Can we run our parking companies as well as NZ ‘All Blacks’ rugby team?
By Kevin Warwood
Watching the mighty New Zealand “All Blacks” beat the U.S.A. Eagles rugby team, 74-6, last fall in Chicago made me think about how this team has become one of the most successful sports teams the world has ever seen.
The All Blacks (a reference to the color of their uniforms) are the national rugby team of New Zealand, and even taking into account the fact that there are only 4.5 million people in the country, their achievements on the world stage, and against much larger countries, have been mind-bogglingly successful.
To give you some idea of their stature, over the 144 years that rugby has been played here and the 130 years the All Blacks have been playing other countries, the team has only ever been beaten by five countries, winning 400 of their 524 games played at a win rate of 76%. In 2014, it became the first rugby nation in the professional era to achieve a 100% winning record in a calendar year.
How do you create a winning team like the All Blacks? How does an organization go out to fashion a record almost unmatched around the world for any local or international sporting team, over such a long period?
I have tried to put down on paper a few of the immediately obvious traits that the All Black organization clearly used to its benefit, and these traits can be transposed over to a commercial parking organization.
The definition of talent is “a natural aptitude or skill.” I don’t believe this. I believe talent comes from hard work and years of preparation. You may have heard of the 10,000 hours it takes to becoming an expert (“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell).
Access to or attracting the best talent is a major challenge for any organization, but for one that has its eyes on being world-class, it needs the best talent on board, with the best talent coming through in a wave right behind, pushing standards higher and higher.
To test this, I went through a number of parking job vacancies online to check out what the vital and typical skill or talent was that, if in abundance in your organization, would transform it into a world-class parking outfit. There is no single set of skills that “makes” a parking person, such as accounting makes an accountant or law makes a lawyer.
Organizations have advertised for public administration, business administration, engineering, BS, BA, or any four-year degree. To cloud the water even more, for my team here, I look for economics skills – the balance of supply and demand must be understood as a priority. You can sub-contract the other skills.
Maybe identifying talent young, with basic skill sets, and investing in them until they become world-class is a way to improve your business. I don’t know of any parking company that does that.
Clarity of Purpose
The “structure” must be set to be focused on one goal: success.
The All Blacks team is blessed with a structure in New Zealand where every town has a rugby club. When the nation was being developed in the 19th and early-20th centuries, the rugby club was the place where all of the farmers and town folk would meet up. It was like the town hall, and so the game spread around the country.
Today, you could not replicate that infrastructure simply. Most sports organizations short-circuit that process by having commercial relationships with other clubs around the world. Parking companies should look at something similar to extend their influence and to access resources limited in their own environment.
The New Zealand Rugby Union controls all rugby in the country. Every town has a team, every suburb or region has a representative team, every region flows into a provincial team, and 26 provinces in New Zealand form the five Super Rugby franchises that compete with teams from other countries that go from South Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand to Argentina… the long way around!
Each of these franchises from New Zealand form the All Blacks. With that pyramid structure, it’s easy to see how the single goal of a small country is a winning national rugby team.
Many organizations, including parking companies, do not know what their single goal is, and in not knowing that, they can’t organize themselves to achieve it in a world-class fashion. The All Blacks organize themselves to win international rugby matches better than anyone else in the world. What does your parking company do?
The management structure of the NZ Rugby Union gives the right to organize and run the rugby program of the All Blacks to the All Blacks management. It understands that the coach and players are the experts and will get it right. Rugby Union focus is on supporting the team through good times and bad. It trusts completely that the team is doing the right things to achieve its goals.
How many cities, councils and perhaps companies trust their teams to get the job done? An example of this is when the council members, mayor or even the CEO gives direction of operational matters such as pricing. Operational matters belong to operations, and in this case, the All Black team. You wouldn’t hear of the Union instructing the All Blacks on tactics.
A Healthy Impatience
With a positive and achieving culture, supported by a trusting management structure, you can develop a team that pulls together during bad times and still manages to win, even in the last minute of the game. However, to consistently beat the world, you must get there first.
This means that developing new technologies or new methodologies to operate your parking facility should be trialed and tested, even if no one else in the world has ever done it before. Not rushed, just impatient.
Developing a healthy impatience or a positive edginess should be encouraged. The All Blacks team scores more points than any opposition, even when it goes a player down with a yellow card. Even when they are 14 on 15 players, its record shows the team rises and scores more points. This is a staggering achievement based on a desire to be the best in the world.
The All Blacks rugby team has shown the world that to be world-class, you have to get a bunch of things right, all at the same time.
The team doesn’t wait for others to achieve, it doesn’t wait for others to learn how the All Blacks do it and catch up. The All Blacks keep challenging, testing, trialing, watching, adapting, recruiting, trusting, desiring and building.
Aren’t these the traits we want in our business and the industry?
Consultant Kevin Warwood is Business Manager-
Parking at Chistchurch (NZ) City Council. Contact him at email@example.com.