Organizations Need

Organizations Need - BusinessWeek Organizations Need...

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BusinessWeek August 29, 2008 Organizations Need Structure and Flexibility When people don't know who to take direction from, performance suffers. Just look at the U.S. Boxing Team's dismal performance in Beijing By Rick Wartzman There is certainly no shortage of management lessons to be gleaned from Michael Phelps's record-shattering performance at the Beijing Olympics—the importance of setting firm objectives and staying sharply focused perhaps chief among them. Nevertheless, I suspect that Peter Drucker would have been more intrigued by the blows suffered in the boxing ring than by the gold gathered in the swimming pool. It was there, in the square circle, that the U.S. turned in its worst-ever showing, winning but a single bronze medal and sending disheartened fans scurrying to figure out what went wrong. Interestingly, the answer appears to have relatively little to do with the fighters' athletic prowess and quite a lot to do with the way the team was run. Those in charge of the nine- man Olympic squad ignored a couple of basic principles that Drucker—though more a student of social science than of the sweet science—pounded home: the need for clear direction and yet, at the same time, a certain degree of organizational flexibility. Too Many Coaches In large part, the pugilists' problems can be traced to a move made last year: Members of the U.S. team had to leave their homes—and the care of their personal coaches—to live and train for 10 months as part of a new residency program at the U.S. Olympic
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