Failure of Culture: Australian Cricketers do the Unthinkable.

Cricket Bowler in Action

The game of cricket is central to Australia’s self-image – we believe we play the game hard but fair and always within the spirit of giving everyone a fair go, whether it be a sport, business or in our relationships with people. As a country, we don’t cheat but want to win fair and square.

When someone does something wrong, we say “it’s just not cricket”.

Universally recognized as the greatest cricketer (and one of the greatest sportsman anywhere) of all time, Australian Sir Donald Bradman, said: “When considering the stature of an athlete, I place great store on certain qualities to be essential in addition to skill. They are that a person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and perhaps most of all modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination, and competitiveness”.

In March 2018 when the Australian cricket captain, vice-captain and a new player to the team were caught on camera and admitted to a preplanned act to illegally tamper with the cricket ball during a game to make it more difficult for the opposition batsmen to hit, it struck at the heart of what it means to play the game, but more fundamentally struck at the heart of who Australians think they are as a nation – “we are not cheaters”.

In the 2015 Deflategate controversy in America’s National Football League (NFL) it was alleged that Tom Brady, the famous New England Patriots quarterback, probably knew of the footballs being supplied for games by his team were deliberately deflated. This ended with Brady receiving a 4 game suspension and the Patriots receiving sanctions.

This is not new in cricket, football or in other sports – think cycling, think baseball, think Olympic athletes from a myriad of countries and sports. In some countries and sports, cheating is systematic and inherent in their culture.

But for Australian cricket, this was a tangible result of a failure of culture ending in an uproar from cricket fans and the public. Standards of the on-field behavior of Australian cricketers have been deteriorating for years with “sledging” (personal insults) of opposition cricketers becoming the norm. This type of mindset has lead to a “win at all costs” culture and ultimately to a belief that doing something illegal (so long as you can get away with it) is acceptable. Some reports suggest that this ugly behavior has flowed down through the grades of cricket even to schoolboy cricket.

Unlike the famous All Blacks, New Zealand’s world champion national rugby union team, Australian cricket – some players, coaching staff, administrators – has lost sight of who are its most important stakeholders – namely the fans and its custodian role of representing the pride of the Australian nation. In preplanning the ball tampering act no-one asked the question: “What would the fans think of this?” or “What would the average Australian think of us doing this?” More broadly – “what do the majority of Australians think of our on-field behavior?” There was no consideration of the legacy left by Sir Donald Bradman.

This been a breach of trust that will take time and sustained effort to regain. It has also resulted in commercial losses from withdrawn sponsorships and likely reduced revenue from broadcast rights.

This is a lesson to all of us in business. What are we there for? – only ourselves or some greater cause?

When you are in doubt over a decision you are taking, ask the question: “What would our customers think of us doing this?” or even more personally “What would my mother think of us doing this?”

But, there’s an even bigger question.

Do we have a corporate culture that encourages good behavior and automatically doing the right thing by our customers and our community?

While seemingly abstract, your company culture produces tangible results for your customers – good or bad.

Our vision at MarketCulture is to help leaders understand the importance of building a customer-obsessed culture by engaging employees (or cricketers!). Our assessment, the MRI, provides valuable feedback to help leaders act on what is vital to deliver great customer experiences, which will lead to increased business performance.

Is your company customer obsessed? MarketCulture has a unique tool that can provide the strengths and weaknesses of your customer culture against 100’s of companies like Virgin, Apple, Google, and Amazon. Mention this post for a free pilot of the MRI today!

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