A couple of years ago, I started a blog for people interested in lessons learned from sport and their application to business. Then along came the Rugby World Cup and stole the show with comments aimed at England for the lack of team unity and the naive rigidity of the game plan adopted by the head coach, Stuart Lancaster. The same challenges are faced by business every day.

Of course, they picked the wrong guy but he was attractive to the selectors because he had a project plan that they liked and he didn’t seem to challenge them like that nasty Woodward chap who won the World Cup a few years ago.

So, like a good strategy and teamwork management consultant; I decided to crunch some numbers and look at the data. I appointed one of our non-rugby playing/watching strategy analysts to do the work and remove the bias. We looked at infrastructure and natural or inherent advantages, particularly the impact of head coaches. Looking at the churn of head coaches and influence on the game since the World Cup started in 1987; the rate among the top 10 nations was very high, approaching 90%, when we narrowed that down to the 4 teams it was still at 80% per tournament.

We know that in business and sport as the quality of coaching and leading improves so does performance. So, we looked at the spread of coaches to see who treats coaching most seriously. Surprise-surprise; the most popular origin of head coach across the rugby world was NZ at 60%, followed by France at 17%, Australia at 10% and the rest in single figures. NZ have appeared in more finals and semi-finals and have won more times; when they’ve lost, they did so by fewer points than any other nation. There is hope however, England has three times more registered players and many times more clubs, considerably more wealth, fans and total revenues than NZ.

This is not too different to the international business productivity data where the UK is ranked well behind USA, Germany and France. We just don’t leverage our assets and advantages as well as others and certainly a long way behind NZ, if we did we would be untouchable. If the England set up focused on being the best team it would probably succeed. However, the RFU is focused on size, power, revenue and winning the World Cup regularly. Due to the lack of focus England will never be the best team over a 40-year period like NZ but they will be the richest.

This blog is intended to draw comments on the business parallels of productivity and focus which is at the top of the LiveStrategy agenda for the foreseeable future. We invite discussion on…….

Why we are behind Germany, France and Italy in productivity rankings (ONS International Comparisons of Productivity).

Why over the last 11 years we have reduced the time spent in work training by 88% (ONS Labour Force Survey).

Could it be that NZ and England RFU both have the correct strategy and both could win?

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