roy white

Football failures

The problem with the England Football Team is…

I really don’t want to add to the millions of words spoken and written on the above topic but a discussion in our office about what Impact would do if asked to support the England Team threw up some interesting thoughts. Our approach when looking at vacuums in leadership in organisations is to look at three areas; meaning, value and structure. Applying this to the England Team set up, our consensus was the following;

When we look at meaning we are looking for evidence of unclear goals, lack of purpose; lack of vision, no clear strategy and/or a lack of consensus over outcomes. If we relate this to England’s football team, and appreciate that we do not have an inside view of what was happening within the camp, the area of clear strategy sticks out. A number of commentators have referred to changes in the team approach and formation right up to and during the tournament. This is compared to teams like Italy, Germany, Iceland and Wales who showed a clear approach that they have been practising for years. After Germany had a disastrous tournament in the 2004 Euros they undertook a strategic review that encompassed the whole of German Football and led to an agreed way of playing that was implemented in all amateur and professional clubs from the age of five. They have achieved remarkable success since this was implemented.

Value looks at how the group and individuals within that group are working together and valuing each other and the team. We would look for a lack of teamwork, a low level of trust, exclusion of individuals, disregard for each other’s needs, low motivation and engagement that would show up with poor participation and contribution of individuals to the group. It’s not possible to analyse this without spending time with the group but we can look at teams such as Iceland, Northern Ireland and Wales and get a clear impression of teams where each individual feels part of and valued within the group even if they’re not playing. Will Grigg didn’t get any time on the pitch for Northern Ireland and yet the Irish fans constantly sung his name. It did help, that it’s a great song.

Perhaps the area where we can identify issues for the England Team was structure and, in particular, role confusion. As mentioned above, the team strategy was changing up to and during the tournament and this meant that the squad had players that were used out of position rather than having specialist players in key roles. Leicester won the league with a team of players who, at least at the start of the season, wouldn’t have been considered for any of the other top sides. However, they had a clear strategy and they had players who had clear roles and who were highly skilled at executing those roles. In the defeat to Iceland, England played Daniel Sturridge as a wide player although he is a central attacking player. England have often been guilty of trying to get the system to fit the players rather than putting the best player for each role into the team.

It’s obviously a lot more complicated than I have outlined above but it does show how we can use our organisational analysis tools in a wide variety of areas. We can dream that some day we can write a completely different blog but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Roy White is a Consultant with Impact UK.