It did occur to me that cycling’s domination by Team GB appeared out of character, bizarre even. And I’ve just learnt why. The Beeb give an excellent narrative of how the nation emerged to take over the sport through a decade of effort. It’s a lesson for anyone trying to break away from apparent random sales success, or turnaround performance from the lack of it. Whether sales individual or team leader, there are some marvellous insights into how to create sustainable results.
I particularly liked the strive to avoid “alpinism”. A great turn of phrase to mean that each accomplishment must leave behind a trail and ropes, so that the system/methods can be followed and improved upon (from the delicious example of Chris Boardman’s terrific, yet one-off, 1992 Barcelona Gold).
Here’s the heart of the vibe, as explained by the initial protagonist, Peter Keen, downbeat after a seemingly superb 2000 Sydney Olympic medal haul…
“We had some good results but we couldn’t really argue there was a system in place or that we had developed a culture.
In fact, it wasn’t until late 2001 that the penny dropped. I needed to clear out riders and coaches who weren’t obsessed with winning.
It was a very hard thing to do and a lot of people found the process incredibly emotional. It was our year zero.”
As aspirant pedal-medal eyes around the world looked enviously on the emerging British achievements, current team boss, Dave Brailsford, gave further insight. Three parts of the plan stand out.
Firstly, he visited Beijing an incredible nine times before the games. One purpose was to build friendships with those due to organise everything. This helped him get first dibs on which ‘pen’ Team GB would get (the team space inside the velodrome). He was determined to grab the best one. Awesome preparation to “leave no stone unturned”.
Secondly, he doesn’t talk about medal-targets. The team don’t set them. Instead, they set process targets. This is a real game-changing idea for sales teams. You know you want to win Gold, yet the end isn’t the focus. It’s how you strive to get there that requires management and focus.
Finally, on the eve of the event, he held a team meeting. He must have needed a large room, as the GB team have many more support staff than anyone else. He asked the question, “is there anything we could have done over the past four years which we have not?” Everyone said ‘no’, so the call was “let’s go racing”.