The implementation of a Strategy starts with an analysis of where you are – An Assessment of Team resources

By Andreas Frische Geir Lislerud

Pep Gardiola, Jose Mourinho and Jürgen Klopp. Three of the most successful coaches and premier league managers. They have very different personalities, but they all have something in common: a very clear vision of how their teams should perform a football game. Jürgen Klopp is since his early years known for his full field pressing. Pep Guardiola represents the ticki-tacka ball possession style and Jose Mourinho always have the highest priority on condensed team formations and tactics.

Wherever they worked and whatever club they managed, they always kept the same strategy. Right after they started in a new Club, all of them started to implement this strategy and an according system. They kept their belief on how to perform a successful style to always play stable.

That does not only mean to train the team according to their idea and tactics. The first activity in every new Club Jose Mourinho started was to nominate a new assistant coach. The assistant coach is the person to do the daily training with the team. The assistant coach instructs the team on how to play, how to implement the strategy and he is responsible to lay the physical basis to play the game in the way the head coach prefers. Mourinho always chooses a former high performing player of the Club. A person with a high identification with the Club, a strong reputation by the supporters and with a lot of respect from the actual players.

When Pep Guardiola was at Bayern Munich he took the risk to get into conflict with the medical institution Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt. For more than 20 years, Müller-Wohlfahrt was responsible for health and injury recovery of the Bayern Munich players. However, he did not share the beliefs and requirements of Guardiola. Therefore, Guardiola fired him and implemented a medical staff he trusted.

The whole team around the players is of the utmost importance to these managers. They take risks, decisions and are extremely consequent in the nomination of people they trust. They all build a system according to their strategy. This system includes the team of players, the team of coaches, all other staff around the team and the whole infrastructure of the Club.

The next step in system implementation is the selection of future key players. Jürgen Klopp always had the possibility at Borussia Dortmund and at Liverpool to invest a lot of money into the team. However, he never bought one of the superstars. He always focused much more on the technical and physical abilities he needed for his idea of the game. A fast offender like Mo Salah is much more important for his pressing system than a striker who only participate in the scoring actions. Jürgen Klopp integrates players who have the abilities to fit to his idea and he develop them until his system works perfectly.

Pep Guardiola always focusses on technical abilities in high-speed passing. He worked with the young Messi and he selected players like Mario Götze, Xabi Alonso and Thiago. “Thiago or nothing” was his statement that created many question marks in Munich. He could have had much more expensive, experienced or successful players, but he decided for the one that fits his demand profile: a defensive midfielder with the abilities to influence and steer a high speed passing system.

Cultural and mental fit is key

The technical and physical criteria are however not the only important aspect for Klopp, Guardiola and Mourinho. All three have the ability to assess cultural and mental fit to their systems. Jürgen Klopp would never take the risk to buy a player that disturbs his team culture. Mourinho has established a culture where he is the superstar, the one who takes the criticism and the praise. He does that to protect his players and the rest of the Club. He would never allow a player to be more important than him. It belongs to his system, that the team has its focus on the games, competition and football. Mourinho steers the press and the public impression of the Club.

Geir Lislerud and Andreas Frische, Partners at Mercuri Urval, have seen many successful CEOs and a lot who failed. What everyone can learn from the best Premier League managers in the assessment of team resources are the following five topics: 

  1. Gap analysis between strategy and todays reality
    Implement “your” system and strategy. Do not adapt to individual high performers. If you find a situation that differs from your wanted situation, establish changes step by step. Start with the key functions and hire people in accordance with your idea. 
  2. Include all functions in your organisation
    Whatever strategy you follow. Implement it completely and to the last corner of the organisation. Everything has to be in accordance with your believes of how the organisation should work. Hire people that fit to your strategy, adapt the ones who follow you and deselect that ones that cannot follow. 
  3. Generate demand profiles for every position in the organisation
    You need to have a clear idea of the capabilities, qualifications and skills you need to implement your system and strategy. To hire the best is not always the best solution. Develop the people who fit and hire selectively the ones you cannot find in your organisation. Mental, cultural and personal fit is more important than knowledge and skills.
  4. Assess technical, cultural & mental fit
    You need a technique or Consultant to assess the fit. Some people have the natural ability to do so. Most others have to be supported and establish a systematic approach to identify the personalities who fit to their strategy.
  5. Base your decisions on objective criteria to generate acceptance
    Be consequent, authentic and objective in your assessment and in your decisions. The more obvious your decisions are to the organisation the more acceptance you will get. No matter how difficult and serious your decisions are. If people realise that you take them for the implementation of the strategy you believe in and you live for, the more followers you will create.

Read part four of the blog series on “Selection, deselection & development of individuals”.