Living in Melbourne, you can’t help but get swept up in finals fever this week with all of the activities leading up to the AFL grand final. If you love your footy (as I do), this is the place to be!

While my beloved Tigers didn’t quite make it this year, I’m excited to watch the big game unfold between the Hawks and the Dockers this Saturday.

Over the past two years or so, I’ve followed with interest the remarkable progress the Dockers have made. Not just as an AFL fan, but also as a management professional with a vested interest in organisational strategy, risk management and planning.

Back in 2011 the Dockers were a middle range team who were once again on track to miss the finals, eventually finishing with an unimpressive 9 wins to 13 losses record. Coach Mark Harvey, while struggling to raise the team to their full potential, was much loved and well respected by both players and fans.

But behind the scenes, the Dockers board had begun planning for the long-term future of the club. They eventually made the tough call that Harvey just wasn’t the right man to navigate the club out of their slump.

Rather than go after the best coach available at that time, the board decided to headhunt the best coach in the business, despite the fact he was still coaching St Kilda and was in negotiation to renew his contract. The Dockers adopted an all-in approach. They identified the coach they would need to succeed, and they did what was necessary to get him on board.

When Mark Harvey was sensationally sacked, the backlash from supporters and the football media was fierce. How, demanded outraged supporters and a scandalised sports media, could the club treat its coach like that?

But then came an even more sensational announcement that quickly changed their tune.

Ross Lyon resigned from his coaching position at St Kilda and accepted the offer from the Dockers. The best coach in the league was suddenly at the helm of the Fremantle Dockers.

At the time, Dockers CEO Steve Rosich said ‘It was an extremely difficult decision to make but after lengthy consideration, it is a decision that we believe is in the best interest of the long-term future of the Fremantle Football Club.’

It was a risky, high-stakes move and one that had the potential to devastate the club’s organisational culture. But the Dockers sat down, they took stock of where they were and where they needed to be, and they established a long-term strategy that had the potential to get them there.

At 2.30 on Saturday afternoon we’ll see if those tough decisions will net them the ultimate AFL prize. The fact that they’ll even be on that hallowed turf on that one day in September means their strategy and sacrifice has paid off.

Whether you agree with the Dockers’ strategy or not, they’re a great example of how making tough  – even controversial – calls today can pay off in the currency of future success.

Are you willing to make tough decisions to achieve long-term success? Or is it smarter to play it safe and avoid compromising your organisational culture?