Even as a tough skinned football fan (your resilience gets tested when you support the Arsenal FC!), I have found myself wondering these past few months what the point of the Brazil World Cup 2014 is to our everyday existence – especially given the various disruptions, protests and allegations that have plagued it. What positive change will the World cup have created for us?
An answer of sorts came to me last night and it is this. So far, after only 4 days of the World Cup, I can honestly say that it has provided the most unlikely of lessons – a fabulous early PR for the possibilities of change and thus a master class for change management.
Lesson 1 – A change only comes when there is real urgency or a compelling need for change.
The World Cup organisers must have been hugely irritated that the demonstrations carried on even as the World Cup Opening ceremony progressed. Indeed FIFA would have expected attitudes to change to one of support once the games started. They were wrong. The demonstrators are adamant and Brazil divided – “where is the compelling need to spend such fortunes on hosting the World Cup when basic infrastructure and services like schools and hospitals are neglected?” The failure of FIFA to respond to this adequately has meant that unfortunately, this World cup, in a country renowned for its undoubted passion for the beautiful game will be remembered not for the unity it provided, but for the divisions it highlighted. Organisers of the forthcoming Brazil Olympics 2016 will do well to take note.
Lesson 2 – Only the un-complacent survive
The famous quotation in business circles states that “Success breeds complacency and complacency breeds failure” and we see the perfect illustration of this in some of the fixtures played so far with undoubted favourites (with significant successes under their belts) surprising even the most hardened football pundits with their shock defeats from opponents with less stellar credentials. So we have Uruguay, Ecuador and the current World Cup and European champions Spain crashing out to Switzerland, Costa Rica and Netherlands respectively. Of course no one would reasonably accuse Uruguay, Ecuador or Spain of coming into the world cup complacent (this is the World Cup after all and anything can happen), however, no one would reasonably have expected them to think that these first round matches would be anything more than a mere formality either.
Lesson 3 – Never underestimate the boundless capability of human beings to adapt …& change
In the run up to the World Cup, the English Press (and no doubt the same for the other European countries too) made a great deal of fuss about the heat and humidity and the harsh conditions (yawn!) that the young England players would be playing in. The inference was that this would greatly affect the England performance and limit their chances. This, with respect , was insulting to the England players – as was evident in their 2:1 defeat to Italy. Yes, England lost, but they lost to a better side on the day. England played the best match that I have seen them play in a long while; no-one keeled over in the heat, and indeed I noted that a couple of them even played with LONG sleeves shirts on! They adapted well to the conditions which incidentally, is what all the foreign players to the England Premier League do on a weekly basis. England, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands and the rest adapted…because this is what happens when people make up their minds to embrace change. They get on with it and adapt!
Lesson 4 – “Show” rather than “Tell” is the best way to win over obstacles and minimise resistance to change
This one is a work in progress especially given my observations in Lesson 1 above. However, as all Change practitioners will tell you, change takes time and therefore it is important that one keeps the momentum and the support by delivering some early, quick wins which in turn will win over the doubters. The World Cup groupings have presented some interesting obstacles to some countries in their bid to progress to the next round and a lot of predications had already been made on the countries expected to top their groups and progress. However, it would appear that no one has shown that script to the likes of Costa Rica (who defeated Group D favourites Uruguay) or indeed Chile (currently above Spain in Group B). These teams came to the world cup with a clear understanding of the obstacles, a clear plan of how to minimise this and increase their chances and they have delivered early wins. The future is looking good for them.
Lesson 5 – Dare to dream
All changes start with a dream. In awarding World Cup 2014 to Brazil, hot on the heels of the South Africa 2010 world cup, FIFA is dreaming about the possibilities of change. One excellent way to do this will be for the World Cup to deliver a most un- expected outcome – true equality in diversity. The possibilities are endless and include my personal favourite – an all Africa World Cup Final. My commonsense (and the footfall experts) tells me that this is impossible at the 2014 World Cup ; that the African players are too inexperienced and undisciplined; that the European countries are too dominant; that this is Brazil’s year and it is on their soil etc, etc, – infact all the types of things that one will typically hear when a new change is being introduced. However……..all changes begin with a dream…..don’t they?