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Two very different games but there are lessons to be learned from each approach. Paul Addison, Director of Business Improvement, examines the differences between the two and how they relate back to today’s business world.


A game of attrition

It was probably inevitable that football was invented by the Brits and that ice hockey has never taken hold here. Just consider the basic premise of the 2 games for a moment.

Football, at least before FIFA got their hands on it and fiddled with the rules, was a game of attrition. A game for hardened men. It went on for 90 minutes with just one break. Reserves were only allowed in extraordinary circumstances and to have to leave the field of play was somehow to have failed.

It was played with a ball that soaked up the rain and became progressively harder to use. It was played on an increasingly muddy pitch and the 22 men that started were expected to finish. If, at the end of 90 minutes there was no result then, in some competitions, they were expected to play another 30 minutes. Very often the winners were the toughest team rather than the more talented team.


Regrouping, rethinking and recovery

Compare this to ice hockey. The game is played over a similar period but it is broken into smaller pieces to allow regrouping, rethinking and recovery. It is played faster and harder but (or is it because) nobody is expected to stay on the ice for too long.

Players, including the stars of the side, come and go through a mixture of tactics, the need to recover and sin bin offences. Players are kitted out for the risks they are taking. It is fast, hard and exciting.

The pace never falters and the high level of passion and commitment often leads to a boiling over into ‘ungentlemanly’ conduct. But the game goes on.


Which game are you playing?

So, is business more like football or ice hockey these days?

Indeed we can see that football is itself getting more and more like ice hockey!

Managers in many organisations are being faced with playing at ice hockey intensity, with the rules and resources of early football. Long hours and burn out are inevitable.

People often talk about the need to “be on the same team” but maybe the more urgent need is to identify which game is being played.

So, what game are you trying to play in your organisation and is it the same game as everybody else?

Chances are that both games are going on at the same time and a massive amount of energy is being lost as a result.

If you believe that your organisation has to make a move to Ice Hockey then make sure the whole organisation (or at least complete units) understands that need. The implications run very deep.


Find out how our business improvement services can help you here.


Haines Watts are Business Advisors in London providing strategic advice to owner managed companies. 

Want to know more? Call us on 01753 530333 or email

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