Drawing Parallels !!

I am a big fan of Manchester United – the Red Devils. And being such a fanatic, it pains me severely to see how much we have suffered in the last 2 years. Previous season was a complete disaster with a
dismal 7th position in the league, and no qualification for the much aspired Champions League.

Now, it’s a fact that Sir Alex stepped down as the manager after 27 years of thick and thin. Add to that the fact that we had a manager (David Moyes) who had a starkly different style of operation tactically,  and an altogether different way of dealing with his players.

So what went wrong?

- Lack of Transition Management – From a 4-4-2 attacking, fluid play style of play, suddenly MANU shifted to a 4-4-2 contain, pass-and-play kind of mentality. Of course, the players would have known what is coming their way. After all Everton (Moyes’ previous team) had been constantly rising over the last 2 years and would have been thoroughly analysed. However, the key question to ask is that whether the players were sensitized of how the transition in philosophy would unfold? Had they accepted mentally that the manager had changed and so would the style?

- Does the team change with a change of Manager? – Is it the manager who defines the team, or is it the team which defines its own style of play? Isn’t it similar to an organization setting up its vision and philosophy and then letting the teams to play within the boundary of the same and tweak it and change it to suit their requirements within the limits defined. What Moyes was trying to do, many believe is to keep the structures same (the formation, the coaching staff, the flow of command), but change the philosophy by which the team as a whole plays and evolves.

If it were the opposite, where the overall guiding rails remained the same, but the flow of thestructure and processes were tweaked to evolve the team gradually, maybe we would still be having Moyes at the helm at MANU

- Key stakeholders : was there a buy-in? – We have seen Rooney sacrifice his forward position to
play as a winger or as a play maker under Sir Alex as well. Then what was it under Moyes that
was not clicking? Was it the fact that Rooney was not confident of a forward combination of Janujaz and Van Persie, which was mostly Van Persie and Chicarito under Alex? Or was it the lack of fluidity in the midfield whose mindset was stymied by a play which required more of possession football?

- Was it too early to judge? - How do you define what is the appropriate time to judge if a transition has succeeded tor pulled the system down? Even Sir Alex had a very tough time when he took over as Manchester United Manager for the first time with equally, if not worse results in the first 3 seasons. Then why did the fans and management be so hasty in crucifying Moyes?

Was it because we were still living in the halo of the team that was under Sir Alex? It should have been the Glazer’s (owners of MANU) to stand behind Moyes, in the first year and judge his intent to change the philosophy, the merit in such change and the process he was outlining, more than the immediate results. Or was it social pressure – the fans who crucified Moyes?

As I reach the end of this write up, I find it amusing that how certain themes – “Transition Management”, “Evolving the Organisational philosophy without sacrificing on results and faith”,
“Stakeholder Buy-in”, “Criteria Contamination when defining parameters to assess performance”and similar principles stand fundamental to the success of teams, whether units small in size or multinational organisations. The most important teaching that such scenarios give us is to recognize and pick up such themes from our day to day situations, and draw parallels, for we never know where the solution to our biggest problem may come from – sports, politics, or theater.

As a closing note, one particular theme which binds all the discussions we would have on any such parallels, and the possibility of finding a solution to our problems, would be derived from answering one question honestly – “To what extent am I observing this scenario to critique and judge, against observing to absorb and assimilate what I see?”

- Anurag Shrivastava


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