BOOKS: Stars in their eyes - Can the boardroom learn from the locker room? Stephen Fay is not quite convinced

BOOKS: Stars in their eyes - Can the boardroom learn from the locker room? Stephen Fay is not quite convinced - Peak Performance

by STEPHEN FAY
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Peak Performance

Clive Gilson, Mike Pratt, Ed Weymes and Kevin Roberts

HarperCollins Business pounds 19.99

Three professors from New Zealand's University of Waikato business school and Saatchi & Saatchi's CEO decided to find out what successful sports teams can teach the modern manager. The result is their theory of the Peak Performance Organisation, or PPO. The book is a 'how to' guide to winning gold medals in business.

They take us behind the scenes at, among others, Germany's Bayern Munich, the world championship-winning Australian women's hockey and netball teams, the Chicago Bulls and the New Zealand All Blacks. Some examples let them down, however: Bayern, who failed to 'abolish losing' when they met Manchester United last May, and the Williams Formula 1 team.

The authors had access to the management and players in each case study and the pleasure they gained from their research is evident in the starry-eyed prose. They may be trained, tough-minded students of management, but they are also fans, which is useful for communicating enthusiasm, less so in sensing flaws. None of the case studies analyses the recovery from a bad mistake.

The common factor among these clubs is in the strong feelings of trust and loyalty fostered among their employees. Bayern Munich is 'like a big family'. Australian Test players are 'part of the cricketing family'.

New Zealand rugby has its 'family tree'. Williams Formula 1 vehicles - the only British example - is the closest we get to a manufacturing business, but the same principles apply. In the jargon of Peak Performance: 'The dream belongs to all'.

What I found most interesting was not to discover how business might learn from sport, but the extent to which sport now copies business. The Australian Women's Hockey Association's budget is just pounds 1 million, but the yearly business plan runs to 40 pages, and as much attention is paid to branding as to bonding.

The application of business methods to sport is not infallible, however.

It works in Australian cricket, with its emphasis on organisation, development programmes, expert psychologists, nutritionists and bio-mechanists, and marketing for television coverage and sponsorship.

As the authors say: 'Sharing the dream of cricket and providing opportunities for everyone to play translates into a passion for winning at international level.' The annual report of the English Cricket Board outlines exactly the same strategy. And proves it doesn't always work.

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