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Using soccer as a model for team management?

by Technologia
Using soccer as a model for team management?

In the competitive world of business, taking inspiration from soccer team strategies can offer unexpected benefits in terms of management and organizational performance. In a study in the MIT Sloan Management Review, a surprising parallel is drawn between soccer and business, suggesting that lessons learned on the pitch can be transposed to strengthen companies. How can a soccer-inspired approach boost talent management and organizational performance?

Let's dive into this winning strategy together.

Strategy and leadership inspired by soccer

Analyzing the key roles in an organization is essential for improving performance, just as identifying the key positions on a soccer pitch is for optimizing a team's results. In soccer, every role, from forwards to defenders, has a significant impact on match results, but some carry more weight than others. Indeed, the study illustrates how teams in the Bundesliga (German soccer league) determine the influence of each position on the pitch. Defenders, often underestimated, are identified as crucial to victory, underlining the importance of allocating talent wisely within organizations. In particular, the positions of full-back, goalkeeper (that goes without saying) and left-sided attacking midfielder are deemed the most crucial to success. This hierarchy highlights the scarcity and value of players excelling in these roles, particularly left-handed players in the left-hand positions, who contribute disproportionately to team performance.

In business, this means using similar analyses to determine which roles have the greatest impact on results, and ensuring that these positions are filled by highly competent employees. Among the key methods, value chain analysis identifies the roles essential to value creation. Critical skills analysis assesses the skills essential to success, while predictive modeling uses data to anticipate future high-impact positions. Strategic talent management, inspired by soccer, requires careful planning and leadership that values and supports each team member in their specific roles, recognizing their unique contribution to the organization's business objectives.

Team development and cohesion

Team cohesion, a cornerstone in soccer to ensure effective defense and offense, is equally paramount for organizations. Teams that excel in communication and collaboration are more likely to achieve their goals. To reinforce this cohesion, companies can implement collective training, skills development workshops and team building activities, creating an environment where each individual feels valued and part of the organization's success.

Performance Analysis and Innovation

The use of data for performance analysis is a winning strategy in soccer, and can be similarly applied in organizations to identify critical roles and talent. The analytical approach, combining performance and HR data, enables companies, even those with multi-unit structures such as chain stores or distribution centers, to isolate high value-added positions. By collecting workplace data (productivity, quality of work, employee engagement, performance appraisal results, position-specific operational data such as sales for a salesperson), high-impact roles (to be correlated with HR data such as career path, skills or training) and distinguishing individual performance from external or contextual influences (fatigue, stress or difficult times due to health concerns or family problems), organizations can obtain a multi-dimensional view of performance.

This process revealed, for example, that store managers play a far more significant role than store attributes themselves, influencing revenue performance by up to 21% - an impact three times greater than that of store characteristics. This revelation underlines the importance of organizational structure and systems, and how the mobility of employees across different contexts can offer valuable data on the real impact of roles and the individuals occupying them. These findings have led to a strategic shift in talent, shifting the focus to identifying and developing capabilities in critical roles, such as store manager, drawing on in-house research such as Google's Project Oxygen to distill managerial attributes positively influencing business performance.

For organizations, this means taking a data-driven approach to understanding where to invest and maximizing impact. By identifying the positions that contribute most significantly to results, organizations can better target talent development, training and recruitment, ensuring a sustainable competitive advantage.

Megadata at the service of the organization

This analytical approach can be transposed to organizations seeking to optimize team performance. For example, the use of megadata and AI can help analyze employee performance more objectively, identifying key success indicators, forecasting market trends, and adapting strategies accordingly. Modern technologies also enable the personalization of professional development paths, identifying each employee's specific training needs and offering tailored resources to fill these gaps.


Organizations have everything to gain from investing in the critical roles within their talent, taking inspiration from team management in soccer. By adopting a strategic approach to workforce management, skills development and the use of data for performance analysis, companies can significantly improve their efficiency and competitiveness. Through careful planning, effective leadership, and strong team cohesion, organizations need to rethink their talent management to optimize their overall performance.

To find out more :

Team Management: Acquiring the Essential Know-How



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