Introducing the 'Lineker Effect'

Last Updated Aug 26, 2009 4:48 AM EDT

Anybody who grew up watching football in the 1980s will know there has rarely been a goalmouth predator to rival Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and England striker Gary Lineker.

From three yards out there was no more deadly a finisher than the perma-tanned Match of the Day presenter. Providing the goalkeeper had gone walkabout and the ball was practically crossing the line already there was nobody more capable of sticking one in the onion bag than the big-eared Leicester-born crisp spokesmodel.

'Why is this relevant to a sometimes coherent blog post on BNET?', I hear you ask. Well I'll tell you.

Between 1986 and 1989 Lineker scored 43 times in 103 games for FC Barcelona. He had been more prolific at Everton (38 goals in 52 games) but the difference was at Barcelona he finally got his hands on some silverware - The Copa del Rey and The European Cup Winners Cup.

The thing is, who knows off the top of their head who set up all those goals at Barcelona, or even at Everton for that matter?

What history tends to record is the name of the person who slid in at the last minute and finished off a move, 99.9 per cent of which required and received little input from them along the way.

Now think about the delivery of projects within your own workplace. How common is it that at the outset of a project the talk from above will be 'when are you going to do that?', only to be replaced when nearing completion by 'didn't we do well'.

This is the Lineker effect - the tendency of management to loiter with intent on the edge of any project until it looks as though a goal is going to be scored. At which point they will be prepared to tread their own grandmother into the mud to be the person who slides in and knocks the ball over the line.

There is no other reason than this: At the outset of any project the risk of failure is at its highest. That being the case, senior management tend to find more pressing projects to concern themselves with (those lunches don't eat themselves you know). However, when projects near 90 - 95 per cent completion risk of failure is at its lowest and the likelihood is the team are into the stages of playing out the final few minutes before the open-top bus ride through the office and the workplace equivalent of a trip to Buckingham Palace: the round-robin email praising all involved.

This is the stage when senior management risk a little mud on their shoes and slide in on the line to share in, if not claim, the glory.

Hence, the Lineker effect.

(Pic: frli cc2.0)