For those who have been following the recently concluded IPL, the Chennai Super Kings win should have come as no surprise. They were the most consistent team and played every inch the champions that they are. I can think of quite a few areas where businesses can learn from the way CSK played and won. Though Im a big CSK fan, Im not a CSK insider and the following are my observations based on the way Ive seen them play.
1. A strong leadership – Its all nice to say, that the leader is just as good as the team, but that hugely undermines the expectations from a leader. The leader’s role is to ensure that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. He has to understand how each member of his team fits in and help them actualize their potential. Dhoni has done a great job is bringing out the best in the guys. Secondly, when the going gets tough, the team turns to the leader to provide the direction and MSD comes across as someone in control even when the chips are down.
2. Its about the team…. not about the individuals – The CSK team won no individual awards… They don’t have the highest run getter, not the highest wicket taker and not the best individual performance. But won all the team awards that matter, the cup itself and the fair play award. While the 2 top scorers in the tournament were from Bangalore, Chennai had 5 among the top 15 (which indicates a group of strong performers – in fact there are no Chennai batsman in the top 4). The top wicket taker list reads a similar story. I think over the course of the tournament, 6 or 7 individuals from CSK won the Man of the Match award for the various matches (I haven’t checked the exact number).
3. Its as much about continuity as much as about talent – CSK retained almost all their players from the previous season. While this might have come in the way of their acquiring new talent, the focus seems to have been on keeping the winning unit together. Given the option between a star studded team and a team that gels well as a unit, I would any day pick the latter. CSK also played the same playing 11 for the last 7 matches… no chopping and changing. This sends a strong signal to the 11 that they are being backed well and can go and “express” themselves on the field.
4. Its about the role…. not the designation – Bollinger is not the “Opening Bowler” (which is a designation), he’s a bowler who gets the ball when the conditions are good for a fast aggressive bowler (which is a role). On a spinning wicket, Ashwin would be the Opening Bowler. Badrinath is the anchor (a role), and would come in to steady the ship when quick wickets have fallen, while Dhoni would promote himself when a strong platform has been built – to go in and capitalize. So, each player knows his “role” and is expected to perform that role under a given circumstance. An organization should be no different. Its about people being clear about their “roles” and performing it.
5. Think through YOUR strategy and play to YOUR strengths – The conventional wisdom in 20:20 seems to be go all blazing right from the word go. CSK’s strategy on the other hand seems to have been to build a platform over the first 2/3rd to the innings and then push the needle up in the last third. Many of their starts have resembled a test match. However, their batting in the last 5 or 6 overs in most of their matches has been characterized by raw violence. This strategy is in line with their strength of having big hitters in the lower order. You don’t build the next Google, by doing exactly the same things that Google does. Evolve your own strategy.
6. Its not just about winning… its also about how you play – CSK also won the fair play award… for the second year running. Sledging and ranting, which costing you fair play points, also adversely impact the way you play. Ask John McEnroe how many times his temper tantrums have cost him the match (his elusive 1984 French Open being the biggest price).
7. Be humble – Dhoni and CSK have pretty much won everything in sight for the last couple of years. While this team exhibits a strong self assured calm, there is no hint of arrogance. The attitude seems to be to take each game as it comes and do you best…. which is a great way for an organization to go about being successful. Things change fast in a business and it does pay to have a steady head on your shoulders.
Related link: Reflections on IPL (First edition)