Succession Planning Made Real

In 2003, England became the first and only country from Europe to win the rugby world cup. From 2001 to 2003, England were world beaters. They had leaders throughout the team and experience in spades. Clive Woodward, the England coach, meticulously built a winning culture over a 6 year period. When he took over in 1997, England were in poor shape with record losing margins against Australia and New Zealand. It was pretty embarrassing at the time. But within a couple of years Clive Woodward turned a losing team into a world beating team. On the back of that, he became one of the most sought-after business speakers. A guru on performance and management, in demand for an insight into his gold dust and methods. But was he successful or was it a flash in the pan for English rugby, without a meaningful legacy? We now know, because we have a further 10 years’ worth of history.

The fact is, he was broadly a failure. The team was only great for 2-3 years. From the moment they won the world cup trophy, they reverted back to type. England were a disaster in 2004 and have been pretty weak, relative to their resources and player populations ever since. Constantly losing to the main nations and in a perpetual “rebuild” phase.

Wikipedia is a pretty good source for information on the team’s rise and fall:

“When the World Rankings were introduced in October 2003, England was ranked first. They briefly fell to second in September that year before regaining first place. They fell to second, and then to third in June 2004. After the 2005 Six Nations they fell to sixth where they remained until they moved into fifth in December that year. In 2006, their ranking again fell and they finished the year ranked seventh. 2007 saw them bounce back to third after their good run in that year’s World Cup when they finished second. In 2008 their rankings slipped so that during the 2009 Six Nations Championship they dropped to their lowest ranking of eighth. They again were eighth during the autumn internationals of the same year. After a resurgence which saw them rise to a ranking of fourth in the world, the team again slipped, following a poor showing at the Rugby World Cup 2011, and was ranked sixth on 27 February 2012.”

We can easily visualise the changes in the world ranking using OrgVue.


Visualisation by OrgVue & data source from IRB World Ranks (last ranking for each year)

In 2011, New Zealand won the world cup for the first time since 1987. Did they follow the same fate of the English, or did they kick on? Like England after the 2003 world cup, the All Black coaches changed. Like England, New Zealand had a highly capped and ageing team. Like England, they were extremely focused on winning the cup and that was the seemingly singular focus. It was becoming a source of national humiliation. But did they suffer the same fate? The answer is one of the most emphatic “No’s” you will ever read, anywhere. The All Blacks won over 93% of their 40 or so tests the last world cup. In fact, they have only lost once (the irony should not be lost on you, their only loss has been to the English in Dec 2012 – a categorical loss) and they also drew with Australia once.

England outnumbers the rest of the world in playing numbers. They have 167,000 senior players compared to New Zealand’s 27,000, yet with only a 20% win rate. The English clubs have much more money and players earn a lot more. In fact, much of the talent from New Zealand is bought by far richer clubs, meaning that they are no longer available to play for the (Mighty) All Blacks (yes, if you hadn’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan. That comes with the territory of being brought up on a New Zealand sheep farm).

My view is that New Zealand has one of the best succession planning systems in place, anywhere in the world. They nurture talent from the age of 15, demonstrating a long term view. Contracts are held at a national level (unlike local clubs in the UK) making sure that governance and control is at the right level for the benefit of the main “brand”. The All Blacks have apprenticeship programmes and aim to ease talent in gradually, planning and managing the succession.

It is talent management on steroids (almost literally, but their drug record is remarkably clean). It takes huge time and commitment to make succession planning work. It takes rigour, discipline and patience. Most talented 15 year olds have no chance of making the All Blacks. But many are given the chance to develop and get on the ladder. You don’t have to be the star at Under 21 level to make the grade – in fact, many of the current All Blacks didn’t make the Under 21 team.

The ability to foster and grow talent is in all the news write-ups. It is part of the culture. It is what the pundits talk about and the public expect. To create a winning culture, you need a winning succession planning discipline. It needs to run deep and not just be about the top level management. It can’t just be about the stars. To make any team successful, all parts of the team and wider structure need to be firing on all cylinders.

So how does this relate to OrgVue? Well, in my next blog I’ll highlight just how Succession Planning can practically and effectively be managed within OrgVue. In fact, it is one of the main driving reason why many of our recent clients have selected OrgVue over many of the other “Talent Tools”.

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Rupert Morrison

Rupert Morrison

Managing Director
The OrgVue team is led by Rupert Morrison, the Managing Director of Concentra. OrgVue is an integrated software platform for organisation design, HR analytics and strategic workforce planning. It is revolutionising the way clients see, plan and manage their organisations. He is married with 3-boys. Being from New Zealand, he has a passion for rugby which he also coaches. Other interests include IronMan distance Triathlons and writing. He blogs on Organisation Design and is also writing a book on that topic. He has an MSc in Economics, with a focus on Micro general equilibrium modelling and game theory.

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