Monday, March 10, 2008

Bringing FREDA to the All Blacks

When my colleagues and I wrote our book on Peak Performance, we approached great sports teams to find out how they excelled time after time. I believe the time has come for sport to learn from business, and who better to benefit from this than the New Zealand All Blacks? The fact is that if the All Blacks were a company and Graham Henry was its CEO, I would hope that the 2008-2011 plan would be built around FREDA.

F is for Focus.
The focus of the last program was to win the Rugby World Cup. Ok, that didn’t work.

This time our focus should change and revert back to “Winning every test match we play”. It should be about picking the best team to win that particular game against that particular opponent. Vince Lombardi, the coach of the Green Bay Packers, said that winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing. We need to get our players refocused on winning one game at a time, every time. The only way we’ll be ready for sudden death situations is if we practice that sudden death mentality every time we run onto the pitch. That’s how it used to be and that’s what we need to get back to.

R is for Reinvention.We must re-imagine and reinvent in two areas through the power of paradox. We need to commit to the last detail and the big idea. Nothing should be left unscrutinized. An example? Is it time to change our view on the Haka? Have we spent too much time investing in its cultural implications and the reaction of the opposition?

Should we - a) perform it for ourselves in the changing shed as we did successfully in Cardiff against Wales, b) perform it after the game in celebration of victory as Titch and the Sevens teams do, or c) put it under wraps until we win the World Cup in 2011.

We’ve also spent a lot of time culturally integrating Samoans, Tongans and Maoris into the All Blacks. That was a good thing but it’s time to acknowledge that we are all New Zealanders first. Tana Umaga was a great example of a man who was dignity personified in his own culture but reminded everyone that he was a New Zealander first and foremost.

As for the big picture, we need breakthrough. And for that we probably need to look outside New Zealand and outside rugby. Is it time for Graham to look at learning from wrestling coaches, basketball tacticians and other innovators?

E is for Execution.We did not execute superbly during the World Cup. On-field execution was sloppy, sporadic and far from perfect. Off the field, the Management team was top heavy. Too many meetings with too many managers. With 19 managers in the room, there will always be 19 points of view and endless chit-chat. From my own experience, this kind of hierarchy drives towards the urgent, not the important. Everyone is too busy listening, talking and doing, to think. One of the key tenets of business is never make assumptions. But when you have 19 people, there is just too much going on for you to clear your mind and execute against the important.
A reduced management team focused on execution on and off the field and every day will be vital for the next four years.

D is for Distribution.
We had a fantastic 3-1/2 years and a lousy World Cup. The key to changing this is to make tough calls early and distribute them in a way that creates a desire for everyone to succeed. I’m a big believer in constant distribution of ideas, praise and reality. There is nothing like immediate gratification and great communication to ensure that long-term results are buoyed by constant short-term victories.

A is for Accountability.The best business accountability system is RASCI. R for responsible, A for approver, S for support, C for consult, I for inform. This means every project has one person responsible and only one approver. Everyone else is designated to either be supportive and do the work, to be consulted or to be informed after the event. With this clarity in place, there is total accountability for every project and every decision. In most businesses politics, confusion and complexity reign. This was definitely the case in the All Blacks World Cup campaign. To get accountability, Graham should implement RASCI throughout the All Blacks.

All that said, I’m starting the New Year with a burst of optimism and will soon be ready to sit down for the first time and watch the video of the Quarter Final (maybe!). If Graham has the wisdom and foresight to change and learn from business, I believe the next four years will be the crowning achievement his career.