Culture matters, in business and in sport. The set of principles which guide the employees, managers and shareholders of a business are what produces results and culture plays a similar role at soccer clubs. Both clubs and corporations are organizations focused on accomplishing a set of goals, it follows that there are parallels in organizational style. Read on for the long lost corporate twins of your favorite clubs.
The Blues would find no better soulmate than in Fairfield, Connecticut at the offices of General Electric. GE and Chelsea are suffering a slump following the departure of charismatic leaders who arguably ushered in the Golden Age for their respective institutions. Jack Welch and Jose Mourinho transformed the operative culture of each company and brought massive success.
But that has not been replicated by their successors, instead the respective recent histories of GE and Chelsea have been dominated by legacy problems. Welch left GE at the peak of its dominance, but the September 11th era would rock the industrial landscape, the wonderous GE Capital would soon turn poisonous, and retiree entitlements were just beginning their acceleration. Chelsea have had to deal with similar structural and external problems, an aging squad, five mangers in five years and the arrival of a newly rich Manchester City to list a few.
But whereas GE’s legacy issues are more structural than psychological (Immelt’s management style is not drastically different Welch’s), Chelsea’s are the reverse. The team is mentally rooted in the Mourinho era. New formations and tactics have been introduced but when things go awry the players instinctually revert to the mentality from the Golden Age. The annual ritual of sacking the manager for the past five years has further encouraged the players to remain mentally fixed on a familiar system rather than adapt to one which will change with the next manager in. Not that stubborness has not been without success, the system has powered the club to a league title since the departure of the Special One, but sustained success has been elusive. Andre Villas-Boas’ challenge is to convince the squad to break from the old gospel and play with his vision of the future in mind.
This is not to take away their strengths, both GE and Chelsea have irreplaceable experience in their ranks, considerable financial flexibility and plenty of old assets which still produce the goods. It all comes down to the ability to adapt to new conditions. New boys Jeffrey Immelt (ok not so new) and Andres Villas-Boas are at the helm of lumbering supertankers, large and formidable at full speed but slow to turn. Everyone can see that a course change is needed and in fact the two have already turned the wheel, the question is will the ship respond fast enough?