Archive for October, 2008

Management Lessons from the Ryder Cup victory

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

We often fall into the trap of generating retrospective explanations for sporting events that, in reality, hinge on some apparently minor incidents. And so, now we are told that the US victory was the result of an elaborate strategy on the part of Paul Azinger. But this time, I actually think there’s something in it!

As described in this Wall Street Journal article, Zinger’s plan of segregating his team into three sub-groups or pods, based on their personalities and playing styles certainly did help the US team find a sense of unity that had been less obvious in previous tournaments.

The most radical element of the plan was dividing the 12-man squad into three, four-man subgroups, or pods. Mr. Azinger apparently got this idea several years ago from a documentary about the military’s Special Forces and their Ryder Cup-size platoons. The Navy Seals, for instance, typically operate in 13-man units led by two officers and a chief, and frequently break down into subgroups, depending on the mission.

“Each pod was a force unto itself,” Mr. Browne said of last week’s team. Pod members played all their practice rounds together and were paired only with other pod members in the competition. Even in the Sunday singles matches, the pods went off sequentially, four by four. Each pod was assigned an assistant captain to tend to players’ needs and to keep them relaxed and “on message” — a key concept in the strategy.

Makes sense, right? If you were challenged to identify a European team strategy to match this, you’ll probably come up a little short. Perhaps the presence of DJ Spoony was supposed to be the key?