If you are coaching a soccer team, here is a proven plan to score a goal:
- Have the Center kick the ball back to Left Defender. This must be done quickly as the opposing Center will be rushing the ball
- At the same time have the Mid-fielders and Forwards all rush to the opposing goal, being careful not to go off-sides. This will give you seven men on the opposing teams’ side.
- When the Left Defender receives the ball have him tee it up for the Right Defender.
- Have the Right Defender punt the ball to the Left Midfielder who will be about half way between center field and the goal box.
- Have the Midfielder head the ball to the Left Forward who will be just outside the Goal box. This will draw the Goalie out.
- Have the Left Forward fake a goal shot while setting up a header for the Right Forward.
- With the Goalie out of position, the Right forward should head the ball in for a goal.
This should all be accomplished in about 9 seconds. Continue this pattern until you have won the match!
Seems simple right? Just follow the plan as prescribed above and you will score a goal. There is even a video which “proves” this method works.
If you have ever played, coached or watched soccer you probably recognize that trying to script a play to this level of detail would be ridiculous. Why? Variations in player speed, ball control, and the actions of an opposing team interfere with the prescribed plan and the team will need to adapt quickly to changing conditions. In reality this team likely practiced something conceptually similar, but ultimately relied on the skills and judgment of the team to execute to the “goal” (pun intended). In fact, the team was hired based on their capabilities and past performance. The owner(s) and manager(s) expect three things from them:
- Understand the goal
- Maintain Good skills and judgment
- Put forth their best effort
So, why is it so hard for businesses to apply the same type of management to their knowledge workers? We expect good skills and judgment. We demand best efforts. However, instead of focusing everyone on a common goal, we focus them on producing and executing to a detailed plan that attempts to minimize risk at the cost of both schedule and skills performance. So we have this team of people with great skills and good judgment and we prevent them from using either – what does this do for motivation? Next we notice a lack of motivation from our team and apply some “incentives” to get the team to work harder to follow the prescribed plan.
We hear a lot about the notion of “Agile” in the business and technology world today. However, if we look at the management model for Soccer we see a pattern that is much more aligned with the spirit and intent of “Agile”. How can we learn to apply these type of Soccer management techniques to our teams of knowledge workers in the Business world?