Sport is a useful way to understand the elements of winning and the importance of strategy.
Alistair Campbell, the former communications chief and strategist for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, argued the three elements of success in almost any field are: strategy; leadership; and team-ship.
Head Coach of the Wallabies, Michael Cheika, has been carefully contemplating his method of winning the 2015 Rugby World Cup. There’s been endless discussion in the media about Cheika’s judgements on team consistency, player selection, and game strategies.
He’s made unconventional decisions around player selections in games against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina, continually re-arranging teams and player positions, risking team consistency and player familiarity.
But in early September, after months of criticism from the public and rugby experts, it was revealed that Cheika’s constant swapping of players had been tailored around a particular strategy: bring two complete starting teams to avoid injuries to star players. And he plans to take this approach to the Rugby World Cup - something no other team in the World Cup will be doing - and a strategy Cheika hopes will win them the Championship.
When you consider the kinds of strategic decisions Cheika is making, the similarities between Campbell’s criteria for success and its application to the fields of sport, business and politics become strikingly clear.
The laws of success ripple across the fields of sport, politics and business.
Firstly, like a political organisation or business, a rugby team can play or approach a game in a multitude of ways. It can employ a number of tactics and play at a certain tempo or style to achieve the desired effect. When a team employs a strategy, the other team combats that strategy with its own set of tactics. It’s a back and forth mental and physical battle of attrition between the two sides until one crumbles under the pressure.
Secondly, it is often not the most skilful or stronger team that wins, but the team that manages their competitor’s strategy most effectively. This of course relies on the leader’s ability to understand and alter their team’s playing style to combat an opposition’s weakness or strength.
Lastly, no team can be successful without teamwork. It may seem like an obvious point but even a team with the best strategy can falter if the team leaders fail to cultivate a culture where every player is working towards the same objective: “A champion team will always beat a team of champions”.
For those who seem to confuse the ingredients of success, perhaps some of Australia’s politicians and business elite should strap on the footy boots and heed the lessons from a Michael Cheika half-time team talk.
When the Rugby World Cup kicks off on 18 September, instead of simply enjoying the spectacle, think of it as 20 teams at the highest level combining Alistair Campbell’s elements of success to beat their competitors.
Oh, and go the Wallabies.
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