What makes a high-performance organization?

all blacks rugby teamThe All Blacks recently won the Rugby World Cup, after vainly trying to repeat their first conquest in 1987. In Canadian terms, this is the equivalent of the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup.

What changed? After all, New Zealand has probably the biggest talent pool of rugby players in the world. Yet they failed for 24 years.

The “Blacks” approach was simple, and is instructive in how to create high performance.

The entire organization determined a common purpose and course of action. This in itself is a telling lesson. Everyone from the selectors, team management, coaching staff, the (legendary) captain, players and all support staff were aligned to the cause and how to achieve their goal.

Their purpose: To outperform all competitors on five vital dimensions:

Provide leadership and clear direction
Put the right player in the right position. No compromises. Hold the players accountable
Provide the best training and player development resources
Ensure that game strategy took into consideration all competitive and match conditions with an ability to change the tactics should circumstances change
Look for players to deliver “an extra 10 percent”


Graham Henry (coach) and Richie McCaw (captain) raised the bar in clear communications and enabling the engagement of everyone, leading from the front (and at the bottom of the scrum where no prisoners are taken). A common humility, clarity of the game plan, and leadership by example ensured that the players were keen to follow.

The Right Person

High performance is not possible in the World /Stanley Cup finals unless the right people are in the right job. From coaching to sideline support staff. All in roles best suited to their skills. Moreover each player knew that they had to deliver on the field or someone else was ready to fill their position.


Recognizing that opposition teams would have the latest technologies, player programs and training facilities, the All Blacks organization endeavoured to make available whatever resources would be needed to ensure that the team that went onto the field was the best prepared to do the required job.
Game strategy

The match plan was based on research and in depth knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents, the field and surface conditions, weather forecast (wet = slippery ball, therefore play tighter), and much more. The point is that success was based on information that was critical to success. Also, if those conditions changed, there were many contingency plans, ready for action.

The 10% more

Success at the highest level can only be attained by extraordinary performance. Whether in business, sport, or any field of human endeavour. The “Blacks” asked for, and received due to great leadership, 10% more from everyone.

John Holland

Plutus Consulting Group

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