I agree – rugby union is an unusual sport. Rugby is like many other sports, but it is not the same. What is the same, though, is that when England play I get very excited. And when England play in the Rugby World Cup (which only happens once every four years) I get very excited indeed.
I admit – I have watched every one of the four games England have played. I didn’t own up to this any sooner because I just couldn’t bring myself to talk about it let alone write anything. It was all just so disappointing. Anyone who saw any of the games will realise why…once again England flatter to deceive.
My real issue with England is that we underperform against expectations. We (well me at least) raise our expectations of how England will perform to an extreme level. This level of expectation is evidently unrealistic…and inevitably England underperform.
In truth, there is little or no basis for this expectation…other than blind optimism perhaps? My best excuse is that Rugby World Cup is a rare event…and that every newspaper, TV channel, radio station and web site talks up the excitement…and expectation!
The tournament is now four weeks old. England have played four matches. And we are done. We are out. If the tournament wasn’t being held in England we would be ‘on the next flight home’.
Over these four week I have tried really hard to keep my expectations low…really very low indeed. And the outcome? Disappointment…actually really very disappointing indeed…even against my low expectations!
So why? So what?
Well I wondered about drawing comparisons between a great (or poor) team and a great (or poor) organisation. A great organisation is made up of a number of groups in great shape, focussed on their core competencies, key deliverables, internal or external customers, and advancing to plan. An average organisation? Some great groups and some not so good groups; or even mainly great groups that are just not all performing well. A poor organisation? Well that’s just poor.
My conclusion then? England rugby is more like an average organisation – they have one or two great players who didn’t play well and the rest of the team are average (on a world stage).
How could they turn this around? Well maybe in the same way that an organisation would look to improve itself. Focus on each individual component and ensure that it is in the best condition possible. Ensure all pieces are in place and that each piece knows exactly what it is responsible for and what it has to do individually and collectively.
Focus on the whole – the sum of the component parts. It is no longer enough for each component to be in good shape and to be making good decisions if the sum of the component parts doesn’t make sense. This would be like a team of individual, great players who just can’t come together to add value as a whole.
So my advice (as if) to England rugby is simple – for our 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 succeeds with individual excellence and collective responsibility. We all apply ourselves to our individual projects and we apply ourselves to how our responsibilities complement and align with the rest of our team.
We seek out and seize opportunities to add value. We identify and implement opportunities to support other groups…and ensure we add value to the organisation as a whole.