September 17, 2018

Why the All Blacks are the best in the world

I wrote the first part of Why the All Blacks are the best in the world just before the test against Australia at Eden Park, and the second part after their loss to South Africa in Wellington.

Part 1

Because they are the best-trained. Forget Beauden Barrett, the key guy is Steve Hansen (and before him Graham Henry). Since they’ve been involved, All Black coaching teams have taught their teams how to train (learn).

  • They’re physically and mentally fitter because they know to train their bodies better
  • They can follow their instincts because they have executed the basic requirements extraordinarily well. They can do that because they train to excellence in the basics
  • Their decision-making is superior because they are not as exhausted as their opposition, and they are supremely well-trained in how to think about their game
  • Their leaders are trained in leadership
  • They never stop learning how to get better

If you want to perform better, train your managers in learning how to learn, and learning how to teach.

Enabling learning is the new competitive advantage (or the oldest one in the book, depending on your view of how great companies adapt and evolve).

Most people in small businesses are not well-trained. On the other hand, the best-performing SMEs invest a lot in training their people.

Training is the vehicle that enables you to build an organisation where people know how to learn. If they know how to learn, they can think. And if they can think, they can do their current job better.

If you’ve got an organisation managed by people who know how to learn, you’ve got a business that will grow, evolve and adapt to your market. And in our view, the most important asset in any business is ‘strategic capability’, the ability to:

  • think about patterns, not just events
  • develop and assess options
  • execute with discipline and also flexibility

The ability to learn trumps experience. There are lots of people with 20 years’ experience which is nothing but one year of experience repeated 20 times. Which is fine if your business is operating the same way it was 20 years ago. If you’re still in business, lucky you.

PS. Of course, I don’t mean forget Beauden Barrett. That was just for effect.

Part 2

I don’t have to write anything on the All Black loss, just highlight comments from the best coach in the world.

“There will be a lot of learnings for us and this team hasn’t had that much adversity,” Hansen said. “[The loss] is a massive opportunity for this team to grow if we take the learnings.”

The onus will be on Hansen to get his points across but he is good enough, and his players talented enough, and this defeat such a shock, that it shouldn’t be too difficult.

“My job is to be a good teacher,” he said. “Their job is to be good students. I have to be a good teacher over the next few weeks; the ball is in my court.”

And there you have why they are the best in the world: they have a coach who understands his job in a way that less successful coaches don’t. He makes sure he has good learners. And he takes total responsibility for what they learn.

This year I have seen a huge increase in thinking and writing about learning as the key to improvement in workplace performance. I wrote a module on talent development for our new Active Management Programme, and it was actually pretty much all about learning. In the process it occurred to me that what’s been missing is the flip side: good learners need good teachers. Great managers need to learn to be great teachers.

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