A typical competitive football game lasts for 90 minutes but may last longer if it goes into extra time. Football fans know this fact too well. Even those who are not very passionate football league followers understand this as well. However, football fans only get to see the competitive side of the game. Not many football fans have the opportunity to see their favorite teams during periods of practice especially in situations where the fans live thousands of kilometers away and only have the chance to watch them on TV during competitions.
Times of practice are periods when the players have the opportunity to hear and learn from their coaches, team mates and other backroom staff. It is a period to draw lessons from previous games, affirm behaviors that align with the team’s shared values and learn what improvements and consolidations to make ahead of upcoming competitions. Win or lose, a football team must practice. Practice is what makes a team strong; better and ready for the next game. As it is in football, so it is in many other competitive sports. A team that shies away from practice is destined for failure.
The interesting part of this game which every organization must borrow a leaf is the reality that every game is approached with a different strategy and mindset. Though the rules of the game remain the same, the strategy must constantly change to be able to defeat the opponent. The element of surprise disorganizes the opponent and makes them vulnerable. Business is like that, the market leaders want to continue to dominate their environment and expand their share of the market while other players want to catch up, overtake and dictate the direction of the industry. The competition for the market is tough, keen and intense. It requires an attitude that is ready to embrace change, an innovative mindset, one that learns quickly about new and better ways to do things and a system that is structured with in-built self self-evaluation mechanism. Old structures must be evaluated for relevance. Like Socrates said, “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”.
The practice sessions provide footballers the chance to train and retrain until they become accustomed to the new philosophy and ways to approach the next game. As complicated as the business environment is, the story would have been radically different if organizations were to run like this. Unlike medicine, you can never have an over dose of learning, the more you learn the better you become at what you do. The more receptive you become to emerging trends in your sector, the sharper your ability to adapt quickly to the environment. The need for organizations to continue to up-skill and reinvent itself through learning can never be downplayed. This is what Mark Sanborn meant when he said, “your success in life is not based on your ability to simply change, it s based on your ability to change faster than your competitors, customers and business”. Painfully, the training budget is usually the first to be guillotined at the earliest notice of a downturn in business.
An organization that is ready to learn will readily position itself to respond to change as quickly as possible. Such organizations have the mindset of learners; they are always ready to transform true to their vision.
Satyendra outlines some of the benefits derivable from being a learning organization as follows:
- Ability to maintain high levels of innovation and remain competitive.
- Capability to respond to external pressures
- Awareness of how to better link resources to customer needs and expectations
- Improved quality outputs at all levels
- Improved corporate image as a people oriented organization
- Increased pace of change within the organization.