Management lessons from Men in Blue


Ashish Ohlyan
Program-MIB (2005-2007)
IMT, Ghaziabad

In the age of entertainment, sports is an industry and has a bigger story to tell.  After all, star sportsmen like Michael Jordan and Roger Federer earn much more than an average, medium-sized company.  Some of them like Sachin Tendulkar, Greg Norman and Michael Shumacher are industries in their own right.

These sport goliaths operate in a ruthless environment where success and failure are defined in the most unmistakable terms.  You win or you lose.  No amount of creative accounting can conceal the truth of that terrible moment the final whistle. Smart business people will, however, have been taking notes throughout the 'Men in Blue' extended home and away battle with the Competitors - and will have learned important lessons from Indian cricket's ultimately brave efforts to lift the power of the Indian brand.

Lesson 1. Leadership - Any truly successful brand requires strong and committed leadership (backed by a stable and well recognised succession plan) across the full scope of the organization.

Mohd Azharuddin's match fixer's shadow loomed large over the Men in Blue ' brand, and continued to define the sport's troublesome leadership challenge. India tried its fate with Sachin, Kumble.But finally it was Ganguly who came to India's rescue. Ganguly not only led the team with himself as an example, but also continued to motivate the team members. He supported Harbhajan, Yuvraj and Sehwag, the three jewel of Indian team's  crown despite their earlier constant failures.

Lesson 2.  Act as a Team - Some might think that too many cooks spoil the soup but then again two heads are better than one. so that the first thing decided would be that of who is in charge of the team and ultimately responsible for the final product. This decision will negate future discussions about what avenues the team will pursue and modes used for such.

After the match fixing scandal the most imperative area to deal with was that of team building. Indian team not only emerged as a strong team but reached the finals of the biggest event of cricket-World Cup. Successful chase of 325 at lords was only possible due to the combined team efforts. India now no longer depends on some heroic efforts of  Sachin and rest of the team watching as mute spectators. But team India has won a large no of matches in Sachin's absence.

Lesson 3. Strategy formation - The formulation of a sound strategy facilitates a number of actions and desired results that would be difficult otherwise. A strategic plan, when communicated to all members of an organization, provides employees with a clear vision of what the purposes and objectives of the firm are.

That is what Indian team precisely did. As batting has always been the core strength on Indian cricket team, the new strategy of team was to improve bowling and fielding department. Result of which is reflected in the performance of Indian team. World class fielders like Yuvraj and Kaif are in Indian side. All rounder of year 'Irfan pathan' is the strike bowler of Indian team.

Lesson 4. Innovation - An enduring theme in the modern world, innovation is vital for enterprises to win fierce competition.

Team India not only innovated some new techniques to improve the team performance but also experimented in terms of batting order to discover something wonderful. And as a result a new era of players like Pathan, Dhoni batting at 3rd position started. This innovation has not only won matches for India but also imbibed self confidence in players. Team India is also exploring novel ways of training as the cricketers set off for a surprise destinations to kick off the conditioning camps for forthcoming tournaments.

Lesson 5. Focus on core strength - 'Jack of all trades and master of none' - this maxim is very true as far as management is concerned. Focus on core strength is necessary for the immediate health of the brand as a whole.

Although India constantly strived to improve the bowling and fielding quality of team India but it did not lose its focus on the core strength. i.e. Batting. A successful run chase in 17 continuous matches is an example of this.

Lesson 6. Consistency - One important lesson for businesses to learn from Indian team is that of consistency. The most important for any team to establish itself is to perform consistently.

India started with Beating Australia in their country and did not look back. India beat Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and England and reached on the 3rd position in terms of ranking.

Lesson 7. No working under two leaders - One of the principal lessons business can learn from the Indian cricket team is that people find it difficult to work under joint leaders two individuals with similar roles and vested with equivalent authority. Whose instructions should they listen to? Greg Chappel who used to be an avid fan of Indian captain Saurav Ganguly is now a strong critic of him.

Lesson 8. Underperformers not allowed - Team India teaches business that none of the business can thrive with underperformers in their organization. Indian team management has realized that there should be no place for the underperformers. If they have to evolve then they should shed off the white elephant from their shoulders. Exactly this happened in case of Ganguly and Laxman. They did not perform as a result they are out of the team.

Lesson 9. Experience does count -When it comes to management, never discount importance of experience. Indian team is a blend of young and experienced players. But still in taking crucial decisions it is the experience of players, which help a lot. Indian team's success could be attributed to a large extent to the experience of Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Yuvraj, Kumble and Sehwag.

Lesson 10. Flexibility -
Ability to adapt and respond to the changing environment and to constructively create opportunities for change through active participation is a must for any business. Indian team realized this fact and adapted it to the changing environment. Be it playing in foreign land or acclimatizing to new improved version of cricket,Men in blue have been successful everywhere. They beat Australia, West Indies, Pakistan and England in their respective home countries.

Lesson 11. Award responsibility to the players - One last thing which Indian team implemented is that players are awarded with responsibility. They are encouraged to think for team and themselves both and take charge of their own destiny. Sehwag, Yuvraj don't only have to bat only but they have to demonstrate their innate bowling skills also.

Overall, Men in Blue have a lot to teach conventional business. If the powers that can deliver a consistent leadership structure, and if the team on the field can deliver a good combination of performance, ethics and honest communication, they will grow their support base in years to come - win or lose.

Ashish Ohlyan
Program-MIB (2005-2007)
IMT, Ghaziabad

Source : E-mail October 12, 2006




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