Around an year back when we were kicking off a big project in office, our unofficial motto for the project was “lets play like the Aussies”. Watching Australia win the World Cup last night reminded me how appropriate that motto was.
The Australian cricket team has won 4 of the last 6 world cups. They have made it to the finals of 5 of the last 6 world cups. They haven’t lost a match in the world cup since 1999. In short, they rule the game and there is not even a distant second. Their domination has lasted 20 years and there are no challengers in sight.
In a sport that is often termed as “a game of glorious uncertainties”, how can one team continue to dominate so consistently? Over 20 years, dozens of players, coaches, management and selection committees must have come and gone. So it is definitely not a case of individual genius. It is also not a case of just having things fall in place (the way they did for India in 83 or for SL in 96). Australia’s success is a case of having the right system in place and following processes. Whether it is selection procedures, training regimens, talent spotting or team strategy, their appears a clear method in their ways. There is no adhocism and very little dependence on individual brilliance. Contrast that with the India team. We have traditionally been people oriented. A great all arounder or a genius batsmen or a legendary leg spinner have historically given India its cricketing successes over the years. This is of course the reason why the Indian team goes through so many crests and troughs.
Australian team is a great example of how organizations should work. Dependence on individual star performers can yield results in the short term but adds little to the strength of the organization. If anything, it can leave rest of the team rallying behind a few individuals. So when those individuals stop performing or are not available, things start falling apart. In contrast, a process based approach may take time to show results. It is hard to get processes right in the first go. It is also hard to get people to change and adhere to processes. But once a good system has been put in place, its there forever. It doesn’t depend on individual brilliance or sheer genius. It makes success more predictable and a good system allows identifying weaknesses early on. Sure, it might not be as sexy as a Sachin Tendulkar cover drive – but then how many World Cups has Sachin lifted so far?