Peace Through Cricket

I have been looking for an antidote to the diet of disheartening news, real and fake, which is headlined by Trump, Brexit and international terrorism. I think I found it this week at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London; headquarters of the sport. The Afghanistan Cricket Team were participating in a little piece of cricket tradition by playing an invitation side representing the Marylebone Cricket Club,  MCC. I had been at a packed Lord’s two days earlier to watch the England side beat South Africa on the exciting fourth day of a five day Test match. My fellow English were of course vocal in their support but rather genteel when compared with the flamboyantly dressed Afghan fans 48 hours later. Despite the untimely rain, in scarce supply this summer, several thousand Afghanis feted their cricketing heroes and enthusisatically expressed their national pride by chanting “AFG” in the style of Americans at the Ryder Cup. National flags were confiscated at the entrance to the ground but enough were smuggled in to provide the necessary rallying points.

The National Flag flies proudly above The Pavillion at Lords

Afghanis have had precious little to shout about in the last few decades but the emergence of cricket as a national sport in only the last 20 years is a small but important miracle which they have embraced wholeheartedly. The national side has just been awarded Test status (alongside Ireland); something only 11 other countries can boast. Cricket is capable of drawing some of the largest TV audiences of any sport thanks partly to its obsessive preeminence on the Indian subcontinent. A typical series of 3 to 5 test matches each lasting up to 5 days has the potential to provide an absorbing diversion for a country that otherwise is cleaning up the terrible aftermath of the latest car bomb.

Change is good. Sport is a powerful agent of change.

Gold Fever

Great Britain is in the grip of the gold fever that is Rio 2016; the perfect antidote to Brexit in building a national sense of self-confidence in our ability to go it alone and punch above our weight. The often noted ability of Team GB to perform while sitting down (usually on expensive pieces of equipment or cosseted animals) is being demonstrated again. Money helps.

Sport is, of course, a good model for Change Management. Continuous improvement is achieved by preparation, action and review cycles repeated many times. Analysis of technique, strengths and weaknesses and those of competitors is used to fine tune performance. Measurement is used to identify improvement opportunities. Training is designed to deliver peak performance when it matters. Team commitment to common goals and willingness to fail are both critical success factors.

Fortunately, business improvement does not require the physical genes without which sporting success might be limited; rather the capacity and willingness to learn, take measured risks, outperform the competition and win. The same dedication and attention to detail that wins a gold medal at Rio 2016, is often negatively labelled as workaholism and micro-management when it is observed in the corporate world. Perhaps we should re-think that while still striving for work life balance and perspective.

Olympians think change is good. It seems to work.