Posted on August 1, 2014

For this week’s blog post, I invited Carlos Valdesuso, Managing Director at Adizes Brazil, to share his analysis of the World Cup Soccer Game results using the Adizes theory. I hope you enjoy it.

–   Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Teams, whether for work or for sports, behave at a level above the individuals and, as such, are subject to system principles.

Although all the four Adizes roles (PAEI) are necessary, both for individuals and teams, the (A) and (I) functions seem to impact team performance more than the (E) and (P) ones, particularly in group sports, like soccer.

The recent World Cup Soccer games in Rio de Janeiro, where in the game Germany defeated Brazil and in the finals Argentina, is a great example of the impact of team performance over individual member’s performance.

Both Brazil and Argentina relied a lot on the performance of individual stars: Brazil on Neymar and Argentina on Messi.  On the other hand, Germany relied more on the whole team effort, and ended up winning the 2014 World Cup.

What I see happening in professional sports is that, since the Mission (E) and the Task (P) are predefined, the relative importance of the (A) and (I) functions naturally goes up. Thus, the team who can outperform in the (A) and (I) roles is bound to win.

And that is precisely what Germany did, in emphasizing (I) going to the extreme of selecting as their home base in Brazil, a small Indian village in the State of Bahia.

(I)ntegration means not to depend on any single individual  but on the interaction  and interdependence between the parts, and between members of the team.

The fact that the Germans did not depend on any single individual but on how the team performed can be seen in the fact that their star player, Miroslav Klose, was not even asked to play. Throughout the game, you could not point out one player who was the star with all the others presumably acting in a supporting role.

Not so for the Argentinian team. All the commentators kept repeating that what Argentina needs is “a Messi moment” to win. That means expecting Messi to make the difference.  And without another top player, who was injured in a previous game, Argentina was in a weaker position than the German team.

And that was also a problem for the Brazilian team. When their star player, Neymar, was sidelined with an injury and another top defender was not allowed to play because of yellow cards from previous games, the Brazilian team was like an injured animal. There was no passing of the ball. Everyone was trying to make the goal as an individual.

To have team work, (I), you have to work on it. It does not happen with good intentions, nor with short spurts of energy. It is a process that takes time and effort.

And that is what the German team did. This team has been playing together for six years. They could anticipate each other’s moves. It was very exciting seeing them pass the ball backwards as if they had eyes in the back of their head. Or sideways as if they had peripheral vision. They simply could feel each other. They had the experience.

In comparison, the Brazilian team was put together to play the world cup a few months before the game. And so was the Argentinian team. Teamwork did not happen. Simple.

This experience has its moral for soccer, but it applies as well for managing a company. If you rely on a single star for success, the founder of the company for instance, it is not as good as having a team of executives working together producing the results.  And building that teamwork is not going to happen by having three month’s leadership training. It takes years of “playing together” and seeking the common goal and not just the individual goal.

Teamwork is better than any individual star. Much to learn.

Guest blog contributed by:
Carlos Valdesuso, Managing Director, Adizes Brazil