The distant GM
The ability to remain objective and view information dispassionately is central to any robust decision-making process. At 21st Club we frequently expound the benefits of getting an ‘outside view’ when setting strategic objectives or making other major decisions. But what if clubs went further and more fully incorporated the role of ‘the outsider’ into their organisational culture?
During a recent discussion with the sports journalist Bill Simmons, the author Malcolm Gladwell proposed the idea of the ‘Distant GM’. Gladwell’s suggestion was that sports teams would be able to make better decisions if one or more key executives were intentionally removed from the day-to-day running of the organisation. Rather than being involved in the routine management of the club, these individuals would be geographically separated from the team and only be called upon when required to support key strategic decisions. The objectivity afforded them by their distance would be their greatest asset.
The reasoning behind Gladwell’s theory is that ‘distant’ executives would be shielded from the hundreds of unconscious biases that we accumulate when we work inside an organisation. These biases, be they system justification or emotional relationships, can significantly impair judgement and prevent clubs from making the most effective decisions. For example, a distant GM would be able to negotiate player contracts without having formed subjective judgements of individuals, or restructure departments without loyalty to processes implemented by others within the club.
The appointment of a distant GM might seem like a radical and unprecedented step, but the objectivity offered by such a position has the potential to bring far greater levels of impartiality to the boardroom. As clubs constantly strive to become more efficient and equitable in their business operations, such a role could become commonplace within (or rather without) organisations in the years to come.
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