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.
Arsenal, Arsenal….what has become of the brightest young star of the Premier League? Arsene Wenger’s 15-year tenure at Arsenal has delivered league titles, cup victories and a sustained presence in the Champions League. Under Wenger Arsenal has risen, arguably, higher than it ever has, but this season the light is flickering precariously and all are wondering whether it portends the implosion of the light of North London.
The Gunners are currently experiencing their worst league start since 1994. 4 losses in the first 7 matches has shown a worrying extension of last season’s form and much of the problem can be attributed to the 6-year trophyless spell which has led to the departures of key performers and growing discontent among those remaining. I’ve already written about Wenger’s mentality, the rise of Manchester City and Liverpool, etc. (read Eddard and Arsene for that) so let’s skip to the main question. Are Wenger et. al. displaying tenacity in a storm or stubborness in front of a freight train?
Once a high flyer but now humbled by growing competition? Discontent in the ranks? A stubborn adherence to a possibly outdated strategy? All signs point to Waterloo, Ontario the home of Research in Motion. The Blackberry maker was once the undisputed king of smartphones, it had a product and a model that basically printed dollar bills straight into company coffers. But in all the excitement it failed to recognize the growing threats of the iPhone and the Android operating system…and we all know how that’s gone. Recent e-mails and open letters from RIMM employees express a feeling that decisions made by upper management are responsible for the stifling (and in certain cases active quashing) of innovation and flexibility. Sounds familiar.
This is not to sound the deathknell of either club or company. Research in Motion and Arsenal are still very much alive and kicking, both have huge financial resources, vastly talented people and development/scouting infrastructures at their disposal. But the concern has never been about the present, but about the future. Picture Michael J. Fox looking at his future tombstone in Back to the Future 3, he’s not dead yet but signs are troubling. He is faced with two choices, he can either accept his death as an inevitability or adjust his behavior to change it. Our two protagonists are faced with a similar situation, the consequences might not be death but they are grim. Few cellphone companies ever regain their previous success once knocked from the top and missing out on the Champions League is a massive blow to club health (despite what Mr. Gazidis says).
Can the two companies change course before entering a death spiral? Does the current leadership have the ability to make that change? All huge unknowns. But don’t despair, Marty McFly taught us that the future is very much up in the air; whether the managers at Arsenal and Research in Motion can take their eyes off the ground and grab it is another matter.