Wednesday, March 4, 2015

How to Park like the New Zealand All Blacks

Watching the mighty All Blacks beat the USA rugby team at Chicago in November made me think about how this team has become one of the most successful sports teams the world has ever seen.  The ‘All Blacks’ (reference to the colour of their uniform) are the national rugby team of New Zealand, and even taking into account the fact that there are only 4.5 million people in New Zealand, their achievements on the world stage and against much larger countries, have been mind-bogglingly successful.

To give you some idea of their stature, over the 144 years rugby has been played in New Zealand and the 130 years the All Blacks have been playing other countries, they have only ever been beaten by 5 countries, won 400 of their 524 games played at a win rate of 76%.  As of September 2014 this year, they are on a streak that includes 20 games in a row unbeaten and 36 games unbeaten at home, all against tier one international teams and in some hostile environments from Johannesburg to Buenos Aeries and now London to Chicago.  They became the first rugby nation in the professional era to achieve a 100% winning record in a calendar year.

 It’s difficult to compare their success because of subjectivity but records show some of the best local and international teams of all time are,

Win % Wins    Losses Year                Team   Comment

.764     400      124      1884-2014       NZ National All Blacks Rugby

.673     70        34        1914-2014       Brazil National Soccer Football

.878     72        10        1995–96          Chicago Bulls  best 82-game season

.825     60        8          1976–77          Montreal Canadiens

.798     67        17        1880                Chicago White Stockings

How do you create a winning team like the All Blacks?  How does an organisation go out to fashion a record almost unmatched around the world for any local or international sporting team, over such a long period?  I have tried to put down on paper a few of the immediately obvious traits that the All Black organisation clearly used to their benefit and these traits can be transposed over to a commercial parking organisation.


The definition of talent is a natural aptitude or skill.  I don’t believe this.  I believe talent comes from hard work and years of preparation.  You may have heard of the 10,000 hours (Malcolm Gladwell) it comes to becoming an expert.  Take Tiger Woods, he achieved expert status probably by the time he was 5-7 years old, and today that would be Lydia Ko. 

Access to or attracting the best talent is a major challenge for any organisation, but for one that has its eyes on being world class, it needs the best talent on board, with the best talent coming through in a wave right behind, pushing standards higher and higher.

To test this I went through a number of parking job vacancies online to check out what the vital and typical skill or talent was that if in abundance in your organisation, would transform you into a world class parking outfit.  There are no single set of skills that makes a parking person like accounting makes an accountant or law makes a lawyer.  Organisations have advertised for public administration, business administration, engineering, Bachelor Science, Bachelor Arts, or ANY 4 year degree.  To cloud the water even more, for my team here, I look for economics skills – the balance of supply & demand must be understood as a priority.  You can sub-contract the other skills.

Maybe identifying talent young, with basic skill sets and investing in them until they become world class is a way to improve your business. I don’t know of any parking company that does that.

Clarity of Purpose

The structure must be set to be focussed on ONE goal, success.

 The All Blacks are blessed with a structure in New Zealand where every town has a rugby club.  When New Zealand was being developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the rugby club was the place where all of the farmers and town folk would meet up.  It was like the town hall and so the game spread around the country.  Today you could not replicate that infrastructure simply.  Most sports organisations short circuit that process by having commercial relationships with other clubs around the world.  Parking companies should look at something similar to extend their influence and to access resources limited in their own environment.

The New Zealand Rugby Union controls ALL rugby in the country.  Every town has a team, every suburb or region has a representative team, every region flows into a provincial team and 26 provinces in New Zealand form the five Super Rugby franchises that compete with teams other countries that go from South Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand to Argentina … the long way around!  Each of these franchises from New Zealand form the All Blacks.  With that pyramid structure, it’s easy to see how THE single goal of a small country is a winning national rugby team.

Many companies including parking companies do not know what their single goal is and in not knowing that goal, they can’t organise themselves to achieve it in a world class fashion.  The All Blacks organise themselves to win international rugby matches better than anyone else in the world, what does your parking company do?

Complete Trust

 The management structure of the New Zealand Rugby Union gives the right to organise and run the rugby programme of the All Blacks to the All Blacks management.  They understand that the coach and players are the experts and will get it right.  Rugby Union focus is on supporting the team through good times and bad.  They trust completely that the team is doing the right things to achieve its goals.

How may cities, councils and perhaps companies trust their teams to get the job done?  An example of this is when the Councillors, Mayor or even the CEO give direction of operational matters like pricing.  Operational matters belong to operations and in this case the All Black team.  You wouldn’t hear of the Union instructing the All Blacks on tactics.

A Healthy Impatience

With a positive and achieving culture, supported by a trusting management structure, you can develop a team that pulls together during bad times and still manages to win, even in the last minute of the game.  However, to consistently beat the world, you must get there first.  This means that developing new technologies or new methodologies to operate your car park should be trialled and tested, even if no one else in the world has ever done it before.  Not rushed, just impatient.

Developing a healthy impatience or a positive edginess should be encouraged.  The All Blacks score more points than any opposition, even when they go a player down with a yellow card.  Even when they are 14 on 15 players, their record shows they rise and score more points.  This is a staggering achievement based on a desire to be the best in the world. 

The All Blacks have shown the world that to be world class you have to get a bunch of things right, all at the same time.  They don’t wait for others to achieve, they don’t wait for others to learn how the All Blacks do it and catch up, they keep challenging, testing, trialling, watching, adapting, recruiting, trusting, desiring and building.  Aren’t these traits we want in our business and the industry?

Kevin Warwood