Cup Winning Architects

Like it or not, football is one of the most popular and followed sports on the globe today.

Inside that esoteric lexicon and labyrinth of rules; regulations and metalanguage, there are many lessons for the business Architect too.


The formation of a football team is dynamic.  The manager will look at the strengths of his squad; the weaknesses of his opponent; the opportunities he wishes his team to expose and equally the threats the opposition pose.

Moving from a 4:4:2 to a 3:5:2 formation, it’s beginning to sound like a Saturday sports report but in those numbers, there’s an interesting insight (you just need to look at the formation as a resource equation!)

If 40% of your business is about ‘defending’, the people in this part of the team are about retaining your current market position; retaining valuable customers and preventing opponents from stealing a lead in product development.

The next 40% of your resource is about keeping momentum.  These are the researchers that are driving development; protecting the goal by pushing opponents; markets and new customers to consider what they’re going to offer or have already developed.

The final 20% are your deal closers, the people who go out and close sales and win new business.

Change the formation depending on the macro environment and overall business strategy and you change the dynamic of your team once again (3;5;2 = 30% defence; 50% midfield and 20% sales; 3;4;3 and so on).

The Team:

Most successful teams have a blended approach of fresh new talent emerging through the ranks (academies); buying in ‘stars’ (baseball teams) and some squad players to bolster for the long season ahead.  Versatile players (sales people who can also do customer care; research and development people who can also market) bring additional value in that they are ‘peripatetic’.  Look at where your team can move to new tasks to develop additional skills or use current skills in a different area.

The Manager’s (Architect’s) Role

Cup winning managers are able to make substitutions; dynamic changes in formation and recognise opportunities and threats all the while managing a diverse group of individual needs and desires.

In the heat of the season, the manager can articulate the vision and create a shared goal.  They can impress the significance of each component part on the achievement of this goal; inspire the players psychologically but also drill the team physically in order they have the fitness, skills and self belief to succeed.  They aid the players achieve ‘self actualisation’.

Play the long game!

Football, like business, shows us patience and a willingness to allow managers to learn and grow pays dividends.  Most great teams have a history of long serving coaches and managers (Sir Alex Ferguson; Walter Smith; Jock Stein – all have created great success from cultivating future players in their youth academies and a lot of patience from their respective Chairmen affording them the time to realise the vision).

Great businesses are likewise blessed with great figures at their heart for a long period of time – Donald Trump; Sir Richard Branson; Lord Alan Sugar; Bill Gates; Steve Jobs.  These great leaders had a long term strategy and a vision of a better future for their company.

They’ve suffered defeats but, like football, a trophy is rarely the accumulation of one game’s effort but more a carefully strategised campaign comprising the efforts of many players over a whole tournament or season.

Here’s to your World Cup winning team!


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2 Responses to “Cup Winning Architects”
  1. Very good parallelism; maybe we should study this so we can train our teams!

    • Colin Millar says:

      Hi Stavros,

      Many thanks for the feedback, very much appreciated.

      I think that all too often we consider changing personnel rather than strategy when perhaps we should be doing the opposite – retain the talent and change the deployment slightly to achieve a different result but retaining the flexibility of changing it back should the need arise.

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