This weekend, the underdog Bodø/Glimt, from a town of 50,000 people, became the 2020 national champions in football in Norway. A few weeks ago, they even made it to the New York Times, with an article headlined: “Norway Has a Must-See Team. Barely Anyone Can Watch It”. The corona virus kept most spectators away from the stadium this season, but playing football in a small town north of the polar circle doesn’t really attract a big crowd anyway.
All sports produce underdog stories. We remember Leicester City winning the Premier League and Iceland making it to the World Cup. There are some common ingredients in these stories. Typically, about a charismatic coach, a group of players with something to prove or a new style or insight that gives the team a certain edge. For the Bodø/Glimt players, it seems to be all of the above. The edge is their relentless focus on performance, rather than results.
I think we can learn from this. In 2018 we benchmarked our results with competitors and discovered a clear gap in results. Our operations were not delivering the same output as our competitors. We tried to fill the gap by identifying low hanging fruits, we brought in experience from the outside and created heat-maps by production site to identify the hot spots. From these efforts, we did see improvements, but not at the pace we were hoping for. This year we have taken one step back, realizing that only focusing on the results generates stress rather than creativity and stability. What we needed was to build a much stronger foundation.
The core of the Bodø/Glimt squad is homegrown, with 40% of the players being local. Over the years of playing together, strong relations and patterns have developed. I believe that in high-performing organizations, you typically find good technology, a robust and common approach, strong culture but also a lot of built-in knowledge. Knowledge that is there, but is hard to identify, that comes from years of working together, accumulating a certain understanding and ways of operating that is hard to copy.
We are in the process of establishing best-in-class digital solutions, great reporting and benchmarking and a structured approach to the transfer of best practice. This is necessary, but not sufficient. We also have to make sure that we better ‘know what we know’, and ‘know what we don’t know’. We are spending time together in training sessions, in projects and working inside and outside functions to increase the collective understanding. When we realised we had to cancel our annual physical leadership conference this year, we didn't just replace it with one digital conference, but with five. I am confident that this is the cement we need to fix the building blocks. And from a solid base, we are in a much better position to monitor, test, learn and improve.
Bodø/Glimt wants to make sure that the adventure doesn’t end in 2020. Their ambition is to keep developing, to make this year’s victory the first.
Being semi-local (my mother came from a neighboring town), I am proud of the team’s achievement. Perhaps more importantly, the lessons from the guys about focusing on what drives performance rather than the results is a great reminder and inspiration.