Strategy

7th January 2016

Everyone as a Scrum Half

Eddie Jones the recently appointed England Rugby Coach said that he wanted everyone to play as though they were a scrum half.

In rugby, the scrum half is the pivotal link between the forwards and the backs. His or her ability to be able to read the game is paramount. They take most of the decisions in set piece and broken play. The level to which they can understand the strategy, understand the opponents and interpret what is in front of them is a crucial factor in the ability of the team to play well, to play cohesively and to come out on top. So I am interpreting Eddie’s comments as meaning that he wants every member of the team, no matter what their position or their personal preferences to be able to take decisions as well as the best scrum half in the country.

That is a lofty ambition and a very demanding concept. Its business equivalent might be the wish that every person could make decisions as well as the owner or founder, which is again a very challenging concept. But imagine what the world would look like if that were the case.

I have the privilege of watching many different businesses in action and the other day I witnessed one business owner being constantly interrupted to answer and make decisions on relatively trivial matters. I was in the retail motor trade for a long part of my corporate career and I was repeatedly amused by my colleague’s constant telephone interruptions to value a part exchange. Why anyone could believe that someone 200 miles away could do a better job than the person actually looking at the car is beyond me. Sometimes new coaching clients cannot have an hour’s coaching session without their phone going with a fire to put out back at the ranch.

These self same managers who complain that they have no free time haven’t realised that their job is not to make every decision in the place, but their job is to develop their team so that they can make the decisions the business needs. If the employees of the business understand the business, understand how it works, understand what is important, understand how it makes money and understands the frame in which decisions sit they should be able to make good decisions, possibly better than the overworked senior leader.

In his seminal book “The Great Game of Business” Jack Stack describes how he went about making sure that his team had all of the knowledge they needed about how businesses work so that they could make the very best decisions and in his second book “A Stake in the Outcome” he described how he made sure they cared about the results. They didn’t just focus on the outputs; they really cared, not least because they had a stake in the outcome.

For all players to play as though they were scrum half will involve a huge education and coaching process and when it is achieved the decision making, focus and cohesiveness of the team will be beyond anything we have ever experienced I am sure. The same thing can be achieved in any business if the leader cares enough to educate and coach to the necessary level. Remember the old saying “with every pair of hands comes a free brain”.

Are you prepared to train and engage those free brains and reap the rewards that may bring?