I read with interest yesterday one of the countless news stories about David Moyes and his ill-fated stint as Manchester United manager.
Apparently he and I share a liking for a book on leadership called Good to Great, by Jim Collins. The fact that he was known to be reading this book was, it seems, one of the things that lost him the respect of the players. It is a shame that someone’s attempts to learn more and improve through reading was seen to be a weakness, but then professional footballers are known for their open-mindedness of course.
Good to Great was written as a result of an extensive research programme into what had caused some of the US’s most successful companies to make the leap, over a sustained long term period, from being merely good to being great, compared with their comparison companies.
The real irony of this is that one of the main messages of the book is that promoting from within is usually more successful than bringing in outsiders to fill senior leadership roles. In case you have managed to avoid all the news stories, Moyes was of course brought in from a rival club at the end of last year. Since being sacked by United, the directors have made Ryan Giggs interim manager. Giggs is a one-club man who has been with United for 23 years. He is the personification of what Collins describes as a perfect “company man” for promotion to the top job in order to allow sustained success to continue. There is speculation as I write that another outsider will be brought in to be full time manager, but many people think Giggs should get the job.
The United board and (American) owners, as advised by the previous manager of 27 years, Alex Ferguson, have with the benefit of hindsight, made two major errors already in my opinion: hiring Moyes and firing Moyes. Are they going to compound these errors by bringing in another outsider or will they heed the advice in Moyes’ copy of Good to Great and give the job to Giggs, and at the same time restore United’s position as a genuinely different and special club compared with their rivals?
I heard someone (a fan I think) being asked on TV about the situation at Manchester United the other day. They said something that summed up the club for me: “We are about glory, not just winning”. If the club believe this to be true I think they will opt for Giggs.
What’s your experience of hiring leaders and MDs from outside the company – is Collins right that they struggle to succeed? (And, more importantly, who do you think should get the United job?)