Eddie Jones and why leaders over-reach

March 15, 2018

Eddie Jones

A video of England rugby coach Eddie Jones addressing a group of sponsors has reached the public. It makes an interesting case of a successful leader setting himself up to fail.

 

Background

The video was recorded several months ago. Eddie Jones is currently the coach of the England (male) rugby team. His appointment in 2015 was controversial. The premier national teams of the northern hemisphere have increasingly selected from coaches the most successful rugby nations. In practice this means coaches from New Zealand and the other Southern Hemisphere countries Australia and South Africa.

After a period of relative under-performing, England chose Eddie Jones, a colourful character of Australian, Japanese and American origins.
Jones played rugby to state level in Australia.. He then embarked on a coaching career mostly with spectacular successes, but not without the occasional setback. As coach of Australia he stared well but a series of successive losses ended his contract. His last loss was to Wales, a point which may have some further relevance.

He achieved success again as national coach to Japan. In rugby-playing terms, Japan is a minor nation. It also lacks an adequate supply of monstrous players in a game which has evolved to require high bulk and mobility. His style is a passionate one, invoking pride in his teams of national and cultural values. Rather than import hefty Samoans, he introduced a fearless flyweight style of play which brought shock wins and delighted spectators during the World Cup of 2015.
This track record, and Japan’s showing resulted in his appointment as England coach.

His initial impact was spectacular, and the team began to show potential to become a serious challenger for the next world cup. At the time of the video Jones could point to a remarkable turnaround of fortunes in results. His leadership impact was clearly a significant factor.
A run of twenty three matches was ended by a firy Irish team, which was also progressing well including a win over the near invincible New Zealand All Blacks.
In this summary I draw attention to the loss to Wales which coincided with Jones losing his Australian post, and then to the recent loss to Ireland which ended his winning streak.

The video

In the video, Jones is heard lauding his own success in converting Japan into an exciting new force in world rugby. He then turns to the defeat by Ireland.

“We’ve played 23 Tests and we’ve only lost one Test to the scummy Irish,” he told his audience. “I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

Jones was also recorded discussing Wales in the context of Japan Under‑20s losing 125-0 against their Welsh counterparts shortly after he took over as the Japan head coach in 2012. “Wales. Who knows Wales? Are there any Welsh people here? So it’s this little shit place that has got three million people. Three million!”

Dilemmas of leadership
Another dilemma of leadership. When a leader starts believing his or herself-constructed story. It has contributed to the aura around the leader. Some might call it the evidence of charisma. The leader flushed with success, acts out the self-image in terms which become dismissed as bluster or dismissive of others.

Remind you of any other leader?

Do these words remind you of another leader, often in the news for his provocative statements?

“I’m still dirty about that game, but we’ll get that back, don’t worry. We’ve got them next year at home so don’t worry, we’ll get that back.”

If so, what more general conclusions can we draw from the case of Eddie Jones? And is it coincidence that his team plays that “scummy team Ireland” this weekend, a team which has already won the six-nations championship from England this year, regardless of the result?

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Google accused of being evil, doing evil by UK politicians

May 21, 2013

Do no evilGoogle stands accused of acting in a way contrary to its slogan “do no evil”. This continues a debate over tax avoidance, tax evasion and corporate social responsibility

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Last week [May 18th 2013] Google’s European leader Matt Brittin appeared before The Commons Public Accounts Committee in London to defend his Company’s tax arrangements in the UK. A pivotal point was the practice of declaring sales were completed in another country [Ireland] with more generous Corporate taxation arrangements.

The Chair of the Committee, Margret Hodge, was particularly vehement in her criticism of the firm’s methods of tax avoidance in the UK. The criticism had moved on from tax evasion (illegal) to tax avoidance (legal) in a way that amounts to serious departure from the corporate claims of good citizenship.

The Guardian reported that

“[The] Commons Public Accounts Committee Members reacted in disbelief on Thursday [16th May 2013] after it emerged that they paid just £3.4m of tax on £3.2bn of sales taken from UK customers last year as their sales were technically “closed” in low-tax Ireland.”

Writing in The Observer a few days later, Google CEO Eric Schmidt noted:

“It is tempting for every government to assume that they will benefit if and when the current [tax] structure changes. But in reality, it’s probably only a significant increase in corporation taxes globally that would make every country a “winner” – and the consequences of that would likely be less innovation, less growth and less job creation. That said, the UK government has the perfect opportunity to take the lead in shaping this complex debate at the G8 summit next month. We hope George Osborne seizes the initiative and makes meaningful tax reform one of the top items on the agenda.”

It’s a Tax Dodge, says Hodge

Margaret Hodge had made clear her view at the Committee investigation, telling Google’s European CEO Matt Brittin, that his company’s behaviour on tax was “devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical”.

[Mr Brittin] had been recalled by MPs after being accused of misleading parliament over the firm’s tax affairs six months ago. Hodge said: “You are a company that says you ‘do no evil’. And I think that you do do evil.” Hodge was referring to Google’s long-standing corporate motto, “Don’t be evil,” which appeared in its $23bn US stock market flotation prospectus in 2004.

Do no evil image

Image from grokdot

To be continued


Euro-drachmas, Football, and the Poll of Poles

June 17, 2012

The Greek nation prepares itself for elections which are said to risk its exit from the Euro and return to the drachma. Meanwhile, attention in and outside the country turns to the Football championships where the Greeks also face an imminent exit

The football championship of Europe is being contested in Ukraine and Poland. The battle for the Euro also continues. Greece is involved in both contests.

The Greek Elections

The Greek Election have been described as a last chance for the Country to accept the harsh disciplines required for it to receive further financial support of its economy. Polls suggest considerable popular rejection of the authority plans, with the possibility of a return to the old currency. Most external commentators believe this would be a lose-lose result for Greece, for Europe, and to some degree for prospects of more rapid economic growth globally.

The Euros [Football]

Meanwhile the sixteen qualifiers in the European football championships slug it out in the stadia of the joint host-nations Poland and Ukraine. The German team is one of the favourites. But unlike their economy, Spain’s football has triple A status, and expected to meet Germany in the final of the championships.
England’s football currency is weak. The new coach is attempting to succeed through invoking a Thatcherian spirit, establishing a stout defence and refusing to get closer to the methods of their competitors from the Euro-zone.

The Poll of Poles

Poland is in the tournament by virtue of being a co-host with Ukraine. I was much taken by a report of the football frenzy in the country.

One news report [via the BBC, June 16th 2012]] told of internal polls of whether Poland would win its next match and thus secure its place in the knock-out stages. Football experts thought probably not. Politicians predicted a comfortable win. It was nice to learn that a group of forty economists were polled and predicted a close win for the home nation. I haven’t found out the degree of consensus present among the distinguished voters.

According to one financial analyst

Odds are, according to stock markets, Greek voters will not vote pro-Euro, but that won’t matter. Europe will stabilize the situation and provide liquidity to help Europe weather any meltdown in the weeks ahead.
My guess is that Greeks will watch the game first, before they vote, and if their team is humiliated, as expected, they will vote to behave themselves and stay in the eurozone. If their team pulls off an upset, all bets are off.

Postscript

It is typical of a Euro-centric perspective that I omitted to mention a significant poll going on in Egypt, where people are voting this weekend for a New President after the removal of Husni Mubarak.

The process was thrown into chaos with official announcements declaring the recent parliamentary election process invalid.

In the football, Greece triumphed. Poland were eliminated, contrary to predictions of their panel of economists. Politically, the Greeks are still voting [17th June 2012]

To be continued


Panic Buying Spreads to Food Takeaways in North of England

April 2, 2012

A Special Report by Roving Reporter Mark Frog

Roving reporter Mark Frog gives an eye-witness report from Manchester, as the petrol crisis gripping England spreads to food suppliers

Darkness was falling as I drove through the deserted suburbs of Manchester yesterday [Wed 28th March 2012]. The only other signs of life were in queues of stationary cars at the few remaining petrol stations that remained open. At one, I caught a glimpse of a boy in school uniform struggling with a plastic jerry can almost as large as himself. Next to him stood a family with a baby-buggy containing a garden water-butt.

I edged my way past the line of cans, finding a further stretch of deserted road, thankful for the two hours invested at the supermarket petrol station on my way to work that morning. On the Poynton bypass, I counted a mere dozen or so vehicles visible in each direction. I was heading for the centre of Bramhall to pick up a takeaway meal of the kind that had made news after the budget recently, through the Osborne Pasty-tax change.

The next petrol station I drove past was a Tesco Express which was open for business, but with hardly a customer to be seen. Each pump nozzle had been neatly sealed off with a plastic Tesco bag. Moving on, I came across the first signs of something unsual. The tail-lights of stationary cars revealed that traffic was at standstill, blocking all exits at the mini-roundabout in the centre of the village. A few of the more more assertive drivers were trying to muscle their way across and out of the jam. In the distance, the line of cars could be seen extended to a Shell petrol station which apparently had been the attraction for the desperate motorists.

But after some minutes wait, it became clear that the jam was a far more complicated matter than a simple queue for petrol. One part of the queue was slowly edging left towards my own planned destination. This was a combination of two queues that had coalesced, one trying to reach the Shell station, the other to get to the fish and chip shop. The petrol panic had triggered off an aftershock in the shape of a fish and chip panic. Would I get there before supplies ran out? Would I get there before closing time?

After what seemed several hours, I squeezed my Yaris into a space too small for competing drivers. I walked to the end of the queue for the fish and chip shop, some half a mile away, and began to wait. One little girl ran back with the news that they had run out of pasties and sausages but they were still frying fish and chips.

We shuffled on. The man behind me was muttering ferociously to himself, bearing a passing resemblance to the classic TV character Harold Steptoe. Eventually, I reached the shop. Inside, two assistants were combining taking orders with a little social work, reassuring customers that they were just waiting for the next batch of batter, and had not run out of fish. The Steptoe character tried to duck down and get to the front of the queue but was pushed back by a wrestleomania sized customer, to continue his personal muttering.

Two pieces of freshly battered cod manifested behind the plastic screen of the counter. I made my order for the two pieces, and I heard Steptoe snarl out his order in frustration. I handed over my money, wondering if I had bought the last two pieces of battered cod in the whole of South Manchester.

To be continued

Mark Frog’s report will be concluded as soon as we receive it. We assume he has been too busy dealing with his personal food crisis to complete his on-the-spot account.


Jim Mallinder hints at England’s rugby future … and its past

November 19, 2011

Jim Mallinder is currently front-runner to replace Martin Johnson as England’s chief coach of Rugby. His Northampton Saints team yesterday displayed the strengths and weaknesses of England’s recent international performances

The Saints began their Heineken Cup campaign with their coach Jim Mallinder tipped as a replacement for Martin Johnson. It was inevitable that closer comparisons are being made between the style of Northampton under Mallinder and England under Johnson.

Sean Edwards backs Mallinder

I watched Northampton play the Scarlets yesterday [18th Nov 2011]. Before the [Sky] transmission, Sean Edwards offered positive views on Mallinder. Edwards had several qualifications for offering his opinions. He is an important part of the coaching squad which helped produce the currently successful Welsh national team.

The match

The match was an interesting one if deeply flawed with technical errors. I was struck by the similarities in style of the Northants team and England’s teams since before their glorious World Cup victory led by Martin Johnson and coached by Clive Woodward, nearly two decades ago.

Plan A

Plan A for The Saints (and England) is establishing dominance through powerful forwards. When it works it is very effective.

Not ‘one side playing, the other clapping’

But Rugby like other sports is not case of one side playing and the other clapping. As in game theory, any strategy interacts with that of the opponents. The Dragons arrived with leading members of the Welsh squad including Rhys Priestland and George North.

Plan A for the Scarlets is to rely on a young, strong and talented back division which can overcome limited possession against the strongest forward s of opposing teams. Much the same can be said of the Welsh international team at present.

When Plan A doesn’t work…

When Plan A doesn’t work, (often in hindsight) a different plan is called for. Plan A was expected to work for Northampton partly because they rarely lose at home. Their track record internationally is better than the Scarlets over a period of years.

Plan A seemed to be working for the Saints, as The Scarlets struggled to win ball from the scrums. But Northampton could not execute the plan. It could be said that the plan was fine, and it was its execution that failed. Much the same is said by disappointed strategists in business. In any event, there is always a need for a plan that can be implemented…

After the match, the inquests

After the match, the inquests:

Northampton Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder: “I think we were well beaten. I’m very disappointed with the way that we played. Scarlets came here and kicked very well and we didn’t handle that. We turned over too much ball and didn’t play the conditions as well as they did.”

Scarlets coach Nigel Davies: “We had to play a very good game of rugby to get a result here and that is what we did. This is pretty big against a side of Northampton’s quality. I don’t think they have lost a European encounter at home since 2007 so it is a big scalp for us. We have to build the momentum. The big thing has been belief, believing we can come to places like this.”

Like country like club?

Am I reading too much into the evidence of one game? As a student of management rather than rugby I guess so. But Northampton Plan A could be at least a metaphor for England Plan A. Even in losing, the Saints showed considerable muscular talent. The game last night at least goes some way to explain why Jim Mallinder is tipped as a future England coach. It may even explain why so often we get the leaders we deserve.


The case of Steve McClaren and the rigged jury

November 23, 2007

mcclaren-exits.jpgJudge me after twelve games. That was the plea when Steve McClaren took over as England manager. He was always struggling. When the England football team lost that twelfth game, the jury met to see that justice was done …

Or, in less metaphoric terms, the England Football team failed to reach the European Championships. This was failure on a scale last witnessed over a decade ago.

The jury (sorry, The FA board), called an emergency meeting for 8.30 the following morning, and gathered to report their verdict (sorry, decisions). A news conference was convened and by 10 am, chairman Professor Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards of the Premier league took the main roles.

They announced that the board has terminated the contracts of Coach Steve McClaren, and deputy coach Terry Venables. Brian Barwick (CEO) is to carry out a root-and-branch study, and report his findings back to the board together with a recommendation to the board for a new appointment. The recruitment process will take as long as it takes.

One minor saving factor for all concerned. There are no competitive internationals for a while, so it is implied that the decision can wait while before the next major campaign.

Journalists quizzed Brian Barwick. Wasn’t he just a weeny-bit responsible for hiring Mr McClaren in the first place?

Intervention from chair. Brian is CEO, but we as a board take shared responsibility for what has happened.

The accused speaks

Later, the lugubrious ex-manager had his say .

“It is a sad day to have been relieved of my duties but I understand the decision of the FA … It’s a huge disappointment for the nation and fans. But I will learn from my failure,”

His failure to qualify for Euro 2008 cost him his job, said FA chief executive Brian Barwick.

“I spoke to Steve this morning – we get on very well with him. I’ve had many grown-up conversations and had another one with him this morning – and I can only wish him well. But in the end, not qualifying for Euro 2008 comes up short” McClaren’s reign was the shortest tenure of any England coach.

Fantasy football in Westminster and beyond

This has been a good week in the UK for stories about bad leadership, in politics, business, and sport. There does seem to be a few patterns common to all. I’m not sure to what degree they capture a cultural rather than a universal theme.

The scuffles in the House of Commons are seeped in ancient rituals, with occasional efforts to find imaginative ways of yah-booing that stay within the letter of the law, if not in the spirit of Bagehot. George Osborne seems to thrive on vituperation. With every battle as shadow Chancellor he grows ever younger, a variation on the Dorian Grey image, and with genetic traces of Norman Tebbitt.

In Business cum politics, this week we have noted, among others, the inevitable demise of the Northern Rockers, pretty much root and branch.

But the real fantasy football this week was played out the FA HQ at Soho Square. I can’t get that image of a bizarre trial scene out of my mind.

The nightmare

Picture the packed court room. The accused stands grim-faced and slightly slumped in the dock. The judge arrives, and then the jury trails in with the verdict.

But wait a minute. This is no ordinary jury. Isn’t that Brian Barwick, and Thompson chair of the FA, and Sir David Richards? And surely that’s one or two former England managers with them, standing next to Alan Green, BBC’s current voice of the fans? And the others seem to be journalists. The foreman is Paul Hayward of The Daily Mail.

The verdict of this jury has been unanimous. The defendent is found guilty as charged. Defendant seems unmoved, as if expecting the verdict. But then (this is a bad dream, isn’t it) the foreman stuns the court into silence.

This is a rigged jury

This is no ordinary jury, he cries. It’s a rigged trial. McClaren is a fall guy for the toytown Napoleons at the FA. They even got themselves on to the jury. They are the real culprits. I have already made a deposition that proves it.

“The blazers, who paid Sven Goran Eriksson £25million to reach three quarter-finals and then arrogantly assumed Luiz Felipe Scolari would accept the England job just as he was about to lead Portugal to a World Cup, remain untouchable, unindicted, beyond the reach of the anger that washed over McClaren and his players.

Why call Sir Dave and the chairman of the FA to account when you can blame Scott Carson? Why should anyone at Soho Square resign when you can boot out Terry Venables, who was hired as a human shield to protect McClaren from the press and then marginalised throughout the campaign?

The more urgent need is to consider not 45 minutes but 40 years of failure and here we trudge back to the realisation that the crudeness and physicality of the game in these islands is not conducive to international success.”

Uproar in court. Cries of shame. Resign. To the tower.

I wake up from the nightmare. Check the newspapers. No, it’s not entirely fantasy football. England did lose to Croatia. And as someone said, hinting at the manager’s golden goodbye: Football? It’s a game of two and half million pounds.