Friday, 10 December 2010

Compromising situations

I write to you laid up with a virus which is going round my office and a lot of the UK at the moment, and from a country still feeling 'we wuz robbed'!

A week has passed since the World Cup bidding process drew to a close and it would seem there is still in a palpable feeling of anger and  frustration after England's fall at the first round of voting in the World Cup bid, losing out to Russia.

For those not aware (not aware? This is the greatest scandal since... insert scandal as appropriate) England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup fell rather embarrassingly by the wayside during the first round of votes in Fifa Headquarters in Zurich. This is the equivalent of turning up at your high school dance finding that your date for the evening has not only chosen a different dance partner but you have also been asked to leave the premises before it has started. You most probably spiked the punch trying to get everyone to part hardy – how crude.

On top of that the 2022 tournament went to Qatar, an outsider seemingly seriously impaired with logistical issues such as searing June/July temperatures and too small a land area to deal with the logistics of a World Cup and all of the demands it entails.

Putting aside who won and lost and the merits of decisions reached, is there something to be that organisations could learn from the bidding process? I think so.

Know the rules of the game and what success looks like
As part of their justification for the tournaments going to Russia and Qatar, FIFA has made play of the fact the tournaments will be staged in these regions for the first time, pushing an agenda of legacy for the two countries.

Part of the anger for the English bid team was that they felt that they had met the criteria set out by FIFA in terms of the technical, financial and infrastructure of their bid - but why was this element or criteria not considered prior to the process kicking off?

One can argue about the legitimacy of legacy but we will not know how effective the tournaments will have been in achieving this until after they take place. Yet were the clues not there from the previous example of South Africa which had been ear marked as the preferred candidate for the 2006 tournament hence was shoe-in for 2010? It was not the ideal choice on the criteria the England bid were arguing over but one could not argue that, in comparison, by hosting it in the African continent there is more potential for legacy than in the UK.

Before you launch in to any project - short-listing candidates for a position, promoting a new policy, evaluating skills gaps/competencies within your team, Department, business - you need to realise what the criteria for success will be. Starting off with the end goal itself is not enough.

In some ways how you get there is just as important, which leads me in to...

How much do you value your values?
Much has been made of the process lacking transparency and delegates (allegedly) switching votes promised to the English bid team over the course of the final bid process.

However, if the bid is about more than just the content and places value on clandestine meetings when promises are made, traded and bartered over, can one have any complaints if it you lose out in such a process? Should the question not be why you are even there taking part in the first instance?

This comes down to values and what you stand for - your complaints about a process lacking credibility s undermined if you were willing to buy in to it when you thought you might have something to gain out of it. You cannot engage in a process wholeheartedly and then complain about how it is managed afterwards if it does not give you the result you want.

If the process is going to cause you too many misgivings about compromising the values which you apply to your business then re-evaluate whether this is the right path and what alternatives there might be.

The most common phrase you will hear businesses roll out is 'people are our greatest asset'. But how do you attract people outside simple financial reward systems and the like?   Part of what attracts people to organisations with this mindset is a mutual understanding that the employee can trust the organisation and buy in to its ethos, mission etc.

Trust is a very fluid concept but Jack Trout came up with a great description for it in the context of a conversation about leadership (search Stephen MR Covey's 'The Speed of Trust' on I-Tunes for more info). Trust comes down to two points - competence and character. You need the skills and experience to undertake a task which make you competent. However, without people having trust in your character, that your word can be depended, that you are dependable you are sunk before you start.

If the England team entered in to it not knowing the criteria then at best they were naive in not drilling down on what would be required to win the bid. However, seeing as they asked the nation's future king, current Prime Minister and most famous sports star to work the room they still felt they had a chance and were willing to go along with whatever FIFA needed from their bidders - which suggests a little naivety on their part.

Not sure which is the more worrying -either way both (sadly) make the criticism of the process slightly redundant.
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