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Burnley FC – a Breakthrough Team

June 17, 2011

One of the rewarding aspects of working for yourself is that you get a clear sense of perspective about where work fits into your life. Partners, kids, hobbies – it’s important that work sits neatly in your tapestry of life.  Hobbies are important and for many of us sport plays a key part, as participant or spectator. For me sport is a vital ingredient, providing camaraderie, emotional highs and lows, and an opportunity for a lively exchange of opinions – and an addiction – I’m a Burnley FC fan through-and-through and the new season fixtures were announced today and are already in my Entourage calendar and etched into my brain.

Christmas and New Year are sorted – Doncaster at Home Boxing Day, Hull at home New Year’s Eve and Dirty Leeds away January 2. The Donkey Lashers (Blackpool) home 29 October, away 21 April and one new ground to visit, Brighton in mid-December.

We’ve also got the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand on the horizon, so it may only be mid-June but it’s the end of Summer sports soon thank goodness. Summer sports are rubbish. Tennis is boring. It’s played by boring people and watched at Wimbledon by the worst kind of middle class bores. The place seems full of middle-aged women from Princes Risborough in frumpy flowery skirts and men called Sebastian from minor public schools in Hampshire who work ‘in the City’.

And what about cricket? The fact that George Osborne enjoys cricket should tell you all you need to know. Cricket is so tedious and unpopular that they’ve now reduced it to 20 overs of slogging in order to finish the game as quickly as they can so people can go home. Prior to this, they thought players wearing coloured clothing would make it thrilling. It goes on for five bloody days. That’s if it happens at all. The slightest spot of rain or dark cloud can stop them. But do you get your money back if they walk off? Of course not.

I’m ignoring Athletics, which is so boring I am bored thinking of what to write about it, that leaves us with golf. Why do hordes of people gasp at a tee shot when they have no idea where it will land? Four-day extravaganzas of umbrellas and knitwear tell me that golf is actually played by and run by a right-wing cabal with too much time and money on their hands. And the lambs’ wool sweaters in mauve and lemon and trousers unashamedly called ‘slacks’. Hang on, BBC Sport are reporting ‘Rory McIlroy is ripping up the course on day two of the US Open’. What, is he in a sulk and this is an alternative to chucking your clubs about, or simply vandalizing the course?

Other sporting diversions we are offered in the summer include Rowing where they go in a straight line for a couple of minutes and then stop. If they were dressed as Vikings, drinking fermented Yaks’ blood and fighting each other with Antler helmets I could see the point. How about a flutter on the Gee Gees? I don’t get horse-racing. Every race is an exact copy of the previous one. The only variant is how many horses are running. You can tell it’s really boring because aficionados think it’s really exciting if a brown one doesn’t win. And finally, there’s Formula One – which is the same as horse racing only with cars.  There’s something very odd about Formula One, let’s face it, it’s for nerdy people who like watching traffic and the sound of car engines. Wow.

There, I told you sport enables you to engage in a lively exchange of opinions and passions!

So back to Burnley FC. Can Eddie Howe create a ‘Breakthrough Team’, winning games every week with style, knocking every other Championship team into touch and give all Claret fans something to shout themselves hoarse for? Of course! At the outset of every season I think we’re going to win every game. Perhaps I should share with Eddie my dna people research on the concept of ‘Breakthrough Teams’ to help him; here’s a summary of our perspective.

At the heart of great organisational success, you will often find an inspired team of individuals who have united to make something remarkable happen – a revolutionary, high performance team that is energised, producing outstanding and innovative results by harnessing the individual talents to achieve the team goals. The team is transformed from a collection of individuals into a single entity with a shared identity – team members become a plurality with a single-minded focus and purpose. This team achieves a breakthrough – a ground breaking result, a unique achievement never realised before, and then goes on to make its mark with further notable performances and impacts.

Breakthrough Teams differ from traditional teams along every dimension, from the way they are recruited to the way they enforce their processes, and from the expectations they hold to the results they produce. Unlimited by the conventional approach to teamwork, Breakthrough Teams are frequently contentious and always less comfortable, but if you can pull together the right people and manage them in the right way, the results can be extraordinary.

The headlines from our research shows that Breakthrough Teams are fundamentally different from ordinary groups that most organisations have in several ways:

  • Their working style has an unforgiving, frenetic rhythm and set of expectations
  • The team emanates a discernible energy and focus
  • They are utterly unique in the ambitions of their goals, the intensity of their conversations, and their focus on results
  • Intense and intimate, they work best when forced to work under strict time constraints, but retain a focus on the welfare of colleagues
  • Team members put a great premium on collaboration, yet are not afraid to encourage creative confrontation
  • They focus on ‘thinking correctly under pressure’, they deliver when the chips are down
  • Each team member has a personal credo of ‘it’s down to me to make a difference’

These Breakthrough Teams have produced outstanding and innovative results in all areas of human achievement – in business, the arts, science, sport. Drawn from our own research, we’ve created Insights into a number of case studies – England’s Rugby World Cup winning team, NASA (Google Pellerin’s 4-D team building approach), the RNLI and from music – Manchester’s Factory Records. Here, a team of mavericks – Tony Wilson, Alan Erasmus, Peter Saville, Martin Hannet and Rob Gretton – came together, broke all the rules of an industry, set down their own yardsticks of success, fused ideas, attitudes, talent and did stuff their own way and ultimately created an iconic cultural movement that influenced an entire generation and beyond. A true Breakthrough Team, achievements unheard of for an independent record label.

But back to Burnley to close, and back to winter sports! Keep your eye out for our results in the coming months, hopefully a Breakthrough Team winning all before them – and my favourite player, Martin Paterson, ‘Pato’, a more committed and passionate team player you’d struggle to find, week in and week out showing he’s better than Messi, Cantona and Ronaldo. Fantasy Football? No, this is Burnley not Barcelona, pies not paella. Come on Pato!

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