On EBM13 earlier this week I made the point that the departure of Koeman was a “disaster”. I didn’t mean it was necessarily the wrong decision to relieve the Dutchman of his duties, I meant that his departure was a hugely significant & disruptive operational event which would have a massive impact on the long term success of the business. It was an event from which the Club needed to recover quickly.
In the modern business world companies must plan and be as prepared as they can be for these potential occurrences: whether that be a power outage, a cyber attack, extreme weather or a terrorist act. It’s what’s known as Disaster Recovery (DR). Originally DR was the domain of technology businesses, banks and governments, but increasingly and, quite rightly, this has spread to companies of all shapes and sizes.
In very simple terms DR is an area of security planning that aims to protect an organization from the effects of significant negative events. DR allows an organization to maintain or quickly resume mission-critical functions.
So what would constitute a “disaster” for a football club?
Let’s leave aside the obvious match-day security challenges for which I am sure “Operation Goodison” is more than well-equipped; although I often worry how quickly the Top Balcony, where I sit, could be safely evacuated.
Let us also assume that the technology side of EFC, website, ticketing etc is also managed professionally through an outsourced service provider who is responsible (and accountable) for “security planning”.
The most significant “disaster” then, outside of the above, must surely be the departure of the Manager. Had Koeman been a bit more successful, well quite a lot more actually (!!), FC Barcelona could have come knocking and made him and EFC a knockout offer; or he could have had an accident that meant he couldn’t carry on his daily duties.
The point is that the Manager is critically important to the Club, to the Business, and his loss is a significant event to be classed as a Disaster. Let us also acknowledge that the loss of a key player should also be classed as a Disaster, so we should also add the sale of Lukaku into this category.
Neither event has to be disastrous, but the danger is that both will be.
The loss of Lukaku, and especially his goals, have certainly been disastrous because of our inability to secure a replacement in any way remotely comparable; the loss of Koeman must not and need not be.
In order to recover from a disaster you must resume “mission-critical functions” quickly and efficiently with minimal impact on customers and stakeholders. That needs a Plan, a joined up Plan that everyone within the organisation understands.
A Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is a documented, structured approach with instructions for responding to unplanned incidents. This step-by-step plan consists of the precautions to minimize the effects of a disaster so the organization can continue to operate or quickly resume all activities. Typically, disaster recovery planning involves an analysis of business processes and continuity needs. Before generating a detailed plan, an organization often performs a business impact and risk analysis, it establishes the recovery time objective and recovery point objective.
Way too much jargon there! The point is there is a process, a discipline and a structure. Furthermore, the risk analysis would be ongoing; in the case of the Manager this would be a regular review of performances, results, player development & recruitment. Did this happen with Koeman? If it did, with whom and how often?
So what would a Disaster Recovery Plan look like in the event of a manager leaving?
- Communication of departure with clear statement from Club to all stakeholders (tweaked as appropriate) across all Media channels
- Other Club staff
- Sponsors & Partners
- Interim Appointment
- Who and for how long?
- Executive team established to draw up criteria and timeline for search
- Agree salary, transfer budget, length of contract to be offered
- Extensive use of contact network/professional advisors
- How many candidates and by when?
- Appointment with target date (Recovery Time & Point Objective)
- Interview and selection process (inc references)
- Announcement to all stakeholders
Not all of the above would be shared publically of course. The key factor is communication, as John, Paul & I say so often. Clear and confident communication from the person who we need so much: the Chief Engagement Officer. This role is much more than fan liaison; it involves communication with the other Board members, with partners, sponsors, local and national print and digital media, fans, players etc. No specific details need to be revealed, and we don’t need daily updates with names. The stakeholders, including the fans of course, just need reassurance and reason to have faith and trust in the powers that be.
Any Disaster Recovery Plan must have clearly defined roles and responsibilities with timescales, allowing the day to day business of competing on the pitch and winning as many matches as possible to carry on in the interim period.
Had a similar Plan existed for Lukaku then it should have had built into it the premise that the sale would not have been sanctioned until the “replacement(s)” had been secured, signed and presented.
None of this is rocket science. It is just good business discipline and practice. It’s not even “best practice” anymore, it is standard practice.
The current “false 9” communication strategy, a cross between the Sound of Silence & Message in a Bottle, is woefully short of what’s needed. It leads many of us to believe that there is no Plan, no clear shared strategy, no accountability and no leadership.
Unless this changes the current operational disaster will have long term disastrous consequences on and off the pitch.