This insight is a summary of a talk given by Sandy Loder and Harvey Hillary at the 18th European Family Office Conference hosted by Campden Wealth in London on 2nd November 2016.

Performance is the measure by which success and failure can be judged whether it is an Olympic sport or business. In most instances, performance can be measured by its Return on Investment (ROI).

High-Performing organisations or sports teams who consistently outperform the set baseline or deliver a higher return will beat their direct competitors also. This high-performance is maintained by displaying resilience and implementing a robust succession plan.

Sandy Loder, the Chief Executive of Peak Dynamics and Harvey Hillary, the ex-Head of High-Performance and Innovation for the British Sailing Team, jointly presented at the conference about some key strategies they use when working with elite sports, extreme adventurers and corporates and how they use them to develop and sustain high-performance for organisations, teams and individuals.

In short, some of these strategies are:

  • Performance Planning
  • Resilience for Sustained Performance
  • Developing better Decision-Making

What makes UK Sport the most efficient Medal Winning Machine in Olympic Sport and what can be learnt from the serial medal-winning programmes delivered by GB Sailing, Rowing and Cycling?

Harvey Hillary is a man with a tremendous amount of experience in delivering High-Performance in elite sport. Asked how to maximise an ROI in sport, he outlined the tactics that UK Sport use “which is a risk-reward calculation based on confidence in an Olympic sport to deliver medals, based on the historical performance, the quality of its performance planning, the expertise of its support staff and its talent pathway”. That is why the big three GB sports of Rowing, Cycling and Sailing continue to receive a comparatively high investment per medal opportunity.

UK Sport has an exceptional network of expertise (the English Institute of Sport, academic & technological partners) which enables efficiency and cross-pollination across its network. UK Sport uses this knowledge pool to realise a competitive advantage allowing it to deploy expertise quickly to focus on ‘easy medals’ and ‘new sports’. This enables UK Sport to harvest exceptional medal returns with comparatively low investment and low risk!

Why Sailing?

Sailing is one of the outliers that is particularly interesting. Its programme has consistently topped the medals table every Olympics since Sydney 2000, proving that its high-performance system works. The uncontrollable environmental factors such as the wind, tide and sea state and the fact that the gold medal score is relatively unpredictable makes sailing in many respects comparable to business. Moreover, it is a highly complex sport combining decision-making, skill execution, human/equipment performance & reliability, operational excellent and managing the competitive environment. Sir David Brailsford (the Team Sky cycling’s owner) would call it ‘controlling the controllables’.

Performance Planning

Performance Planning is an area that Sandy is particularly focused on when helping sports and business clients develop. He and Harvey outlined to the audience their ‘What It Takes To Win’ 4 step strategy they use when looking to fully understand the competitive environment and providing a ‘medal’ winning solution for their clients.

We have outlined below those steps:

Step 1 – Analysis of Historical Performance Data

The first step is an analysis of historical performance data to identify what the highest performing competing individuals, teams or organisations have been delivering in comparison to your performance.

For instance, Jürgen Grobler, Head Coach at GB Rowing is a master at this. His wealth of experience enables the rowing programme to predict what the winning time is likely to be in Tokyo 2020 and the components of performance (power, endurance, technique) that will be needed to achieve the ‘predicted time’.

Step 2 – Performance Model

Olympic sports are now being asked to formalise this performance model in a hierarchal structure similar to the methods used by surgeons when defining how to deliver a successful operation with zero errors. This area presents a key opportunity for all teams and businesses looking to enhance their performance, direct investment and align interventions with the subsequent impact on outcome performance.

Step 3 – Performance Trajectories

Performance Trajectories are an interesting tool for predicting future performance of an individual by tracking longitudinal change. Understanding the historical route an Olympic Gold Medallist has taken to deliver their winning performance enables us to understand better how to achieve a future medal winning performance. The real value of this dataset is to understand the acceptable variability of performance, described by Harvey as the ‘bandwidth’ or performance.

Step 4 – Gap Analysis

Finally, the Gap Analysis allows resources to be targeted for a maximum ROI. Using ‘Super Strength’ and ‘Unacceptable Weaknesses’ to define where to focus resources on continuing to excel and address the areas of your performance with the biggest delta compared to direct competitors or the market baseline.

Resilience 

Sandy outlined the importance of looking at resilience in both organisations, teams and individuals. It is that ability to bounce back from adversity and have that hardiness to dig deep when the going gets tough, or the athlete has crossed the redline and is in the pain zone. The data he has gathered and the research he has done, shows the higher the hardiness and resilience, the lower the level of stress, which in turn improves the quality of the decision-making.

Decision-Making

Decision-making remains one of the untapped opportunities for enhanced performance in Elite Sport and Business. It represents a highly complex relationship between information gathering, experience based decision-making and the ability to function logically under stress. 

Peak Dynamics has for some time worked on developing high-quality decision-makers in extreme environments and Sandy went on to outline the transferability of this knowledge to individuals in elite sports and corporations. The relationship between stress and perceived risk on effective decision-making is something Sandy has targeted when mentoring current and future business leaders and elite athletes using in some cases extreme environments, such as the Arctic that stretch the individual’s capacity to function. 

Harvey went onto outline his framework for optimising decision-making in sport identifying preparation, communication, execution and adaptation as component skills that he has expressly targeted in developing winning athletes.

Culture 

Organisation or systemic high-performance starts with culture. A winning culture is created by the right behaviours and attitudes being exhibited from every individual within the eco-system of a team, squad, organisation and/or business. The shift to a high-performance cultural starts with a clear intent from the Executive Team or Performance Director, but the responsibility to effect and sustain that change in mindset sits with everyone within the system or organisation. A high-performance culture makes everyone accountable to a part of ‘what it takes to win’.

High-performance cultures accept failure as an essential element of the process and respond logically to failure with intent to learn without blame. Sensitivity to change and a capacity to respond and adapt is also a trait of high-performance organisations. In a sporting context, the rules, format and equipment used in Olympic Sailing have changed each cycle to level the playing field. Each time, the British Sailing Team has seen this as an opportunity to increase its competitive advantage by preparing for and responding faster to change than the other leading nations.

Succession Planning 

winning Succession Plan is as vital in any top-level team as it is with any business. There are plenty of examples in sport where poor succession planning has led to a deterioration in performance. More recent examples such as Manchester United and McLaren Formula 1 come to mind.

These are just some of the elite-level succession steps used by Peak Dynamics:

  • Implement a plan before a performance decline. Plan-ahead and do not dwell in your current glory.  The Performance Trajectory will help direct the timeline of the plan.
  • Identify the talented people with the capacity to deliver future performance. Understand the progression timeline to deliver required performance.
  • Predict the skills that will be needed for future success. What wins today will not necessarily deliver success in the future, so it is key to invest in speculating on the ‘futures-skills market’ so to speak.
  • Manage Exposure – strategically introduce people and process to reduce risk. Allow for controlled failure. Acclimatise individuals and team to allow for growth, temper resilience and experience success – something the Football Association could do a whole lot better.

Summary

In the majority of sports organisations and businesses, history shows that ‘outperformance’ has not been sustained due to a number of factors as mentioned above. The parallels between elite sport and business are clear. An openness to the skills, techniques and strategies outlined by Sandy and Harvey could prove of real value to any individual, team or organisation looking to unlock the potential of a ‘What It Takes To Win’ strategy.

If are interested in learning more or would like Sandy and Harvey to provide some advice, please contacts us.

(Photo Caption: Great Britain's Giles Scott celebrating winning his fifth successive Olympic title at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the Finn sailing class)

olympics, olympics 2016, performance, succession planning, resilience, decision-making, sailing, british sailing, british rowing, british cycling, culture, winning, next generation