Wednesday 14 September 2011

Learning about the referee

DSC_0674.jpg Every week, a sports team conducts its own learning sessions.

Firstly, they learn from their performance the previous weekend. They analyse the results of their plays, how well they work together, where their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they need to learn all.

Secondly they learn about the team that they will be meeting the next weekend. They look at their plays, they look at their defensive weaknesses, and they start to develop a strategy for winning.

In rugby union, there is a third area of learning, and that is to learn about the referee.

Rugby union has many subtle laws which are open to interpretation. How hard to use your arms when tackling, where to stand when rucking, how quickly to let go of the ball when tackled, how to bind when scrummaging - all of these laws can be interpreted different ways by different referees. And if you break a law, your opponents can take a penalty kick which could lose you three points. Therefore it is vitally important to learn about the individual referees, to know what they are keen on penalising, and to know whether blind spots are.

The same is surely true in business. It's all very well being an excellent project team, but sometimes the key point is not whether you can deliver your project in time, but whether it will pass the scrutiny of the local regulators. There is as much to be learned about regulatory compliance and legal compliance as there is about project delivery.

And yet, in all of the years in which I have been doing lessons learned from major projects, there has been almost no representation in the retrospect meetings from the company legal department. We have the project manager, the project engineeers, the HSE folks, procurement, quality and finance; but very selcdom any lawyers. That makes me wonder how much learning we have missed in the field of compliance with regulations.

Maybe in business we need to pay more attention to learning about the referee.

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