I was going to write a post on Kevin Pietersen’s forced departure from the England cricket setup, but George Dobell has said it perfectly in an article already. Some excerpts:
If you can’t manage, you shouldn’t be in management. By allowing the situation to reach this conclusion and in taking such a drastic decision, this is a catastrophic failure of management. England are not embracing change, they are embracing mediocrity.
Ah, but isn’t that just the very definition of modern management – and not just in sports: plenty of people with the title of manager with very little actual management going on? For several years I’ve been fond of responding to supposed managers bleating about some administrative problem or other with “You’re a Manager: manage!” Most managers do fine when the train they’re on is trundling along okay, even if it’s headed in the completely wrong direction, but when something unexpected or difficult comes up they either stand by and do nothing or thrash about helplessly. Fair weather management is the norm.
England’s new management team may feel that this is a strong decision. But truly strong leaders accept alternatives, diversity and imperfection. Strong leaders are flexible and embrace difference. Strong leaders understand that genius very often comes at a cost, but a cost that is worth paying.
There are two points here. Firstly, when managers make what they think is a strong decision, it is usually the wrong one. Now there are managers who consistently make bold decisions – although they are a rare breed – but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about those who through weak and ineffective management allow a situation to develop to crisis point before being forced to make a decision under pressure. No manager who has mishandled the easy stuff is going to be able to make the right decision when he’s forced to act. And the ECB, having sleepwalked into a situation which saw the England team lose 12 matches out of 13 down under, have lashed out in an unwise direction.
Secondly, that bit about embracing difference is important. I must have sat through literally dozens of presentations about diversity in the workplace, complete with attendees and examples of people of all ages, colours, nationalities, cultures, backgrounds, and both sexes. But never, not once, was diversity of thought even mentioned. Personally, I think a diverse workplace is worthy goal to aim for, but there is little point in having everybody look different if they are all forced to think alike. It’s ironic that modern management stresses the importance of diversity whilst at the same time fostering a culture in which unthinking conformity and being a sheep is the only desirable attribute in an employee.
The finality of this announcement will also hinder the next team director. Any credible applicant for that job will want to assemble their own team, appoint their own captain and make their own judgements on players.
And isn’t that also a feature of modern management? Most managers are nothing of the sort, they are mere administrators with an erroneous title. Give me 10 minutes in any enterprise, company, organisation, or project and I’ll show you somebody who is nominally the manager of an area, department, or process but isn’t actually allowed to make the fundamental decisions which determine success or failure. In the best cases these people are merely automatons stuck in front of the public for show (e.g. branch managers at a bank, who in the case of Barclays have neither an email address nor a direct phone line); in the worst cases they are the poor sods who have responsibility heaped on them but with no commensurate authority. And boy, do I know what that feels like.
Suppose the new England coach comes in and decides he wants Pietersen to play. What’s the ECB going to say? No? In which case, the coach isn’t the coach, he’s just some patsy who’s paid to wear a coach’s hat for a bit. The world would be a better place if more people didn’t take these jobs.
England supporters deserve answers. It is unacceptably arrogant to dismiss their legitimate interest with an evasive media statement. It is unacceptable to discard England’s highest international run-scorer without explaining exactly why the management believe the team will be stronger without him. It is absurd to claim that, with two global events in the next 12 months and one within weeks, that this is the time to start a long-term rebuilding operation. And it is disingenuous to claim, via off-the-record briefings, that all the senior players were canvassed and gave negative views on Pietersen. Several, at least, claim to be as confused by this episode as Pietersen seems to be. The ECB has to be more transparent and accountable.
It is often the case that the most incompetent managers are also the most arrogant and dismissive, unwilling or unable to justify the decisions which more often than not contribute to catastrophe. Naturally, when this happens there is little self-reflection, just more arrogance and self-delusion. I doubt any of this lot at the ECB are going to shoulder any of the blame should England cricket continue on its path of decline and we get thumped by India in the summer. They’ll just find another scapegoat and move on. Modern Management 101.
It is increasingly hard to avoid the conclusion that it is the institution at fault, not the individuals. Change may well be required, but it is right at the top that it should start.
Perhaps, but that betrays all the principles of modern management. Bollock the tea-boy, fire the engineer, kick the dog, but never, ever touch the senior management.
When people said not so long ago that English cricket had entered a new era and were the epitome of a modern sports outfit, they didn’t know how right they were. Altogether now: baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!