Breaking the cycle of reactivity
Given that the average managerial tenure in the English Football League is just 1.3 years, we should be constantly monitoring the availability and suitability of potential future managers or head coaches.
Even if a club has no immediate intention of changing their manager, coaching turnover is high across football and it pays to be ready for whatever the future may hold. Preparing for all possible scenarios should not be seen as a pessimistic or duplicitous process, but rather an essential element of basic succession planning.
Last week it was announced that Gianfranco Zola had resigned as the manager of Birmingham City. Having slipped from 7th to 20th place under Zola since December, the Italian’s departure was not unexpected, but Birmingham appeared to be caught unawares and stranded without a ready replacement. In the rush to appoint a new manager, the Blues turned to Harry Redknapp on a short-term deal for the last three games of the season.
Clearly, with just a handful games remaining, Birmingham didn’t have much time to find a replacement for Zola, but there are more proactive steps we can take to avoid being caught out by the departure of a manager.
The implementation of a simple ongoing monitoring process based on defined criteria can help to identify candidates that are suited to our club’s playing style and long-term strategy. By meeting criteria that are fully aligned to wider strategic goals, we can help ensure our decision-making processes are considered, coherent and guided by suitability rather than availability.
Questions we might ask ourselves include:
- Does the candidate play a style of football that suits our club’s vision?
- What is the candidate’s track record in terms of both results and underlying team performance?
- Does the way the candidate has historically used the transfer market or developed young players align with our strategy?
- How has the candidate performed at previous clubs with similar resource levels?
When we start asking “who’s the right fit?” rather than simply “who’s available?” we are breaking a cycle of reactivity that has the potential to cause long-term decay. By looking at the bigger picture we free ourselves from the hazards of short-term thinking and establish a platform for sustainable success and the fulfilment of our strategic ambitions.