What can Management Teams learn from Football

July 10, 2015

Last week it was a struggle being Dutch again. After winning the bronze medal in the World Football Championships 2014 in Brazil, the Dutch team is facing real troubles qualifying for the European Football tournament next year in France.
 
Of course there are a lot of excuses. Arjen Robben, one of the best players in the world, has been injured and not been able to play in most games. And a new generation has come which perhaps has not yet the experience to dominate the games and make it an easy qualify. But looking at the names and clubs they play (compared to the competition) it should be easy.
 
Perhaps is has become a different play now. Not so much about the best players, but more about the best team. Look at the semi finals of the Champions League where Juventus (although not a small team) beat the star team of Real Madrid.
 
In this context it is very interesting to look at Denmark. Yes Denmark, not the first major country you think of when it comes to soccer. But in this country a revolution is taking place which could not only change the world of soccer, but perhaps also the world of Management in general.
 
This year the Danish football club “Midtjylland” became Danish soccer champion. Quite a surprise considering the budget they have and the history of the club. The secret of Midtjylland is that they base the formation of the team not on the decision of a trainer or technical director, but on Analytics. As chairman Rasmus Ankersen stated in an interview with Dutch journal De Correspondent: “We redesigned the club based on a question: what would a football club look like if it had no human eyes and ears?”
 
They analyze players, games and based on the analytics they make their decisions. If the right wing attacker always moves to the mid of the field, they need to make sure that the player behind him has proven that he always tends to play the ball towards the middle and not to the outside of the field. Seems like logic, but not one normally used by a human being.
 
The same goes for the choice and control of the trainer. He needs to be at the service of the analytical outcome, not to judge on his own opinion. With some of the ego’s we see at trainers, you can imagine it will not be easy to find the right candidate.
 
Is this different in our corporate environment? A lot of decision making is still based on personal connections and personal opinions rather then facts and figures. Is Top management leveraging the analytical capabilities they have or could install in their organizations? Some do, but in my opinion, still to fragmented. In the 2013 article in the Harvard business review “Competing on Talent analytics” (https://hbr.org/2010/10/competing-on-talent-analytics), there are some good examples.
 
In Capgemini’s digital framework, we mention three ways of increasing competitiveness by leveraging digital capabilities; (1) Customer Experience, (2) Operational Excellence) and (3) New Business Models. I would argue to include a fourth dimension: Renewal of the managerial practice.
 
 
Let’s reimagine and redesign the analytics in the management board on selecting talent and putting the best teams in place. It’s time to learn from other areas than only focus on our current practices. If a mediocre club in Denmark can become the Champion, what would prevent you from doing the same in your industry ?


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