Tag Archives: rugby world cup

The one with finite talent

Forewarned is forearmed: this post contains more references to the rugby world cup. Any complaints should be sent by pigeon to “I warned you, c/o its right here at the top”…

I am Welsh. I was born in Wales, I was raised in Wales, my secondary education was in Wales but no I don’t speak Welsh (although I can tell you I don’t like coffee which is fortunately true). I have lived “up England” since 1994 and as one of my former colleagues put it I now sound more “toff than taff” but if there’s one thing that makes me sound very Welsh it’s shouting at the TV during a rugby match.

The Rugby World Cup started in New Zealand last week which brings teams from all over the world to compete in a knock out style tournament to be the World Champions. The current holders are South Africa. Depending on the track record and form of the team will be where perception of their ability to actually win the whole thing, make the last eight, get out of the groups, put up a valiant effort or just have a load of fun with it.

If we park the rugby for a moment (but we will return)…

Neil Usher (@theatreacle) tweeted some statistics this morning from an article he was reading in the Economist. The one that caught my attention was this one:

“Manpower survey – only 27% of businesses feel they have the talent needed to implement their business strategy”

With tongue firmly placed in cheek I responded thus:

“Or is there business strategy just unrealistic and only developed to keep the share price buoyant?”

Banter ensued and we all went about our mornings….but it planted a seed in my mind and having spent around 5 hours in the car today that seed had plenty of time to put down roots.

If you take the Welsh team as an example of any international rugby team they have finite resource. There are rules and regulations (which attempts have been made to circumvent) as to who qualifies to be able to legally play for Wales. Therefore if you are Warren Gatland (the current Welsh coach) there are a fixed number of players you can select for your team.

Mr Gatland cannot:

  • Poach a great player from another team
  • Hope against hope that some player will mystically apply for his team and turn his fortunes around

He has to make the best of what he’s got and whilst there are clubs that the individual players are contracted to, he can only field a team from the players that can legally play for the national team. Therefore his strategy and the expectations he manages around it (and trust me there is a lot of expectation) have to be on the realistic prospects of the talent he has available. He has significant resources for training and that activity is also supported through the clubs.

Mr Gatland may make a determination based on the talent available that his strategy and expectation will be to make the final 8 of the tournament whilst I believe Graham Henry (who coaches New Zealand) will need to emigrate if his strategy is not winning the whole thing!


Rather than saying they don’t have the talent needed to implement their strategy would the 73% of respondent organisations to the survey quoted in the Economist not be better served by taking a different view and saying “these are the people we have, this is the best we can do with them and that can inform the strategy”

I know this is a simple view to a complex situation and the illustration only served me to provoke a shift in perspective that may make organisations think differently before running off to poach the star player.

Incidentally if Wales are expecting “to win the whole thing” I think we’ve got some expectations to manage and quick….England however…HUGE expectation 😉


Note: this post was edited following the comment from @alexhens below



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