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By Nick Wakeman

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World Cup lessons

One of the many things I'm grateful to my wife for is exposing me to women's sports.

Beth plays soccer, and has been setting the alarm extra early the last two weeks to catch live broadcasts of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament in China. The competition has been tough and it has been fun to watch.

Of course we've rooted for the U.S. team, which after a slow start has played well. Until Thursday that is when it faced Brazil in the semi finals.

The game started at 7:30 a.m. U.S. eastern time, the same time Beth needs to leave to catch her train, so I watched the first half before I had to leave for work and Beth called in for updates.

There was a lot of controversy leading into this game because the coach, Greg Ryan, benched Hope Solo, the goalie who had held opponents scoreless for nearly 300 minutes, in favor of Briana Scurry, a leader on U.S. World Cup and Olympic championship teams in 1999 and 2004. But Scurry had not played in this World Cup tournament and has played little on the international stage since 2005.

Ryan felt Scurry's 12-0 record against Brazil would be an advantage over Solo. His decision caught the team by surprise and now he is getting hammered and second guessed because the U.S. lost 4-0.

I'm not qualified to debate soccer strategy, but his decision and the result got me thinking ? how important to a team are things such as continuity and chemistry? As a leader, when are you too conservative and when do you shake things up?

And once you've made a bold decision and you've failed, how likely are you to make another bold move?

Risk is a big part of the business world. It comes into play when picking technologies, partners and even which market niches to pursue.

What's been your boldest move and how did it turn out? Would you do it again? Post your story below.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 27, 2007 at 9:54 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, Oct 1, 2007 Jack Ring AZ

If we believe that Coach Ryan chose Brianna because of the 12-0 history with Brazil, then we can conclude that he is sorely undereducated about systems, especially those composed of human beings. In fact, after the US was comfortably ahead in the consolation match with Norway he made himself very visible, shouting and waving his arms as if he was a factor in the outcome of the match. Pitiful.The lesson, here, is not so much about which alternative was picked but about the way it was applied. Due to his ineptness, both women lost then the whole team lost.This highlights the importance of considering a situation NOT from a risk perspective but from a system integrity perspective.Unfortunately we see hundreds of situations per day that suffer from unintended consequences simply because those in charge do not understand systemics.

Mon, Oct 1, 2007 Nick Wakeman VA

Thanks for the comment. Here's my work e-mail - nwakeman@1105govinfo.com. You'd be a good person to talk to sometime about your work in Iraq and how you build a team.Good luck with your daughter's soccer career.

Mon, Oct 1, 2007 Justin Porto VA

First off, Nick, as a youth soccer coach with a daughter soccer star on the University of Albama at Birmingham women's soccer, team, the Washinton Freedom team, and a US National hopeful, I thoroughly enjoyed your short but ingenious analogy of a soccer coach to a business leader's decisions. I would like to address your question, "how important to a team are things such as continuity and chemistry? "I am currently serving as the mentor/advisor to the Iraqi Minister of Defense CIO, an uncharacteristically hard working, forward thinking executive who knows how to get things done in the Iraqi government bureacracy. But the war, the culture, and the lack of organizational structure and continuity make getting things done here in Baghdad difficult. I find that when we can put together a team that trust one another, even lacking some capability and skill sets, we are more successful than changing up players to fit a strategically sound plan. So in playing armchair soccer coach of the US women's National Team, I would have not made the change to Briana despite the impressive statistics she had posted against Brazil.The continuity and chemistry was crucial in that scenario, as is for the CIO within the Ministry of Defense senior leadership in the Iraqi government arena, to get positive results and win the game and the war.Thanks,Justin Porto

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