Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Achieving SUSTAINED Excellence - learn from these guys!

I think the ‘traditional’ world of management can learn a tremendous amount by looking outside its own ‘backyard’ and look at, for instance, sport and entertainment.

This last weekend has seen Manchester United forge ahead again by five clear points at the top of the English Premier League.

Also this weekend I was fortunate enough to see The Eagles play another fantastic concert to 20,000 fans at the O2 Arena in London.

One common factor about the phenomenal success of both Manchester United and The Eagles is how they have sustained excellence at the very top level for such a long time. It is not overnight success that blows out after a couple of years. We are talking high performance over a very long period.

Tom Peters famous best seller and the book that popularised management in the early 1980’s was called ‘In Search of Excellence.’

Even allowing for my obvious and self-confessed bias I suggest that Manchester United and The Eagles have achieved excellence and more importantly sustained it.

So …. Three questions to consider:

1 Just what are the ingredients that enable not only the achievement of excellence but sustained excellence for both The Eagles and Manchester United?

2 Can we apply those ingredients in the more traditional world of management in business?

3 If not, why not?

I will be fascinated to receive your comments on this.


JOHN O'LEARY said...

Trevor, I've been wrestling with a similar question in a book I've been banging away on for awhile now - on business lessons from rock & roll bands. I've been focusing on "team success qualities" that I learned from hanging with top-tier R&R bands earlier in my career.

Excellent rock bands (and athletic teams for that matter): (1) manage differences and capitalize on conflict; (2) are ambitious, focused, and results-obsessed (despite stereotypes to the contrary!); (3) are willing to take risks and be boldly innovative; (4) cultivate their identity and brand; (5) are passionate and inspired about the work; (6) think for themselves.

In my humble opinion, any team or organization that wants to survive in these vertiginous times MUST operate this way.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks John - that is a brilliant list.

Given your background and the research for your book I am sure you are right with all these things.

I also agree with you about these being applied in any setting. I frankly see no difference whatsoever between the culture at Manchester United and the culture needed in an 11 person office, a team of cleaners in a hospital or whatever ….. Ultimately it is about leadership, team approach, respecting individuality, and ‘managing’ the inevitable conflict and tensions in an adult way.

By the way – brilliant to know you finally succumbed and bought the new Eagles album ‘Long Road Out of Eden’ – I knew if I kept at it long enough you would finally crack … just joking John :-)


Joel D Canfield said...

I'll confess to a near total ignorance of soccer (I also ignore American football; it's me, not you) but from the musical perspective which is much more in my scope, I think the Eagles have focused on doing what they love while giving fans what they want.

Perhaps its a conceit, but I don't think we would have seen Hell Freezes Over if the boys hadn't been thinking about the fans. They didn't need another album and endless touring to gain fame, fortune, or artistic fulfillment.

I believe that balance of internal satisfaction while providing external joy is why folks like the Eagles and Van Morrison are still banging away providing excellence after all these years. (Bob Dylan, on the other hand, is a special case I'll address in my next diatribe!)

John's list above is, of course, an excellent crossover between the two groups (MU and Eagles) and, like customer focus, can and should absolutely be applied to business; otherwise, you become the Milli Vanilli of your field.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Joel - It's fascinating to recall The Eagles had that 14 year break - as Glen Frey said 'We didn't break up - we just had a 14 year vacation'

Hell Freezes Over was a pivotal moment and there must have been something that kept them ‘together’ even though they were apart. And it certainly wouldn't have been a comeback just for the money.

In a recent interview Don Henley was quoted as saying there are still tensions in the band but he also said The Eagles as a brand is bigger than the four individuals. Henley also said that Glen Frey is the boss despite the widely held view that Henley rules the roost. Interesting dynamic I would imagine. Four fragile egos I expect – it just seems to work though! And the magic remains for me.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

"...there are still tensions in the band but he also said The Eagles as a brand is bigger than the four individuals."

To me, Trevor, there's no "but." The tensions among the band members - as among the members of the Beatles, Who, Kinks, Stones, Beach Boys, Byrds, Allman Bros, Fleetwood Mac, etc. etc. - is/was a key factor in their success, as I will exhaustively document one day. :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John – you have far more knowledge and experience than me on these things so thanks for confirming the ‘tensions’ thing.

I can see what you mean about tension being an integral part of the success. We are no doubt talking about fragile egos to some degree or maybe a large degree and handling/managing/controlling that must be one hell of a ride!

Do let me know the progress of your book – I can't wait to read it!!!!! :-)