Change before it's too late
It's a weekend and I watch (not quite) football. There is a match between Southampton and Chelsea, where it is Southampton that starts the match at a furious pace with high pressure. Normally, a team like Southampton, with a fifth as big a player's budget as Chelsea's, should concentrate on playing defense against a team of Chelsea's dignity, but Southampton's high pressure gives dividends directly and they manage to tap that important 1-0 goal. It strikes me then that Southampton is playing entirely on their own terms and I can see great similarities with Porter's strategy thinking. They choose to focus on the areas where they have their competitive advantages. Like a small business that utilizes its speed to compete with large companies' inertia.
On the TV couch, I start to think about what is now moving in Chelsea coach José Mourinho's head. How should he be able to change the match picture? As an old football coach, I have often faced similar dilemmas and, for example, picked out the best players, who have done the best in training and delivered in the previous match, but who then during matches most look like lost chickens. You stand handcuffed and wonder where the error lies. Why doesn't something that worked so well just a few days earlier?
In the corporate world, we see similar patterns where established companies are stuck in old wheel tracks as they rely on the working methods (in many cases very successful ones) that they have had for many years, but which suddenly cease to function. The answer in both of these cases is change in the outside world, resistance or other more or less unpredictable. Changed conditions require that we change our way of looking at ourselves and as we have learned, there are no permanent things in the business world. In the middle of the match, I therefore begin to reflect on John Kotter's eight-step model for a successful change process, and how to act to achieve a successful change process. In a senior position, whether as a business manager or a football coach, one should be aware of the obstacles that may arise and what is required when implementing a change.
How then did Chelsea replicate Southampton's tactics? After a first half, where Southampton's high pressure had been able to give both two and three goals, and Chelsea's "normal" game idea proved to be ineffective, Mourinho chose to switch tactics to a straight 4-4-2. He put in a heavy target player and Chelsea's slopes began to hit long balls to avoid Southampton's first press. That way Chelsea got the ball into the field where they could use their weight to wear down Southampton's defense and eventually take a comfortable 3-1 win.
So, what can we learn from this? In the football world, change is something both coaches and players are used to. There is no room for counter-strikers during the 90 minutes of the match. However, hard work is required before the match to create a change and winning culture. Like the football world, the corporate world must constantly be prepared for change and actively work with change management to create an organization that does not see change as something bad, but looks forward to change. Otherwise, there is a risk of being stuck in the middle and neither offers the customer value in terms of quality or low price.
Myself, I continue my football afternoon to change channels to see Zlatan's PSG play, and wonder what I can learn from this match ....