At Corona, we assist many clients perform at a higher level either directly through our strategic consulting practice or through our primary research and analytic practices where we help clients uncover the right answers to the questions most important to them. However, while we work with many clients, it is always interesting to see other “strategies” in play, such as the ones that just wrapped up in France, and the commonalities between what we do and what they do.
Like many of my cycling and triathlon friends, I have been captivated by the Tour de France for the past several years. I can’t seem to watch enough of the race. I can’t even turn away from the “boring” stages, I want to watch it all. When I watched my first Tour, I thought the race was simple: whoever gets from point A to point B fastest wins. Period. I had no idea the race was much more complicated. I soon found that not everyone who races in the Tour is racing to win and only 5-10 enter the race with winning the Tour on their minds. This was a big surprise. In fact, each rider is on a team of 9 men all having a particular role in helping their best all around rider win the race whether that assistance is pacing their leader up a steep mountain pass, going back to the team car to get food, or making sure the leader’s other rivals do not pull away. I was fascinated how important a role strategy plays in a multi-stage bike race. Pushing hard for the entire race may seem like the best (and only) way to win, but in fact it is a sure way to lose; knowing when to attack and where to attack are often more important than brute strength and aerobic capacity. Even pulling away from the closest rivals when they are suffering and vulnerable may not be a wise choice if that means pulling away from teammates who may be needed down the road.
A solid strategy is worthless if it is not followed. Each rider on the team must execute his role in order to help the overall team. The Tour pushes the cyclists, as one of the Tour commentators would say, to “dig deep into their suitcase of courage” and when the men are pushed this hard, one mistake or deviation from the strategy can cost a leader the race. Because the cyclists are human, many things can go wrong including injuries or illness. The team managers must be master tacticians to change the strategy on the road as the race progresses. The changes in strategy may be quite different from the previous strategy, but ultimately it must lead the team toward the goals determined at the outset of the race.
So congratulations to Alberto Contador and team Astana (and their strategist/manager Johan Bruyneel) on their great planning and execution – it’s truly how champion (organizations) are made.