Is Paul Collingwood The Latest Management Guru?

Last Updated May 18, 2010 4:12 AM EDT

Did you hear the world cup-winning captain of England's Twenty20 cricket side, Paul Collingwood, in his post-match interview? Having just beaten Australia, Collingwood was asked what had led to England's triumph. His reply contained comments that immediately caught my attention:
  • "The guys are just using their brains out there, making good decisions";
  • "The guys have just executed their plans";
  • "They've really communicated well over the past few weeks".
Decision-making, planning and communication: did I miss something or is England's victory the result of implementing best management practice?

Most of the sports teams that I follow regularly have a "bad day at the office" (my home town team, Morecambe, had just lost 6-0 to Dagenham and Redbridge as England took to the field) but I hadn't realised that sportsmen and women followed the business management advice of writers such as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters or CK Prahalad.

If only our sports stars had benefitted from the insights of management gurus earlier. For example:

  • Michael Jordan would have read the classic Harvard Business Review article, The Core Competence of The Corporation, and would never have attempted a second career in baseball.
  • Could Gazza have avoided the tears that followed his yellow card in the Italia '90 World Cup semi-final if he had fully understood and digested the principles behind Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence?
  • Perhaps Tim Henman would have won Wimbledon if he had applied the lessons from Jim Collins's Good To Great (never mind your second serve, Tim, what's your hedgehog concept?)
But there's something not quite right with sportsmen and women talking and acting like they've just walked out of the boardroom rather than the changing room.

Romantically, we want our sports stars to be like artists, actors or rock stars. We want them to have natural talent that doesn't demand the steady, detailed application and practice that we mere mortals require.

Modern sport, though, is business and it seems that the influence of business and management is endemic. Perhaps it's just taken a little longer for it register with the English cricket XI than other sports teams.

Even so, WG Grace must be re-engineering in his grave.

(Pic: johnniemojo cc2.0)

  • Stuart Cross

    Stuart Cross is a founder of Morgan Cross Consulting, which helps companies find new ways to drive substantial, profitable growth. His clients include Alliance Boots, Avon and PricewaterhouseCoopers.