Tuesday 28 July 2009

Internal competition in sports teams and companies

Internal competition is crippling for sports teams and companies, perhaps worse than external competition at times.

The Tour de France has just ended and the rumor is rife about the unhealthy competition between Contador and Armstrong. Contador claims that this drove him even harder to beat his team mate, which was good for his yellow jersey ambitions, but not the most optimal situation for the team rankings. It is argued that Astana could have had 3 podium places not just 2 if there had been less internal competition between these 2 "team mates".

You don't need to look far among the biggest names in business and top companies in the world for examples of internal competition; costing companies money, sales and good employees. I will not be naming and shaming any companies here suffice to say. But why do companies think that goaling their employees differently, setting competing goals and pegging business units against each other to the detriment of other business units, is a good thing?

Companies should set overall company performance goals linked to the individuals performance or to the business units performance and make sure these are all in-line with each other. In the case of Contador and Armstrong, the Astana team manager Bruyneel should have set these 2 men goals which were aligned for each stage to the overall team goal, it appeared at times that there was no team goal.

Too often the arguments between co-workers end in "our's is better than your's", "my way has always worked before", type arguments. Employees continue to re-invent the wheel without learning from their co-workers, thus costing the company time and money in ramp-up and mistakes being made over and over again.

If companies measured more consitantly what works and does not work and document the statistics/numbers associated with the performance, there can be no argument as to "what works best" and "who's way is the best", the numbers will speak for themselves.

In the case of Contador and Armstrong, it was easy, Bruyneel ran the numbers to see who was the fittest, hence Contador being the "kopman" of the team. But then he made the mistake of not communicating this strongly enough to the media and the team, hesitation led to confusion among the team members and reports in the media about "who is the leader?" and "what was their strategy/goal?".

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