I was in the US Mid-West this week. Thursday I was in an all-day meeting – a great meeting I hasten to add…but a meeting nevertheless. And it meant that I had to try to follow England’s defining (and failing) moment in the soccer World Cup on the BBC sports page. Even without pictures it was apparent that once again England flattered to deceive. I was just so disappointed. I was disconsolate.
The tournament is only a little over a week old and England have now played two…and lost two. They are going home. Disappointing…actually very disappointing indeed…even against my low expectations!
I realise now that this is the issue for England – we underperform against expectations. To an extent, we (the whole nation it would seem) are guilty of raising our expectations of how England to an extreme level. Needless to say this level of expectation is unrealistic…and it’s inevitable that England under perform.
In reality there is no basis for this expectation – blind optimism (or patriotism) maybe? My best excuse is that soccer World Cup is a rare event. I assume this contributes to my level of excitement, that and the fact that every newspaper, TV channel, radio station and web site hypes up the excitement!
So why? So what?
Well, as I tried to feel better about what happened, I wondered if there are any comparisons we can draw between a soccer team and an organisation. A great organisation is made up of people, projects, and groups in great shape, focussed on their core competencies and advancing to plan. An average organisation on the other hand either has some great and some poor components, or maybe even has mostly great components that are just not working well. A poor organisation? Well that’s just poor.
My conclusion then? England was like an average organisation – they have one or two great players who didn’t play well (enough)…and the rest of the team are at best average (average on a world stage).
How do we turn this around? Well maybe in the same way that an organisation would look to improve itself. We focus on each individual component and ensure it is in the best state possible. We ensure all pieces are in place and that each piece knows exactly what it is responsible for…and what it has to do both individually and collectively.
We also focus on the organisation as a whole. It is not enough for each component of an organisation to be in good shape if the sum of the component parts simply does not make sense. This would be like a team of individual, great players who just can’t come together to add value as a whole (think Portugal).
So my advice to England soccer is simple – for the players to focus on individual responsibility and personal excellence whilst at the same time being critically aware of their role in the team as a whole. Great players win matches – great teams win tournaments.
And an organisation? A great organisation requires individual excellence and collective responsibility – whether that organisation is small or large, a component of a company or the company itself. We apply ourselves to our individual opportunities and responsibilities, and we apply ourselves to how our work complements and aligns with the rest of the organisation.
We seek out and seize opportunities to add value to our organisation…and to our partners. We identify and implement opportunities to support other individuals, teams and units…and ensure we add value to the organisation as a whole.
I can’t guarantee this approach will deliver success for English soccer…but it would guarantee spirit, focus and a shared ethos….