Building Sustainable Success

By | May 14, 2008

This weekend Manchester United claimed the Premiership title for the tenth time under Sir Alex Ferguson’s twenty one year career as Team Manager. It was a huge success, with a little excitement, waiting until the final day of the campaign to secure the title, but not one that came as a big surprise to anyone who follows English football.

Manchester United do have pots of cash, but other teams have deeper pockets. They have a formidable youth set up, but others do better in bringing young talent on to Premiership standard.

What Sir Alex has had that so few other managers in English football enjoy is a fair run at the job. The average length of tenure for a Premiership Manager is a little under 1.7 years. Championship Managers fare far worse.

Constant upheaval, including changes of manager can destabilise a team and in football, like many businesses, a manager can be viewed as the only determining factor. Some mangers are considered failures when they have very little in the way of performing employees to work with and no resources to seek others. Some managers suffer from constant interference from above, damaging long range planning and destroying credibility with the team.

These are not just football or even sporting problems, the same thing happens to managers in organisations across the UK, and whilst they may not be publicly fired, they are often quietly sidelined without given an opportunity to succeed or a chance to learn and improve.

Had Manchester United taken the same approach there were plenty of opportunities to sack the Manager for a lack of success – it took him five years to win anything and, with a player budget that managers from Arsène Wenger to Liam Daish could only dream of, the club failed to win anything in four more of his years in charge. Despite this on each occasion he was given the time, space and resources needed to rebuild a better, stronger team.

Sir Alex Ferguson is not the only reason for Manchester United’s success, the players are outstanding, the cashflow is incredible and the facilities world class, but without a senior management team with a long term vision and the confidence to ride out some short term pain for future glory, he could be one of the hundreds of football managers who never make it past their fourth job.


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