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The pursuit of mediocrity with passion!

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The pursuit of mediocrity with passion!

The football season is over!

(Rugby league and AFL finals completed this weekend) Almost! The World Cup is still on and Australia is still a contender!

It is worth considering the role of sport in the national psyche and how that impacts on business! Or not?

As sport has moved from sport to entertainment there have been amazing changes in the management and production of sporting teams.

  • Players are now full time professionals as are coaches;
  • Players are now role models and have their every move scrutinized both on and off field;
  • Performance is measured at micro levels; metres run; kicks completed; missed tackles; hit ups; hand balls; passes -and it goes on in addition to the old measures of scrums and goal kicks;
  • There are coaches and coaching teams with different facets of the game as the focus – not only a Senior coach, a fitness coach, a kicking coach, an attacking coach a defensive coach and micro skills, psychologists –anything for an edge.

In recent weeks we have seen in Victoria Hawthorn who have won three premierships lauded as one of the “great” teams!

The Cowboys/Broncos game described as on the “great” games ever!

While the Rugby plaudits have been fulsome so far (we are now in semi finals – we have not reached greatness yet! It will come! But I did hear one commentator say that the “turnaround” in the performance of the Australian scrum was “one of the greatest ever”?

It is interesting isn’t it? Businesses like to use Sport as a metaphor when it suits them but when it comes to actually following the principles the follow up is weak or non-existent.

In fact in most businesses there is little conversation about high performance even less about greatness – there are very few coaches, limited training and actual pursuit of high performance ignored. The reason? Maybe there is little understanding of what it is –other than in financial terms.

It appears to me most businesses pursue mediocrity with great passion!

Observations about the differences between sport and business:



Sporting teams and Individuals have always had coachesOnly in recent years coaching has emerged as “fashionable” and then only for senior people!
90% Time and resources on trainingVery low % money and time on training
Grand finals every year are a big event!End of Financial year! No serious Ritual to celebrate performance (High or Otherwise)
Clear measurement of Performance and positions in fieldOnly one measure –profitability! No real benchmarking
Major focus on improving performance – set moves discipline repetitive training drillsSome focus on improving performance but limited to one on one discussions maybe be some training.
Great games, great teams, great performances acknowledged – even ritualized.Greatness almost never talked about.An occasional celebration – at Christmas.
Overall Rankings clear – and pathways to elite level very well mapped out.Nothing specific – maybe a “career path” for selected individuals but limited.
Awards and Rewards clear and transparentGrand Finals – Brownlow medals etcLimited acknowledgement – some National awards – some awards within businesses.

If business was serious about high performance surely they would apply the same (similar) disciplines as sporting teams?

Let us now look at how the selection process occurs for professional sports people:

At a very young age children are discovered and encouraged (selected) to join elite programs for their particular sport. They may join an academy and spend a great deal of time focusing on the sport in conjunction with school. From there they may go to a Full Time program and play in a “satellite” league until the time comes and they are selected to join a very elite group who make it to the big time. The whole focus of these programs is to develop elite athletes who can perform at high levels over a long period of time.

Where does this happen in business? Of course it doesn’t!

At best, in the recruitment phase, there is an effort to get the best candidate from those who apply! After that unless there is a serious development program most are left to their own devices. Management are focused on getting the work done and making money – while the idea of management and leaders as coaches is emerging in most business environments it is a myth.

Australia right now is on the cusp of a major business revolution – Global environment is more global (Free Trade Agreements); technology is radically changing the business world; Asia is the one in a generation opportunity.

Up till now the best we can do is talk about the need for productivity improvement. At least the tone of the debate has shifted and we are now talking about Agility Innovation and creativity. None of this will happen when most business are stuck in a “lower grade” performance model – pursuing mediocrity with a passion.


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