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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hawaii Superferry Operations

The Hawaii Superferry has been quite controversial, and quite interesting to follow in the news. It is a textbook case of how not to do something like that, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. We finally rode the ferry over to Maui this past weekend, for a very mini-vacation.

I have to say that my expectations were low. Having ridden some ferries in Scotland and really, really enjoying them (I want to go back and take a ferry to Ireland next), I couldn’t possibly expect Hawaii to match up. The efficiency of the Scottish ferries can’t be matched, nor the friendliness of the staff (or everyone in Scotland for that matter), and then there’s the pub’s. But, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the Superferry experience.

They do have some operational issues to address, and it’s definitely not for anyone who’s prone to motion sickness, but it is worth a ride. The onboard facilities are very nice. And if you’re feeling like a splurge, you can pay extra for the “first class” lounge. We looked in through the window, but didn’t feel the need to pay extra for it. Maybe on another trip, just to check it out.

There’s only one deck for passengers, but it’s big with an open floor plan. It’s well lit, with large windows all around. The “first class” lounge is at the front of the ship, then there’s the main cabin, and the rear (aft) cabin. The main and the rear cabins aren’t really separate, but the gift shop, restrooms, arcade, and deli counter in the center of the boat act to delineate them. The aisles are wide and the seats are plenty big. There is a variety of seating available. There are some rows of seats, just two across, that recline. There are some bench seats and some lounge style seats with tables. Then there are table seats, some with two seats per table and some with four seats per table. If it’s not crowded you can score a four-seater table to really stretch out, and not feel guilty. The four-seaters were popular with groups playing cards. At the rear cabin there are outside decks, though they’re very small and get pretty crowded at times.

The food was fine, and at regular prices too, which was a surprise. And you can get beer or wine. What I really liked, though, was that they had both the local papers. That’s important when you have to arrive before 6:00 am. You can’t get the paper at the airport at 6:00 am. I’ve tried.

Since I’m not an advertisement for the ferry, I have to mention they do have some operational issues that need to be addressed. The check-in procedures are… , let’s say, inefficient. We made reservations and paid online and we had a confirmation number. Check in should consist of showing our ID and giving us a receipt. It doesn’t work like that. And how many times do you really need to show your boarding pass once you’ve passed the passed the, whatever – security/gate keeper? The answer is none. Once you’re in, you’re in. How many people climb over the fence that surrounds the compound to get on the ferry? If people are doing that, skip the first check station and just have one when you get on. Hello, if people are climbing over the fence hire a security guard or something. Don’t make people show their boarding pass to get into the “secure” area, then make them show it again to someone else before you get on the boat – still in the same “secure” area. It’s not like there’s more than one boat and you might be trying to get on the wrong one.

Ho, and they should warn you about all the stairs. I’m in semi-reasonable shape and I was huffing and puffing after that climb. Everything’s fine once you’re onboard, until you get to Maui and have to get off. I guess Maui is still trying to punish them (if you don’t know the whole controversy, I can’t go into it here). In a perfect world, or in Scotland, the cars coming off the ferry would take precedence, for a short while, until all the vehicles are off. Hold the traffic on the road until all the vehicles have exited. It’s not that long, they come off pretty quick. Don’t keep the traffic lights at their normal times. The offloading traffic gets backed up and nobody moves. And that brings me to the next issue. If you don’t have a vehicle (we didn’t), you can’t walk from the ship to the terminal. You have to take a shuttle bus. And they don’t have enough shuttles for all the passengers, so they have to load up, drive to the terminal and unload, then circle back to load up again. That leaves people standing there waiting. Bad. And you’d think the shuttles would have a dedicated lane to make their circuit, but they don’t, which backs things up even more.

All in all, I enjoyed the trip, but they definitely need to fix the operational issues if they want to be successful in the long run. It’s worth giving a try though, if just for fun.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Aye, Captain

So I'm still wondering about the appointment of a person with no experience into a top management position. I still can't figure out why. I'm talking about the appointment of Martin Johnson as the team manager for the England Rugby Team. Not only will he be team manager, but he will hire a new head coach who he will have control over regarding strategy, tactics, and player selection. Apparently, the thinking is that since Mr. Johnson was a great player and a well-respected team captain, he is the holy grail that England needs to become the bestest and most perfect rugby team in the known universe. Because all the pundits (at least those I read on the BBC's rugby site) point to his excellence as a team captain, I needed to know just what a team captain does that is so important that it trumps any other training or experience in coaching and management.

Although I played rugby for many years, in college and at club level, I do not know the role of the captain in professional and international levels. In my playing experience, the captain was simply the one who was allowed to speak to the ref during a game. So, needing to know more, I turned to the best source I could think of: Total Flanker. Read his response to my query in this post.

I'm still confused as to what the captain actually does, but it seems it's centered around being an inspiration to the rest of the team. Hmm... I remember during last fall's World Cup when a certain player, who was not the captain, missed the first couple of games due to injury, and when he returned to the starting line up was heralded as the inspiration for the team's turnaround to winning. I wonder if two years after this inspiring person's retirement he'll be touted as the savior of English rugby? Regardless of training or experience?

This is akin to a working foreman or supervisor, who is a company's de facto leader through his charisma and inspirational qualities, being brought back to the company as the CEO two years after retiring and sitting in his Barcalounger (yes, that's the correct spelling) eating Twinkies and ranting about the company to his buddies at the local tavern (that's pub for you non-Yanks). So what if he has no experience as a CEO, he was a great supervisor.

I'm still wondering how long the Martin Johnson love-fest will last. Probably until the day he actually starts the job.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Working and working out

I got some work done today, and I got a workout in. Quite productive for a Sunday. I started the day by participating in the Life Foundation's annual AIDS Walk for Life. It was a big crowd today, looked even bigger than last year. Last year they raised $175,000, and this year they were aiming for $200,000. Even with the tough economy, there were plenty of supporters out today.

Then I came home, grabbed my computer and headed down to Starbucks to get some work done. I get more work done there than I do at home. Too many distractions here, and too quiet. I need activity around to concentrate. If it's too quiet, my mind wanders. I guess the noise and activity helps me focus. Especially if I'm writing I have to head to Starbucks. That's where I wrote my first book and that's where I'm writing the upcoming one. I've got to get this one wrapped up and out in the bookstores. Doesn't do anyone any good sitting on my computer and in my head. I'm adding some "mini case studies", highlighting organizations that are doing well the things that I discuss in the book. I'm focusing in organizations that I know about or are introduced to me, and ones that aren't the typical organizations you read about in other books. So if any of you know of any organizations that are performing well in their operational areas, please pass on a contact to me so I can give them a call. Any type of organization; non-profit, manufacturing, service, healthcare, arts, even government agencies.

I got waylaid for a while before I started work, visiting with a friend over coffee, but then I got some writing in. Besides finishing up the book, I've got to work on a webinar series I'll be presenting in July and August for APICS. It will be a six-session series related to the topic of my first book. The working title for the series, as of now, is Selecting the Right Tools for the Job. More on that later, as it gets closer. They haven't even announced it yet. I just signed the agreement last weekend.

Then, after working for a while, I had the urge to exercise. That doesn't happen as often as it should, or as often as it used to, but I really need to get back in shape. Supposedly, I'm in training for this years Honolulu marathon. If I run it, it will be my fourth. There's no good reason I can't do it this year, and no good reason I can't improve my time. Just got to keep the motivation up. So I actually did a little weights workout before heading out for a run. I have some weights out on the lanai (that's porch for you mainlanders), so I can just go out there and lift whenever I want. Again, that's not as often as it should be. But I did a few quick exercises before the run. Since I'm still ramping up after being a slug for so long, my running is slow. I should say slower than usual, since I'm not a fast runner anyway. But I got a few miles in before I had to take a walk break. I ran, with some walk breaks, for about 50 minutes. Not too shabby. Still got a long ways to go, but it's a good start. Need to run for 1-hour at least three times a week for marathon training. From past experience, I need to run at least an hour at least two days a week, then about an hour and a half for another one or two days, then a long run on Sunday. Sunday, because that's marathon day, so the body needs to get in the right rhythm.

Then I took a nap.

Got some reading in, a tiny bit more work, now getting ready to head out for a wake for a friends kitty who passed away. Don't laugh. Anybody who has pets will understand.

Will have to workout tomorrow just to run off the beers. Oh well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I've added a translator to the blog. I see that people from around the world occasionally happen upon this blog, so I thought I'd add the translator and see if anyone takes advantage of it. I know Jim in Japan is a regular reader, so try it out for me and let me know how well it works. Anybody else who tries it out, please let me know how it works.

I know I use a lot of "American-isms" when I write, so let me know how much of an issue that is. I'm working on finishing up my next book, and I write the same way in the book. I'm wondering about translations for distribution outside the U.S., but I can't change the way I write, so hopefully I can be translated.

On a related note, I've tried to learn different languages, but I've never had any luck. I probably need an immersion program where I have to learn how to speak the language if I want eat. I took German in college, because there was a language requirement, but I took it pass/fail since I had difficulty. I took some Hungarian classes because I've been to Hungry and have relatives there. When I was in Hungary I got to the point where I could understand a lot of what people were saying, but I couldn't really respond. I took Spanish through the night, adult education program, because living in New Mexico for 12 years I should have picked up some Spanish (but didn't). And most recently I took Mandarin classes. I want to go to China, as I haven't been there yet, so I thought Mandarin would be interesting. Of course, with my track record I should know better. But I really enjoyed the classes. I took the same class several times then my teacher convinced me to take the next level. The teacher was great. I would often go visit her at the cafe that she and her husband owned. I never got very far with learning Mandarin, but I understand a few words when I hear people speaking it, and I enjoyed all the cultural things that the teacher threw in. I still occasionally listen to my Mandarin CD's. I should take the class again just for fun.

The thing is, with me, the problem is I simply can't remember the words. With Mandarin, I could get the sentence structure, and I had no trouble whatsoever with the tones (which cause many people much difficulty), but I just can't remember the words. That's why the immersion would be good for me. I'd have to remember them.

Well, adios, caio, see 'ya...

Feed readers

If you’re like me, and not much of a techie, you might be a little confused about subscribing to a blog or other websites that advertise or promote their RSS Feed. Well, I’m no expert, but here’s my understanding and a look at my new test at using a “feed reader”. For other descriptions on RSS, click here or here.

The simplest explanation is that when a blog, such as this one, or other website is updated, a message is sent out telling the world that it’s been updated or something new has been posted. Unless you frequently check a blog or website, you don’t know that it’s been updated. But if you subscribe to the blog or website’s “RSS feed”, you’ll receive a notification of the update. The part that always confused me, until now, is how you receive that notification. If you just click on the “subscribe to this feed” icon that you’ll find on the blog or website, nothing happens. Well, not nothing, but not anything that I understand. It takes you to another website and then you either have to know what to do from there or you have to try to figure it out. I still can’t say I understand what clicking on that “subscribe” icon does. But I don’t have to now, because now I have a “feed reader”.

A feed reader is how you receive those notifications that the blog or website has been updated. There are lots and lots of feed readers out there, so the tricky part is deciding which one to use. My method was to pick a name I liked and try it. Not very scientific, but that’s pretty much how I pick out wine too. You can do a Google search for feed readers, or check out this list from Wikipedia. I use a Mac, so I decided to test NewsFire. I downloaded and installed it, and found it was pretty easy to setup for what I want. Here’s a picture of it after I started setting it up to get the updates that I want.

When you install it, it comes pre-loaded with several feeds, or websites that it checks. I didn’t want all of them, so I just deleted the ones I didn’t want. Then I started adding the feeds, or sites, that I want to know when they’re updated. As you can see, I’ve got my favorite rugby blogs that I check every day, and I’ve got some business blogs, and some news sites. You’re supposed to be able to filter the feeds so you don’t get every update, only ones that interest you, but I haven’t figured out how to filter anything yet. That would apply to the news sites that report every update on every topic. I only want updates on particular topics. I don’t want to see 500 new posts that I have to scan through to find things of interest. Maybe someone will help me figure out how to filter.

In NewsFire, there are a couple of ways to add the feeds, or sites, you want to subscribe to, but the easiest way for me is to open the website I want in Safari (Mac's web browser), then go to File, Discover Feeds for Current Site in Safari. It then does everything automatically, so I don't have to worry about messing something up.

So, instead of going to every website that I want to check on, I simply look at my NewsFire reader (also known as an aggregator) and see if there are any new posts on my favorite sites. Pretty slick. I wish I had figured this out sooner. I can scan the headlines to see what I want to look at, then click on the ones I want to read the entire post.

Another option for receiving notifications of updates is to receive them by email. Not all sites do this, and if you want the updates from many different blogs and websites you could be overloaded with emails. But if your favorite sites allow you to receive email updates, and that’s how you want to receive them, that is an option. This blog allows you to subscribe in a reader or receive updates by email. I’m receiving email updates for my own blog and subscribing to it in the reader just so I know it’s working.

If you haven’t tried using a feed reader yet, give it a try. It will save you time from opening all your favorite websites to see if there are any updates. Of course, make sure you subscribe to Let's Talk Business!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Serving on non-profit Boards of Directors

I attended the Board of Directors meeting of APICS – The Association for Operations Management, a non-profit international professional/membership organization last weekend as a member of the Audit Committee. Then, just a couple of days ago, I was speaking with someone about an organization that offers training to non-profit board members. This got me thinking.

I’ve served on the Board of non-profit organizations, including a dance company as well as different professional organizations. I also worked with a small non-profit as a consultant, working on Board development, organizational development, and meeting management. Non-profit service, including on the Board of Directors, is very rewarding, and I encourage everyone to donate their time when they can. But you should know what you’re doing and what you’re getting into.

Serving on the board of a non-profit offers a variety of benefits. The most important, of course, is helping the organization that you’re serving, but there are other benefits. There are the personal benefits of a feeling of accomplishment and of helping others, and there are professional benefits. Professional benefits include the experience and training of serving on a Board of Directors. Even if you’re already at the top level at the organization you’re working for, serving on a board is a different experience. Networking with other Board members is one of most valuable benefits of service.

Boards differ depending on the size, complexity, and maturity of the organization. Many smaller non-profit organizations are completely volunteer run. The Board consists of volunteers, and volunteers perform all the work of the organization. This Board probably looks a lot different than one at a large non-profit with a full, professional, paid staff. The makeup of the Board at the smaller organization is most likely people who are passionate about the organization, have worked as a volunteer, and who want to do more. They often do not have any formal business training, and may have been recruited to the Board simply because they’ve been around for a while. This does not mean that they can’t or won’t be a high quality member of the Board, it just means that they’ll look at things differently and they’ll probably take more time to get comfortable in the position. This Board is usually small; 5 to 10 people.

Larger, more complex, and more mature organizations are more likely to have Boards that are populated with trained business executives and experienced Board members. The Board members may have never been involved with the organization as a volunteer. They have probably served on the board of other non-profit organizations, and likely are very knowledgeable about the role and responsibilities of the Board. The Boards of these organizations may also be structured differently.

Many large non-profit organizations have boards with 30, 40, 50, or even 100 members, but the size may be a little deceptive. A board that size simply cannot operate effectively to get anything accomplished or make decisions. And in actuality, the board is probably comprised of two distinct groups. The larger group serves on the Board in name only. They have little management responsibility. It’s likely that they’re on the board to give weight and credibility to the organization, and they are expected to donate a certain amount of money. They are also well-connected within the business and high net-worth individual communities, and are expected to leverage those connections for fundraising. The real work of the Board in regards to management and oversight is done by a small group of individuals who make up the Executive Committee.

The structure of the Board will also vary depending on the type of organization. Many professional type organizations, such as membership organizations and trade groups, will have a board of 10 to 20 people who are all involved with the work of the board and the decision making. Work will be performed (or can be) very effectively through committees made up of different Board members. There will usually be an Executive Committee with responsibility for specific items, but the majority of decision making is done by the entire Board.

Well that’s a lot about the structure of the Board, but what does the Board actually do and what are they there for. The answer is vitally important to everyone who serves on the Board of a non-profit, but not all Board members really know what their responsibilities are. So here goes. The Board has two main responsibilities; setting the direction for the organization, and oversight of the organization. Within that, the Board has legal and fiduciary responsibilities to the organization. They must act in the best interests of the organization and make decisions that are in the best interests of the organization. They cannot act for personal gain. Fiduciary responsibility means that you are entrusted with the well-being of the organization, and is generally regarded to mean the assets, or money, of the organization. It’s a big responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly.

The Board sets the direction, the long term goals, of the organization. They have the vision of what the organization will look like into the future, and set the motion to get there. They then guide the organization towards the goals and monitor progress. Monitoring progress includes monitoring activities and actions of the paid staff and volunteers who do the day-to-day work of getting the organization to accomplish its mission. The Board ensures that all laws, policies, and rules are followed and that everyone acts both legally and morally. The Board does not meddle in the details.

What’s all this got to do with Operations? Or rugby, for that matter? Operations professionals should serve on non-profit organization’s Board of Directors for several reasons. Besides the personal and professional benefits mentioned above, Operations professionals bring a unique view and skill set to the table. Operations isn’t about flash and glamour, Operations is about getting things done. Operations delivers on promises. This mindset will bring focus, a sense of direction, and the view of working towards defined goals to the Board. This is often lacking, even with an experienced Board. Too often the focus is on fundraising, marketing, and looking good, when the focus should be on accomplishing the mission of the organization, providing the services that the organization was founded to do, and moving the organization forward. Operations professionals always have their eye on the target, and will work towards getting there.

As for rugby, most rugby teams and clubs are organized and registered as non-profits. Some clubs are quite large and have a relatively large Board. Anyone serving on the Board of their rugby club should understand the role of the Board and their responsibilities.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Site Updates

I've added several new links, a mix of business, sports, and one artist. The new links are from around the world too. Since I'm always talking about how we're in a global marketplace, that should be reflected on this blog. Here's a rundown of the new additions:

A Girl's Guide to Managing Projects
Elizabeth Harrin (A Brit living in France)
Self explanatory - about Project Management

Executive Rant
Kevin Jackson (U.S.)
An executive posting about a variety of business topics

Green Corporate Network (India)
Green & Sustainability are the hot topics in business right now. This blog talks about corporate green initiatives around the world.

Business Blog Angel
Claire Raikes (Wales)
This is one awesome site. Blogging tips for business blogs. Also one of the best looking blogs I've ever seen (which is a good sign for someone giving advice on blogging). This is a must see for any business person who has a blog (which includes me). Follow my blog to see if I'm actually taking the advice she gives.

Paopi's Artist Blog
Pao Mateo (Philippines)
I just sort of stumbled across this blog, but the pictures really captured my attention. She posts her drawings and maybe some comments about them. For a business person, the mind of an artist is fascinating (I have a number of artist friends who constantly amaze me with their talent). Pao is a very talented woman. Check out this site.

Freelance Folder
All sorts of tips for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and self employed individuals.

Dersalsites - South African Business
Derek Robson (South Africa - doh!)
News and information on business in South Africa, with posts on rugby. Who knew?

The Millionaire Secrets
Shawn Lim (Malaysia)
Shawn wants to be a millionaire, and he shares tips about how you can become one too. Actually he's got some basic business tips that everyone should use.

Kevin Davis (England)
Sports news and posts, including rugby. Worth a look if you're interested in a variety of sports, including football (soccer for us Yanks), cricket, and rugby.

I also cleaned out some widgets that don't seem to be working anymore, and added a few others. Got to keep the blog clean.

Well, past my bedtime again. But take a look at some of these blogs that I've added here, and I'll talk with you again soon. I feel the need to rant some more on the appointment of an unqualified and unexperienced person to a top post in an organization (hint: Martin Johnson as the new England manager).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hawaii State Rugby Union Championship

I ran into fellow ref Shelly at Starbucks this afternoon and found out the results from the Union Championship game on Saturday (I was in Chicago on Saturday). It sounds like it was a good game. Tied 9-9 at the end of regulation time, the game went through two overtime periods with no score. The game was then decided by kicking.

The Islanders Rugby Club defeated UH for the Hawaii State Rugby Union Championship.

Congratulations to the Islanders! And congratulations to Union President Ma'afu and everyone who was involved in this wonderful and successful season. We've got a great foundation for bigger and better things next year.

Next week will be the Select Side Trials. I don't have the details yet, but will post them when I get them. I'm assuming they'll be held at the regular field at Kapiolani Park, but I can't say with certainty. Hopefully we'll get a good squad of players that can train together for some games on the road. Fitness will have to be emphasized, along with a firm grasp of basic skills. Learning to play with new people is always good, and the increased competition of being among other select side players will be a plus. Good luck to everyone trying out.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Board Meeting

I'm sitting in a Board of Director's Meeting of APICS, in Chicago. It's cold and wet outside. It was supposed to snow today, but it's not cold enough for that. I wouldn't mind a little snow, but it looks like I'll have to settle for cold rain.

So what goes on in a Board meeting for an international professional society? Lot's actually. I can't talk about any specifics, obviously, because of confidentiality issues, but I can let you know in general what goes on.

As with any organization, there's a lot going on and a lot of work to do. As an international, membership based, professional society there are two groups of people involved. We have the volunteer members who make up the board of directors and who are in charge of all the committees that are needed to keep us running and moving forward, and we have the paid professional staff who are absolutely vital to the success of the organization. During the Board meeting there are two types of activities. One, which is the majority of today's meeting, is knowledge sharing. Or to put it another way, informational presentations. Various committees present information on what they're doing, where they're at, and where they're going. The Board needs to be kept informed on the status of all the activities and initiatives that the organization is undertaking. Much of the information is disseminated prior to the meeting, but the presentations allow for clarification, more detail, and the ability of the Board to ask questions.

The second activity at Board meetings is decision making and voting on proposals. There are many issues that need to be discussed and proposals voted on, but the two biggies are related to the structure and operations of the organization, and the finances. Again, today's meeting is mostly informational, which is good from an observer point of view. When they get to the discussion and voting it can be booorrring if you're not a participant. If you're not familiar with Robert's Rule of Order, and how motions are made, amended, held, and all, it can be quite shocking to watch. Necessary, of course, for an organization of any size, but not always the most efficient way to get things done quickly.

I'm here because I'm on the Audit Committee, and we had a meeting with the outside auditors yesterday, prior to today's Board meeting. Lot's of information being passed along today, so it's interesting for me. We had dinner together as a group last night, which was nice.

While I'm in Chicago I've got a business meeting tomorrow, then will try to get to the Field Museum for awhile before having dinner with a friend who lives here.

Friday, April 11, 2008


eKno - everythingKnow - everything you need to Know in today's modern age. A new series from Squealing Piglet Press.

You're not an Idiot, you're not a Dummy, but you don't know everything. Yet.

The new series - eKno - from Squealing Piglet Press will give you everything you need to Know on a variety of subjects. Easily understandable, but written for you, the person who is smarter than they think.

Look for eKno guides on your favorite subjects, available in a variety of formats. Coming soon from Squealing Piglet Press.

Squealing Piglet Press - Promoting Learning in All Ages and Stages of Life

Squealing Piglet Press is a new venture of mine. If you're interested in writing an eKno guide, please contact me. Look for some forthcoming titles from Squealing Piglet Press.

Look for these upcoming titles:

eKno - Operations. everything you need to Know about Operations.

eKno - Rugby. everything you need to Know about Rugby.

and more...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hawaii Union Finals

This Saturday is the finals for the Hawaii State Rugby Union. The Islanders will be playing UH at 4:30 pm at Kapiolani Park.

Good luck to everyone.

The following week will be select side trials. More info on that as it comes in.


This is prompted by a discussion and posts by Just Call Me Coach, and is another example of Business Lessons from the Rugby Pitch (the title of one of my upcoming books).

There are two related issues that I want to discuss; the recruitment of players from a competitor, and making promises of advancement to players.

The recruitment of players in itself is not an issue. It’s a natural part of the game. Colleges recruit players from high schools, club teams recruit players from colleges, and higher level teams recruit players from lower level teams. The issues arise when the recruitment methods are questionable, or clearly cross ethical lines, and this is when the term Poaching comes into play. Generally, poaching is claimed when the team losing the player doesn’t want them to leave or the recruiting team uses aggressive, or questionable, tactics in their recruiting.

Of course, in some areas there’s no real issue of poaching, because there’s only one team to play for. This is especially true in the Western U.S., where towns that can support rugby teams are often hundreds of miles apart. That makes if difficult, at best, to recruit someone who doesn’t want to move to where you are just so they can play for you. But in many areas, there are several teams close enough so that you have a choice of which team to play for. Because these teams are usually competitors on the field, that competition flows over into the recruitment of players.

The questions that we want to answer here are when does recruitment become poaching, and what allows players to be lured away from their current team? For the most part, players are free to choose the team they want to play for, and will play for the team that fits their needs. There are many variables that a player weighs, including the win/loss record of the team, their views of the coaching staff and other players, the organization of the team and the way practices are run, the selection process for choosing starting players, and the amount of playing time they can expect based on their abilities. And let’s face it, to play rugby you have to be somewhat competitive, so you want to play for a winning team and you want the most playing time you can get. If you’re currently a starting player for the top team in the area, you probably aren’t going to be recruited away. You may be poached, however, if the poaching team gives you something or compensates you in some way that overcomes your natural tendency to stay where you are. It’s that compensation, in whatever form, where the problems lie. That’s when ethical or legal lines tend to get crossed and when people cry foul.

But because players want to reach the top level of the game, they always have an eye open for new opportunities. They’re naturally open to recruitment. To keep players that might have opportunities elsewhere, you have to look at the intangibles that keep players happy and want to stay with you. Those intangibles include things like giving the players a voice in the team. As a coach or team manager, you’re in charge and you have goals for the team, but instead of declaring the rules from on-high, allow your players to provide input and feedback. Listen to what they have to say, and incorporate their good ideas into your operations. Also, winning games is a great reward, but an even greater reward is the acknowledgement of your contribution. There are 15 players on the field at a time, 7 reserves, and any number of team members that slog through practice week after week. No one person wins the game. The person who scores is supported by a minimum of 14 other players. Recognize everyone’s contribution. Cheer the players who supported the score, and recognize those players who show up to practice week after week, year after year, even though they don’t have the ability to ever make the starting lineup. Without them pushing themselves and providing support, your starters would soon begin to slack off and become complacent. Make all your players feel like they belong and are a valuable part of the team, and they’ll continue to come back, day after day, year after year, in all kinds of miserable weather and with all the aches and pains that come from playing rugby. Players stay because they want to, not because they have to. Make them want to stay and you won’t have to worry about poaching.

The other issue is with making promises to players that you might not be able to keep, or have no intention of keeping. These promises usually involve advancement, and play into that desire of players to move up towards the starting lineup, gain more playing time, or moving into a more desirable position. I could go on about this, but the bottom line is do not make promises that you can’t, or won’t, keep. You’ll lose all credibility and respect, and may lose some great players. You should have well defined standards and criteria for advancement. Stick with them, and of course, let everyone know what they are and how they can meet them. The movement of players to other positions works the same way. Let everyone know the criteria and standards for each position and what they need to do and how they need to perform to be considered for each position. And if players express an interest in trying out for another position, encourage them. Conduct tryouts for the position, and use your objective performance criteria. If the players know what is expected, and they are objectively evaluated, they will know at the same time as you whether they are capable of playing in that new position and whether they have a shot at making it in that position. As long as you’re objective and fair, there will be no hard feelings if they don’t make it. If they don’t make it, but are still interested, help them gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in that position. They’ll benefit, and your whole team will benefit.

Now, simply substitute employee for player and company for team, and this discussion is about business instead of rugby. It’s amazing the business lessons you can learn from the rugby pitch…

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Now hiring...

I want to hire someone who has no experience, no training, and who has said they’re not interested in the job. I want to hire this person because our organization is currently not perfect. Our results have been good, but not perfect, so we need a change. We need someone who is not qualified for the job to take us to perfection. No one else in our industry is perfect either, but that doesn’t stop us from expecting perfect results. We’ll replace non-perfect performers the moment they make the smallest mistake.

Now, when we hire someone we don’t expect them to be perfect. We don’t tell them that they will be fired if they’re not perfect. As soon as they are working for us, however, the rules change. From that point, they must look perfect at all times, and only perfect results in every possible aspect of performance will be tolerated. You will be replaced with someone who has proven, at another imperfect organization, that they are not perfect either. But we think they will be perfect once they work for us, even though you are not and weren’t when we hired you.

Oh, although we expect perfection, we will restrict your ability to achieve perfect results by not allowing you to choose your own assistants, not providing you with support, and only allowing you limited access to your employees.

Anyone interested in this position, do not contact us directly. Tell someone else that you’re interested and hopefully we’ll believe that you are, in fact, serious. But no foreigners. Even if you are interested in us, we’re probably not interested in you, because we really, really, want to hire someone who is totally unqualified, has no experience, and has said they are not interested in the job.

We are: a) A multi-national corporation, b) A government agency, or c) The England Rugby Team. (hint: the answer is The England Rugby Team)

If anyone can explain to me why England want to hire Martin Johnson, please do. I understand he was a great player, but even he has said that being a national team player doesn't qualify you to coach or manage a team. Am I missing something here?