fast adaption

Why football is an actionable analogy for Adaptive Change Management

Unsurprisingly, football is the most popular sport worldwide, with around four billion fans. There is hardly anything that can hold a candle to the ball sport. We see that the enthusiasm is based on following the flow of different tactics and strategies as well as the continuous will to deliver in every single soccer match. By the way, every single football match can also be seen as a prototype per se. We got taught by our customers that this condition is also very true for companies nowadays and might be defined as the New Normal.

Compared with company structures of any size there are really good general points about the wider business context as well as actionable ideas companies and experts can take from the image covered by the link for quickly understandable advice. As football structures company structures depend on their “club philosophy” or in other words the value system why people signed in to a company For both fast interaction is the clue to rapidly incorporating adaptive changes in the here and now because of their deep trust in their DNA.

The foundation is expertise, trust, standardization, permeable hierarchical structures, and fast information loops. Hence, one practical outcome is that in football the major guidelines are never put on the team’s shoulders alone but more on the head trainer and his team as well as the management team behind them. The DNA of soccer trainers is like managers they know that the doer wins by doing. Their information to their soccer team or a single player is always clear, understandable and useful. They analyze the soccer system (match) perpetually to apprehend the operating system for the next match. Insofar as every match can be seen as a prototype. To this effect, every new match is an adaption of the last prototype. Trainers’ and teams’ optimization concentrates constantly on the effectiveness and economy of the game and not on terms of how to come from A to B.


The recent difficult times in different industrial sectors have evidenced the importance for enterprises and their expert teams that the major success factor is adapting to changes in real-time when threatened by unexpected and unpredictable changing conditions.


It was our privilege to hold thoughtful and practical discussions with our clients about adaptive changes and on that account, we exploited Adaptive Change Management which is best explained with the analogy of soccer in workshops and consulting because the adapted patterns from soccer seemed to be very understandable and most plausible. Furthermore, we had the privilege to discuss our ideas with famous head coaches.


Consequently, companies and soccer clubs focus on their cultural values, self-power, and expertise. Fast adaptive changes in times of unpredictability are the major success factor to get along with new often unknown impacts. In football adaptive anticipating changes based on different analyses are permanent work in progress for the head coach and their team. Soccer teams know the phases of variety and stability or increase dynamics by collaborative interpretation of the actual situation (soccer intelligence). Their analyses of possible Adaption Zones are also a matter of interdependency between the players.


One insightful realization is the elasticity, recovery, and variety mechanism of soccer teams and the easy adaption it to companies by institutionalised Socioecnomic Kanban Systems. Another one is that we don’t have to fool our self no company functions without an organizational hierarchical structure which is even desired from knowledge workers in times of unpredictability.

The last two years have evidenced that enterprises can anticipate their actions in real-time when solving attacking circumstances by embracing explicit authority at any level which is nothing new; enterprises have to change many times but the speeding up of changes is the troublemaker.


It is plain as daylight that fast incorporation of adaptive solutions depends on a permeable information loop from top-down and from bottom-up to ensure the best information circuits and rapid decision-making based on empirical data out of the system such as the analysis of head coaches in soccer. We see it as a game-changer to institutionalize elasticity, recovery and variety mechanisms to overcome unpredictability. The very new essence of hierarchical structures is the ability of an enterprise’s business system to maintain or regain a stable state condition after business-critical interference or strategical changes.


Let’s observe a soccer match – Every soccer team acts with a fast and controlled elasticity, recovery, and a variety of defence and attack strategies to win a match. A winning soccer team might be described as an operating team with more elasticity and recovery tactics than the losing team. Soccer teams act with a fast and controlled variety to movements of the other team. Very often soccer teams recover and battle back from being down in the first half to grab an overtime victory.


Those teams recover because they are trained very well on how to recover and change their strategies or tactics quickly. Soccer teams are reliable systems because of purpose-fulfilling experts, the top-down structure, and their ability to fast change over the elasticity and recovery mechanism. It’s a fact that those mechanisms are not only training. The soccer team’s interdependency system is an element in rapidly incorporating the adaptive change system. Those patterns have got an anthropological background and that’s why all human people can be trained to anticipate in real-time to fast changeovers. 65.000 years ago the humans with the new tool sets had begun to spill out of Africa they had something special: they were not prisoners of their ecological niche but could change their habits quite easily if prey disappeared, or better opportunities arose. It is called habit stacking. The mechanism is when you take an old habit that’s already a part of your daily routine and combine it with a new habit that you are trying to build. Not to mention their 100% outcome orientation and deductive principle. Embracing autopoiesis for self-improvement. Hence, soccer economics at all levels is the room layout to reduce as many idle routes. In economic terms, we could coin it ROI = Value (room layout)/Costs (idle routes).

So, from soccer schemes, we can extract the following for companies:


1. Fast changeover of the elasticity and recovery mechanism
2. Purpose-fulfilling expertise of functional specialists (defender, midfielder, striker, goalkeeper, etc.);
3. The necessity of adaptive systems
4. Economic thinking at all levels
5. Adaptive change is permanent work in progress and not static
6. Rapidly incorporating the adaptive change system
7. Fast reduction of transaction costs (ball circulation, line-up)
8. Reducing risk and unpredictability by reliability (played systems)
9. Embracing autopoiesis for self-improvement;
10. Adaptive changes are top-down and carried by the DNA


Insofar, it’s more than surprising for us that old-fashioned stage method evangelists, as well as old-established consultancy companies, don’t consider the fact of how to incorporate high-adaptive organizational changes. We got taught in many changes that fast changeover of elasticity and recovery mechanism are major pillars of rapid adaptiveness. Also, the purpose-fulfilling capability of the expertise of functional specialists are not easy to respond to externally driven change systems it’s much better to introduce adaptive change by the deductive principle such as head coaches practice every day.


Knowledge workers are strongly related to their occupation and are proud of their special expertise such as soccer players (e.g. midfielders). They are more self-determined and thus they are very proud of their workmanship and convinced about their occupation. Their loyalty is split on the enterprise’s cultural value system and their convenience to their expert knowledge. Their interpersonal trust relies on the expert trust of other experts. We experienced furthermore, that the shared skill credit in teams is built around the knowledge of “how things are done around here”. Consequently, this formative system requires a new understanding of the relevance of everyday operations. Let us put it in more practical terms.


If a knowledge worker A makes a decision that promotes his or her best business value knowledge worker B should be considered in the decision-making process and vice versa. For example, A knows whom to ask for a special problem, B knows whom to ask for some solution hints and C knows whom to contact for some other issues.


Adaptive changes intend to improve the monitoring of business variations and incorporate them to re-optimize the planning of, for instance, a product development, early and during the development system. Several components must work in concert: innovative processes, techniques, and workflows are required to maximize the safety, recalculation, and effective use of adaptive change systems. 

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