Corporations, governments, communities and families could learn a lot about peak performance by taking a close look at successful sportspeople, the chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide said today (Oct 30).
Kevin Roberts told the State of the World Forum at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel that traditional organizational structures were not working anymore. Governments, religion, corporations, and the military were destroying trust and belief.
"Governments and politicians lack imagination, they are wracked with division and partisanship, and they continually let their constituencies down.... Much organized religion is based on command, control and punishment."
He said companies were once communities that people could depend on for lifetime employment in return for loyal performance.
"Now they're all about quarterly earnings, shareholder value, restructuring, and centralization - people don't count anymore.... The military continues to invest in overkill. There is no rational reason on the planet for nuclear weapons."
Mr. Roberts said there was a great need to create "peak performing organizations" (PPOs).
Mr. Roberts is part of a group of researchers based at New Zealand's Waikato University which has spent two years studying some of the world's leading sports teams to learn more about their organizations, cultures and infrastructures, and how they sustain their "winning magic."
Those teams include basketball's Chicago Bulls, soccer's Manchester United and Bayern Munich, baseball's Atlanta Braves, the Australian cricket, netball and hockey teams, as well as New Zealand's All Black rugby team, and its winning America's Cup crew.
"We wanted to see what are the lessons we can apply to all types of organizations, be they corporations, governments, not-for-profit organizations, churches, revolutionary movements, and also families and individuals," Mr. Roberts said.
From the study, Saatchi & Saatchi came up with nine principles to create PPOs. They were making magic, having inspirational players (or leaders), creating the future by developing young people, and having a sense of community like a close family. Also, exceeding one's personal best, creating game breaking ideas, having a game focus with clear and simple goals, sharing the dream of greatness, and finally the commitment to getting everything right, down to the last detail.
"I believe that every organization can use the principles of peak performance. Every organization should aspire to greatness like the teams we studied. Every organization can take inspiration from these stories... through the collective energy of its members, a PPO releases the awesome and wonderful potential of the human spirit."
Mr. Roberts' speech was greeted warmly by both the panel and the assembled delegates, but one of the panel took issue some of with his remarks.
Former Commander in Chief of the United States Strategic Air Command, General Lee Butler, said he could relate to many of the comments about the need to sustain peak performance in individuals, but not to the criticism of the government and military.
"We do live in an age where it's easy to be dismayed by the performance of our governments and corporations, and it's easy to criticize aspects of our military professions. I've spent my life in government. I feel compelled to say that with respect to how we might feel about the current operation of our government, that in democratic governments, we get the kind of government we deserve.
"With regard to the military, and particularly on the perpetuation of nuclear weapon policies that are wholly outmoded. That is not the work or the desire of our military. Nuclear weapons policy in this country is written by civilians. There are five people in this country, in the government...who with one stroke of the pen, and one change of heart, could put an end to all this tomorrow. That's our target," he said.
Gen. Butler said it had been a huge challenge for him to sustain peak performance with 200,000 people under his command, along with 10,000 nuclear weapons. That was because he was training them for an event, which if it came would represent failure - the destruction of millions of dollars worth of property, and the loss of lives.
"What I took away from four decades of experience is that sustained performance comes at the level of the individual leader. There was not one waking moment that I spent associating with nuclear weapons where I was not constantly mindful of my responsibility. Not only with regard to those weapons, and the prospects of their employment, but to my individual responsibility to infuse, to inculcate, in every one of my people the same sense of accountability and awareness and the need to build the expertise that I so painfully acquired over my years of military service."