New Zealands national Rugby Union Team, the All Blacks are arguably the most successful sports team on the planet. No other team or any business I can think of has had such consistent success. We decided to take a closer look. Here are our 10 lessons your business can learn from the All Blacks.
- Success rate of 77% of all games played in 125 years of Rugby Union.
- 3 Rugby World Cups including the inaugural tournament.
- The first Rugby Union nation to win 500 test matches.
- Topped the Rugby Union rankings 8 years in a row.
- Awarded the prestigious Laureus World Sports Award for Team of the Year in 2016 in recognition for “supreme performance” in the world of sports.
What can we learn from the All Blacks.
The All Blacks leadership group is made up of the Captain, Vice-Captain and coaching staff. Their message is reinforced through experienced players living the All Blacks values on and off the field. These highly respected players are empowered to provide advice to the leadership group as well as guidance and support to newer players and less outgoing members.
In business, Leaders should lead. Good leaders empower and utilise the talent around them to strengthen and tighten the team. They build a supportive environment where ideas flow from all directions, challenging creativity and maximising success.
In the modern era, the All Blacks management have clearly defined a strategy with the end vision being victory every 4 years at the Rugby World Cup (RWC). To meet this goal they set several milestones that chart their path to success along the way.
In business, if there is one thing we can learn from the All Blacks it’s this; build a long term vision. Keep it simple to ensure everyone understands it. Set smaller interval targets and allow the team to celebrate small success which will chart your way to the goal.
As is the nature of contact sport, the All Blacks suffer attrition due to injuries, retirements and under performance. To maintain their success ratio, they need a ready supply of talent they can recruit as needed.
In business, it’s your people that make you different. Bring the right people into your business and exit the wrong people out. Play the long game and make recruitment an important piece in overall strategy. Talent loss can hurt business, therefore you need to plan to reduce the associated risk of attrition. Effective recruitment at best improves your business and at worst means minimal impact especially when attrition is unplanned.
The All Blacks are constantly in the spotlight in New Zealand, such is the nature of professional sport and the passion that this instils in fans. They are a symbol of pride and professionalism, respected throughout the country. These values are instilled very early on in the selection process. The leadership work to help all of the players become better on field and off the field. Better players off field make better players on field. This is what’s expected and this is the ethos of the All Blacks.
In business, it is important that the culture within a working environment is conducive to positive outcomes. This can include; how individuals interact with each other, how employees and management represent the company in public as well as having a general degree of pride in what they do.
5. Team work
Rugby Union is a game of two teams of 15 players. One team wins by scoring more points than the other, it’s that simple. Or is it, on the sideline sit a further 8 in reserve, forming a 23 man match day squad. In addition there are many more players and supporting experts, every one needed to make the National Team the best in the world. Everyone chosen for their dedication and shared values, is respected and as important to overall success as the men on the field.
In business, Better people make better business. Whilst individuals may be required to perform certain duties to ensure delivery of a task, often it is the work of a larger team which insures the ultimate success (or otherwise) of the end result.
The All Blacks have been the number 1 team in Rugby Union for the past 8 years. This creates an obvious target for the hungry teams below. To stay on top, the number 1 team can’t play each game the same way. They must advance and bring new tactics into each season. Innovation is an important element keeping the team in the lead. Innovation has been at the heart of all the lessons the All Blacks bring to business.
In business, as the market, competitors and customer expectations evolve, so must you. Successful businesses embrace new technologies and ideas. Because to stay the same can see ground lost to competitors who do embrace change.
The All Blacks are not alone in the modern professional sporting era in using technology to fuel their success. Everything from their specially designed rugby jerseys (tech built by Adidas into the jersey to increase durability/breath-ability/grip etc) to the monitors they wear in game that track heart rate, G forces, distance travelled and speeds in real time and a myriad of other applications of technology. There is extensive analysis done on players, opposition and the tools which will best aid players in training and during the game. Everything is measured scientifically; training regimes, diet, apparel and mental/physical health etc.
In business, you must find ways to improve customer satisfaction while reducing cost. Technology is used in every business sector today. Robots, bots, self driving machinery and cars, Bitcoin/Blockchain, connectivity, mobile tech and so on. With all this choice the challenge is which technology is right for your business. Regardless of choice, the fact is in order for a business to succeed, they must challenge status quo.
8. Learning and Development
New players entering the All Blacks environment are selected on their skills and consistency in performance. As experience grows so expectations follow. This is achieved through hard work and coaching / learning from those around them as well as from the competing teams. In addition, senior All Blacks are encouraged to be leaders on/off the field aiding development of newer players.
In business, it’s important our leaders mentor employees and encourage their development into high performing employees or future leaders. Furthermore its important that people are given the right tools and opportunities to build skills therefore increasing the expectations on the business.
9. Performance Management
If the All Blacks are to keep winning, the players must be at their best. However, every player has his day and sometimes tough decisions need to be made. In most cases when a player is dropped, they’re told clearly why and often remediation plans are made to challenge the players to get back into the All Blacks.
In business, When individual standards fall, the temptation may be to seek alternatives. A costly exercise with no guarantee at the end. Communicate regularly and look for opportunities to coach. Make them aware of areas that need development and support them as needed therefore relegating replacement to last resort.
With success comes recognition. Accolades and victories are one thing, but success is not without financial expense. The iconic All Black jersey and the haka are two distinctive features that even casual observers will recognise. The All Blacks are a brand in themselves and have as you might expect attracted support from global sponsors Adidas, AIG and Air New Zealand among others. The brand is effective on and off the field and by the time of the 2023 RWC the brand is estimated to be worth upwards of US$500,000,000.
In business, effective marketing via online, print, media and good old fashioned word of mouth is crucial to success. Customers must know who you are and what you do. Strengthen the message with stories of success your customers have when choosing your products. Like the All Blacks, it helps to partner with similarly successful businesses for mutual gain.
The 2017 rugby season has ended with another year in the lead. While their success rate was 86%, it wasn’t their best year. The gap closed slightly this year therefore the All Blacks will need to work just as hard off season as they do on season. Surely as they have before, the All Blacks will push higher as the pressure mounts.
2017 is coming to close providing a brief pause for business to reflect and plan. Perhaps you can learn from the All Blacks and make small improvements to improve your position. As a business owner I’ll work to adopt these lessons and as a result I hope to be able to measure improvements at Symmetry.
Finally, whilst the All Blacks are the supreme sports machine and a marketeers dream, seems like many of the elements that support their success are common sense and adaptable to every business.
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