In my spare time, I am the assistant coach (aka Head of Cones) of my son’s Under-13 football team, Grantham Town. Louis’s side play to a reasonably high standard, including some games against professional academies.

Earlier this week the boys played Sheffield Wednesday Under-13s (spoiler alert: they lost!). During the game, Nick, the lead coach, worked with Louis and the boys to implement four different formations in an attempt to find a winning formula (For the purists among you, the systems used were 4-2-3-1, 4-4-1-1, 4-5-1 and a flat 4-3-3!). For their part, Sheffield Wednesday implemented three different playing systems during the game.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, once said that his business was “fixed on the vision, but flexible on the journey.” In other words, like both the Grantham and Wednesday coaches and teams, he is willing to constantly evolve and adapt his plans and tactics in a bid for strategic success. The buzzword for this skill is ‘organisational agility’.

The problem for many companies is that the plan becomes the goal, and managers become fixed on delivering specific actions rather than specific results and outcomes. Agility, learning and evolution are overtaken and subsumed by fixed thinking and approaches.

If 12-year old boys can learn and apply three or four different football formations over the course of a game, your teams can also learn to be more flexible and agile in their pursuit of strategic success.

How are you leading your teams to be ‘fixed on the vision, but flexible on the journey’?


Off The Record: Right Next Time by Gerry Rafferty

You need direction, yeah, you need a name

When you’re standing at the crossroads every highway looks the same

After a while you get to recognise the signs

So if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time


© Stuart Cross 2018. All rights reserved.