Monday, April 11, 2011

The Management Lessons from India's World Cup Win!

For a change, as expected India has emerged as world champions in Cricket World Cup 2011. This was not the first time India went in as favorites to lift the cup. They were slated to win the Reliance world cup in 1987 before they were swept of by Gouch and Getting in semifinals. They entered the finals in South Africa in 2003. But they first got Gilchrist-ed, then Ponting-ed and Mcgrath-ed. So what was so different in 2011? Was it is because of Gary Kirsten the coach? Was it their inspirational coach Mike Horn?  What did team India do differently than other teams?

It is very well said that when the players reach the level of representing India at highest level, the coach is can’t really teach them more skills. His main job is the leverage the strengths of all existing players to overcome the conditions and the competition. Gary Kirsten did that really well. He did work closely with MSD, did not try to hog the limelight, worked with all senior players and created a cohesive unit. He backed match winners although they were out of form and Yuvi responded with 4 man-of-the-match and man-of the-series-award. Inspirational coach Mike Horn was a great addition. According to recent interview by Yuvraj Singh he taught the team that their hunger for winning has to be higher than their fear of losing. He ensured that the unit is hungry for wins.

To my mind, all these things were great preparation work but this was not the reason for success. Let me put it this way all these were necessary conditions but not sufficient ones. Indian team won because of application of all these things. I learnt some lessons about management from this great win.

Lesson 1 : Perform when it matters

Due to the peculiar structure of the world cup, there were only 3 matches that mattered. Quarter finals, Semi finals and Finals. Out of top 8 teams in the world, on a given day any team could beat another team so it was a question of winning these 3 games. In Super league matches, South Africa had a spotless record but they choked in the match that mattered. On the other hand, India’s position in league was unconvincing, but they peaked at right time to win these 3 games to take home the cup.

In corporate world, we see 2 types of people. Those always work hard and are consistent and those who may not be as consistent but peak at the right time. It might be hard for the type 1 people to maintain their consistency and failure at wrong moment could get their entire efforts down the drain. The conclusion for me is no matter what you do Perform when it matters.

Lesson 2 : You can’t fight competition weakness with your weakness

In World cup final, both India and Sri Lanka decided to spring surprises on each other. India included Sreesanth in place of Aswin and Sri Lanka flew in Randiv who was not in the original squad and played him ahead of Mendis. In both cases, both the teams opted surprise inclusion over performance. In the end, both moves had failed. Sreesanth was the most expensive bowler for India and Randiv went wicketless when he was supposed to break the back of Indian middle order. Perhaps, inclusion of Mendis would have altered the result for Sri Lanka. Or perhaps inclusion of Aswin would be have helped India to restrict Sri Lanka to a more reasonable total. But both teams go carried away in surprise the competition.

In corporate world, we are trying to outsmart out competitors all the time. On many occasions, one may design strategies which are focused on competition weakness but they may not necessarily be their areas of strength. They may drift into their area of weakness while targeting theirs. One needs to ensure that we are fighting competitor’s weakness by one’s strength.  There is a need to ensure that inadvertently, the battle is not drifting into their areas of weakness.

Lesson 3 : In moments of crisis, Leading from front is the best option

Two matches standout from the leadership stand point. Pakistan Vs India, Semifinal match. Indian bowlers were chipping away the wickets and pressure was building on Pakistan. Shahid Afridi still invokes fear in Indian minds, if not the players at least the spectators. But he was not just coming out to bat. He promoted Abdul Razaq to bat ahead of him. He claimed he was out of form and wanted to give a chance to players who had better chance of success. Fair enough. But it did not work. Now consider final match between India and Sri Lanka. Yuvraj Singh was slated to bat at no. 4. He was in top form; with 4 “man of the match” awards under his belt he was super high on confidence. MS Dhoni, the captain, on the other hand had failed consistently with the bat in that series. He was neither in best of his form nor confidence. But he walked out ahead of Yuvraj. The only reason was he wanted to lead from front. He wanted to send a strong message to opposition about his intentions. In retrospect, this turned out to be the master move. He had such a calming influence on Gambhir who played knock of his life. He could also control the situation with some on the spot decision making about run rates, which bowlers to take on which bowlers to let go. This made all the difference in the end.

Empowering the team, leading from the back are becoming buzz words in Corporate world. Leaders who get things done from the team are considered better than those who do it themselves. Becoming disposable is considered to be the best style of management. The lesson for me is, even if that is your ultimate goal, watch out for crisis. In moments for crisis, leading from front is your best options. That increases your chances of success and even if you don’t win, the team respects you more.

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