Andre Villas Boas has become the latest in a line of Chelsea managers to be given the boot by Roman Abramovich. This just eight months into his proposed three-year ‘project’ to turn around the club’s fortunes and lead them into a new era of long-term success. AVB’s past achievements in the Portuguese league prove he is a capable manager. But his plight at Chelsea highlights an issue that many talented managers face in today’s game, and one which leads me to draw comparisons to the business world.
When a business has fundamental issues, every stakeholder group has a critical role to play in improving its fortunes. If reports are to be believed, in AVB’s case he did not have the full support of each key stakeholder (in this instance the backroom staff, the players, the fans, and eventually the board). The fact that AVB, in his role as the manager, was unable to get everyone round the table (or indeed dressing room) and encourage discussions which could produce ways to improve the club’s fortunes meant that he was facing an impossible task.
Most significantly for AVB, he seemed to lose the support of his players (whether he shut some of them out or they lacked confidence in him from the outset is open to interpretation). This situation can be likened to the employees of a business who are often the ones who will execute change - they must be seen as part of the solution rather than the problem. It is the employees, more than any other group of stakeholders, who will successfully implement a turnaround. You have to get them onside from the beginning – when you have employees questioning your leadership, transformation plans and strategy, then the necessary change will be very difficult to implement.
Another key factor in any business transformation is speed of communication. Just because you are bringing more parties to the table does not mean that the process should take longer. Of course, the faster a consensus can be reached the better. Unfortunately, in AVB’s case, he seemed unable to communicate effectively his plans for rebuilding to all necessary groups. He could not act quickly enough to reach a consensus and prevent the spiral of poor results. Ultimately, he was not fast enough to save his job.
Bryan Green is President of the Turnaround Management Association UK
Picture: London Pixels (via Wikimedia Commons)