjustments. As cropping operations and farms have grown, multiple people – partners and key employees – are key decision-makers. Let’s call them the planning team.

Multiple decision-makers provide greater expertise and collaboration leading to better decision and less pressure on one person. This multi-person planning team is critical for strategic decisions, valuable for tactical decisions, but the source of great confusion for daily operations. The confusion comes from not knowing who on the planning team is directing operations right now.


In discussions with several clients, I came up with the analogy of a quarterback. In football, the quarterback is responsible for communicating the play to the team and calling “audibles.” Coaches have been known to change quarterbacks several times during one possession. It, however, remains clear who is communicating the plan – the quarterback.

Let’s apply this idea to the cropping or other operations on a farm. It is the responsibility of the planning team – like the coach – to decide what needs to be done for the next period of time – typically a day. Once they have done this – called the “play” – the planning team must select a “quarterback” – ONE person. This person – the “quarterback” – will communicate the play to the rest of the employees involved in that activity and direct the implementation of the “play.” The “quarterback” may be one of the planning team or one of the employees executing the plan. There may be more than one “quarterback” directing different operations. The planning team must also communicate to everyone involved who is the “quarterback.”

Try more clearly identifying the “quarterback” and communicating who it is. I believe you will increase clarity (chalk the field), reduce frustration, and increase productivity.

Full steam ahead!

Bob Milligan of Dairy Strategies can be reached at or 651 647-0495.  This message is from his “Learning Edge” newsletter September issue.