The All Black (New Zealand) Rugby team just did a Tour of the Four Home Unions and once again demonstrated their superiority and why they are known as the best team in the world. I think they have a lesson for organisations.
They completely dominated the international Matches against strong opposition and as they often do they pulled away in the second half of the match. They have high levels of fitness, individual skill and motivation but so do the home union teams. So what is it that makes them so superior when all thing seem equal? How does a country of 4 million inhabitants consistently produce the best team in the world when countries like France, England, and Wales have much higher numbers?
I was at a meeting once where Ollie Campbell the Irish outhalf at the time was asked why the Lions had gone down to such a crushing defeat in New Zealand back in the early 80’s – he talked about pace, fitness, strength, professionalism. I played against the All Blacks myself in 1989 when they were captained by Buck Shelford and that year they completely dominated the International Matches and again it was pace, fitness, strength and professionalism.
Rugby went professional in the 90’s and anyone watching the game now will see players that look less like bar room brawlers and more like comic book heros in shape and fitness. Pace and professionalism have also been added and yet the All Blacks continue to dominate (albeit not winning the world cup – but thats for another post) with a remarkable consistency without those marked advantages of the past. How?
Well my view is their understanding of the game, their ability to change their game plan quickly and their telepathic communication. I often see the other international teams being beaten in the first half and having a good coach who alters the game plan at half time after which they can often come out a different team and win the game. But they have to wait for the coach and if the game changes again they have no access to the coach until the end.
The All Blacks however have a complete understanding of the game and when they sense weakness in the opposition they exploit it there and then. they learn quicly what the opposition are doing, they adapt their game plan quickly and go for the jugular. They are empowered (not hampered) by their coaches, they communicate effectively from 1 to 15 to ensure they work together and they are free to adapt again if or when the opposition adjusts.
Organisations compete for everything, competition is key to success, market entry, exit etc. In the workplace are our people encouraged to learn and do the people in our teams understand the whole game plan? Do they communicate effectively and are they empowered by their managers and leaders to make the moves quickly that are required to succeed? In winning organisations they are.