There are elements of Jim Collin's work in Built to Last materialising at Arsenal FC.
I remember being kindly taken by a client to the last game at White Hart Lane. It was an interesting atmosphere kindled with love and fond memories. Great players of old lined the ground. Arrival at the new ground told me that this was a new beginning for Spurs. They could finally have the clout for a title charge.
Or could they?
No. I don’t think so.
Watching them remove Pottechino for Mourinho, then brining Conte told me the opposite. I think Spurs needed, and still need, to do what Arsenal are doing to do that. Both North London rivals have got great sides now, but Arsenal are better poised to take the title. In his monumental and revolutionary book, Built To Last Jim Collins showed, through diligent research, that great organisations do not go for quick wins. They take their time to build outstanding capacity in each department and each area of operations.
This could take even two decades. In Good to Great Collins argued that a big name from the outside harms the development of a business into a great company. Instead great businesses chose leaders from their own ranks. These were employees who were embedded in their great culture. Looking at the two football rivals, these differences in organisation building are apparent.
Giving Arteta the opportunity to become their coach/manager Arsenal were playing the long-game. By allowing new dazzling young players to come through the ranks they were doing exactly that. By getting rid of Aubemayang they were allowing the building of a unique culture at their club. Spurs not. They went for what Jim Collins warns us about. The big name, Conte. Keeping big signings. Investing for instant returns on Kane and Son, and not thinking about whether they can ever buy or attract such players again.
If Kane and Son had been at another club for the last few years, Spurs would not be able to afford them. So let’s get a big manager to lead them. But lead them to where exactly? It’s plainly obvious that a star manager with two star players can’t win a club anything. You need a star squad, and a winning culture. This is probably even more important and absolutely necessary. Spurs don’t have that. Nor do they show any desire to change their ways.
So why Conte? To sell tickets, to make the short term profit, to be a transactional business rather than a great one. That’s a great lesson for emerging businesses. Don’t take the short-cuts if you want to be great. Take the long-road, the difficult road of building capacity. That is what makes winners. Don't be seduced by short-term gains just to show you are trying. Just to keep your shareholders, followers and customers satisfied. Instead build capacity, year in year out, to blow them away. As human beings we all have the obligation to aim for greatness. After all we enjoy the world on the backs of the sacrifices of so many others who went for greatness to propel us forward.
Dr Abhijit Pandya (PhD)
Written on travels, Oct 2022.