As a big rugby and sports fan, I am always trying to understand what exactly it is that makes the really great teams and individuals of the world so much better than the rest: is it purely down to natural ability alone or what is it that makes them the best at what they do? And of course, once they get to the top, how do they manage to stay there?
Of course success on this scale is never down to just one thing but is down to a combination of different things. Success is never just about natural ability or talent; it doesn’t just happen, its comes about as a result of having a long term vision, and a really focused strategy which details in minute detail how this vision can be realised.
And funny enough, this does not just apply to sport, it applies to the world of business.
Think about it. Every brand that we associate with being brilliant (whether it’s Guinness, Nike, Apple, the All Blacks or any other global brand you care to think of), simply has to have incredible organisational processes in place in order to ensure that it delivers the same great results every single time.
Why? Because every brand and business is judged on the results it delivers.
But this type of brilliance doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of innovation, a fanatic obsession with the tiniest of details, and displaying the ruthlessness to ensure that every part of every process is 100% perfect every time.
In business, Apple is of course the most obvious example of this. Steve Jobs was obsessed with what some perceived to be minor details because for him, a brilliant end product could only be brilliant when every single tiny little element contained within it was perfect.
Just like the All Blacks rugby team.
James Kerr’s fascinating book “Legacy” offers a unique insight into the incredible All Blacks operation.
What’s really quite unique about this book is that it doesn’t look at the All Blacks from a purely rugby perspective. Quite the opposite in fact: it’s all about showing the reader that it’s not the individual brilliance of players that make the All Blacks great, it’s the incredible organisational environment in which they exist.
The reason for is that the All Blacks organisation will only ever accept individuals who can demonstrate that they are born leaders. That’s why the mantra of the All blacks club is very simple yet powerful:
“Better people make better All Blacks”.
The book is based on Kerr’s own first-hand experience of living within the All Blacks environment for a year, which explains why he is able to provide such a wonderful insight into the many different elements which combine to make the All Blacks one of the most incredible organisations in the world.
The core message which results from focusing on the organisation – as opposed to the rugby which is what we normally associate the All Blacks with – is simply that no All Black player is ever chosen to play for the team solely on the basis of his rugby playing ability.
It’s all about leadership.
No matter how good a player might be, if he does not have the character traits and life values that are demanded by the All Blacks organisational environment, his rugby playing ability doesn’t matter, he can’t and won’t become an All Black.
The power of the organisation
What all of this focus on the power of the organisation shows is that the end product (ie the rugby that people pay to come and watch) is not brilliant just because the players happen to possess exceptional rugby skills.
What really makes the end product so brilliant is the incredible organisational environment that has been created:
Every single member of the team is proven to have incredible leadership ability, strong character, the required sense of purpose, cultural and historic appreciation, individual authenticity, personal honesty, and a selflessness that values the team over the individual.
Creating the right environment enables success
This book is all about highlighting the importance of leadership for the success of any organisation. It uses the All Blacks as its case study but the findings are applicable to any organisation anywhere.
Organisations should focus on creating and developing leaders who work together, as part of a team, to achieve a common goal. There should be no egos and no-one should ever see themselves as being better than anyone else.
That’s exactly why the All Blacks’ have a very clear and simple slogan which forms part of the entry criteria, and which must be adhered to be everyone who is accepted to the club:
It simply doesn’t matter how brilliant any one player might be – if he doesn’t fit into the culture of the All Blacks operation, does not have the personality traits that are designed to foster the obsessive team ethos, or sees himself as being better than anyone else, he is simply no longer an All Black.