Monthly Archives: October 2014

Why the USA lost the Ryder Cup

The USA lost the Ryder Cup because they thought they were an organization  of ‘connected workers’ but were in fact a group of ‘unconnected people’ – so claimed Phil Mickelson in a very public outpouring of emotion immediately after the crushing defeat by the Europeans.

phil m

Holding nothing back Mickelson effectively destroyed the captaincy of the undoubted legend of the game, Tom Watson, and laid bare the differences between the last time the US won this cup in 2008 under Paul Azinger, and the all but humiliating defeat to the team assembled by Paul McGinley from Europe.

At the heart of the ‘differences that cost us the cup’ Mickelson bemoaned the lack of ‘the pod system’, in which Azinger put his 12 players into three groups of four prior to the event, and kept them together through practice rounds and into the matches. This strategy allowed the captain in 2008 create agile and self organised groups that exposed the talent and experience to create workgroups that gave the captain a much more informative view of capability.

Today’s modern business organization has very similar characteristics to the desired state Mickelson was criticising Tom Watson for.

We read about Connected Businesses and Connected Workers all the time. and we seek our own desired state as our answer to showing our customers, internal and external, that we ‘care’.

A connected company very often has three ‘clear’ characteristics;

  1. Workers are organized in pods, or small teams, that can operate independently without a lot of need for formal approval or permissions from higher-ups.
  2. Workers are surrounded by support systems and structures that allow their pods to self-organize, giving them access to the tools, expertise and information they need to do their work.
  3. The work is coordinated by a strong sense of common purpose. People in connected companies understand who they are working for, and why the work is important.

When I reflect on this I believe you can see great analogies to the purpose of the US Ryder Cup golf team, or perhaps, the reasons why they indeed lost, and why the Europeans ( who may or may not have been the best golfers on the day ) won.

This was at the heart of what Mickelson was saying and was at the core of why Europe won the cup. Because at the end of the day. both teams had the same tools, back office infrastructures, capable players, experiences – yet one team actually was ‘connected’ while the other ‘thought they were’.

Just like a Ryder Cup golf team, a Connected Company still operates inside a formal hierarchy – code of conducts, practice regimes, branding, publicity, vision statements etc – but has the agility to operate in ‘pods’ where they can operate independently without a lot of need for formal approval or permissions from higher-ups.

We see this in business every day and it often is very clear to those from the outside that the strategy is failing, whilst those responsible for change cannot see it. Tom Watson has subsequently come out and admitted that he failed to actually execute a ‘Connected Worker’ ethos, and that this is what cost the USA the cup. It seems that for 2016 the USA will now become a Connected Team and it be very interesting to see how this pans out.
A connected worker needs the following three main resources:

  1. A mobile experience in and out of the office – buildings become utilities they can use – reflective work areas, interactive tools, sharing workspaces or pods, freedom to explore information, and an out of office experience which it sensitive to their location and connectivity and social mood they happen to have selected for personal quality time.
  2. A platform of systems of engagement that allow them to share knowledge insight inside and outside worker pods, without being exposed to the underlying back office ‘heavy ‘ application/data/networking infrastructures and external ‘federation bridges’ to colleagues, supply chain and clients
  3. A support infrastructure that allows them to self-serve their basic IT and information needs to keep them ‘moving ahead’

Again you can see further analogies with the way each golfer on the USA team needed to be given the ‘platform’ to be a Connected Worker, and why, despite all the attributes of a connected worker available to team – clubs, caddies, balls, clothing, coaches etc – they still came up short.

And the glue to all of this. A ‘right’ culture which without doubt the European golf team had in abundance through and through their connected organization, and which in such a public way, the US dismantled in front of the world’s press.

Tom Watson is a legend. His record is breathtaking and he is held at the most upmost as a sportsman of impeccable professionalism and dedicated to his ‘work’. Yet despite this is ‘failure’ to link his vision for a Connected Team with a group of Connected Workers was his downfall.

Watson reflects many C level people today who constantly fight the challenges of mapping both sides of this fence, and need the right ‘champions’ to actually make it happen.

As I walk into the 19th hole let me close with a ‘golfing’ to do list.

Imagine you have a ‘connected’ golf scorecard to complete. How would you score your company against the ‘connected company’ attributes and the ‘connected worker’ resources. Do you score well, or have a few ‘double bogeys’ ( a bad score on a hole for those non golfing readers )?

Have a good day whether you play golf or not.