How rugby can improve your business

I was recently reading an article written by Nick Farr-Jones and realised that much of what he was saying about rugby is also very relevant to running a successful business.

“They (the AB’s) have become a scoreboard-focused team individually and collectively instead of simply getting the process right and allowing the scoreboard to look after itself.  I was part of a team that, by the end of the late 80’s, consciously realised we had to change our culture to become a  process-driven team or continue to suffer the inconsistency that had dominated our performance for a number of years.”

What our customers want most of all from us is that we are consistent in what we do.  In order to be able to deliver consistency, every person in the team must understand what their jobs are individually and collectively within the team.   Further,  they must understand what skills they bring to the team and how they integrate with the different skills and talents of the other team members.  We know from experience that our biggest failures to provide our customers with consistent service and deliver quality outcomes has been where a team member chose not to work to their strengths, instead trying to do it all themselves.  One of the best books I have read on working to your strengths is Marcus Buckingham’s “First Break all the Rules.”

A process-driven business will:

  • clearly document the key processes within the business.  These should not just be limited to the operational side of the business, but also include things like the sales process, or the customer nurturing and satisfaction process.
  • decide who are the best people (or roles) within the business to carry out each step of the process.
    Often the business-owner will have too much involvement in all business processes, so it can help to put a dollar value on each of the steps.  This will force you to put the right people in charge of the various steps.
  • determine what the keys skills and talents that are needed at each step of the process.  Then match those skills and talents against the individuals within the organisation.  This will highlight any gaps between what is needed and what is currently available.
  • either train, develop or recruit team members to be able to fulfill their roles and carry out their part of the business processes, to the required quality standards.
  • set performance measurements in place to ensure that the desired outcomes can be delivered consistently.  Ideally these will be leading indicators (i.e. an action  which, if carried out consistently, will ensure that the desired outcome will be achieved) rather than lagging indicators (i.e. the outcome).  Using the rugby analogy, a measurement might be accuracy of kicking.  Using a business example, it might be the number of visits to customers per day.
  • make performance measurements for each team member visible to the whole team.  Any failures to meet standards should be raised as soon as they happen, just as any instances of good performance should be praised immediately.
  • build a culture of learning and growth.   Mistakes will happen, but these should be treated as learning experiences and result in improvements to the execution of a step in the process.

And finally a word from Sir Edmund Hilary.  ” I never looked up (at Mt Everest).   Had I, I suspect there is a good chance I may not have made it.  But what I did know as a result of my training, my discipline, commitment and passion and the team that I had assembled around me was that I could keep throwing my left foot after my right”

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