Here’s a hypothetical situation, which brings the real corporate world into the weird and wonderful world of the Australian national team.
William* is a young engineer who was hired by a multinational company and assigned to a project team.
William’s new team had done very well in the past but lately they were struggling against stronger competitors and William was hired specifically to bridge skills gaps that were considered to be the main problem behind team’s lacklustre performance.
William eagerly looked forward to working in the field with rest of team members but was asked to stay back at the office for time being.
For a few months, William kept waiting for his opportunity and in the meanwhile, William’s project team continued to perform poorly and things turned to the worst when they made a complete mess of an important project.
Significant losses were incurred due to silly and avoidable mistakes made by some of the existing team members.
Company’s management was not happy about this situation and HR head came up with the idea of having an offsite session for all team members to get together and think about ideas to turn things around. A memo with details of the session was sent to all employees including William.
Along with a few other things, all team members were asked to bring an old magazine to be used a team building activity.
Although William had little or no idea about what was going wrong as he was still waiting to get out in the field and become a contributing member of the project team, he looked forward to the meeting as he felt assured about his long-waited inclusion in the team for the next project.
He somehow forgot to bring the magazine that was required but was relieved to see a few others turning up without an old magazine in their hands.
‘Maybe it was not that important’, he thought to himself.
The company’s HR head was known for his attention to detail among many other things and he quickly noticed that a few employees including William didn’t bring magazines and thus had failed to comply with his orders.
‘This poor attitude must be the real reason behind project team failures’, he thought to himself and quickly shared his views with head of the project team who seemed to agree with him.
Instead of focussing on the issues directly related to team’s overall performance, the rest of the session was spent on emphasising that ignoring instructions from superiors was an indication of ‘poor attitude’ and could very well be the reason behind the downfall.
William and a few others were then banned from possible inclusion into the field team for the next project.
William’s story may sound ridiculous but many of us will identify with situations like these as they are not that uncommon in corporate sector.
The corporate world can make it easy to lose focus of what really matters to the organisation because you can’t see individual actions directly contributing to the company success. But you can easily find reasons behind a sporting team’s success or failure by looking at a team members’ on field performances.
Look at the last two Tests and it is easy to see that our failures are a direct result of our batsmen failing to apply themselves among a few other things.
With Micky Arthur’s announcement to leave Watson, Khawaja, Pattinson and Johnson out of the team for 3rd test, what is really being implied?
That, you are not accountable for your performance in the test match but you are accountable for complying with coach demands, some of those are now being laughed at by our past cricket legends.
Similar to what happened in William’s case, focussing on wrong performance objectives will only get you wrong results.
If ‘off-the-field’ behaviour becomes the primary focus, then how can you expect players to score runs and win matches when others can persistently fail and still not be held accountable as long as they keep submitting their homework.
Cricket teams are not hierarchies and individual performance on the match day should matter more than anything else. Making ten thousands presentations will not help Phil Hughes fare any better against Ashwin’s spin bowling nor will intellectualising about his batting turn Ed Cowan into a match winning batsman.
We are rewarding wrong behaviours and punishing on trivial matters instead of looking at real match performances. We must pursue the correct goals if we want to build a world-class team and there are better and more transparent performance indicators available to coaches such as bowling and batting statistics for players and win/lose ratio for captains than their ability to make presentations.
If we want to dominate the cricket world again, we need to immediately stop this unnecessary focus on things that barely have an impact on players’ on ground performance and stick to bottom-line performance.