Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Dr Rudi Webster/File Photo

Commentary by Dr Rudi V Webster

M.S Dhoni the captain of Team India once told me that the main difference between good teams and the others is the interval between mistakes. He said that the best teams learn from their mistakes and hardly ever repeat them. Lesser teams learn little and keep repeating them.

The latter is certainly true of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) whose leadership appears to be stuck with a style of thinking that perpetuates mistakes and inhibits learning, particularly in the areas of governance, team synergy and the management of key relationships.

For years the WICB has been operating in a ‘fight’ mode that has created more problems than it has solved. This is not surprising since combative thinking usually results in win/lose rather than win/win outcomes. One side wins and is happy and the other side loses and is angry and resentful.

This antagonistic attitude and the adversarial thinking that accompanies it have been the hallmark of the Cameron presidency and are a major cause of the very poor leadership and performance of the Board.  Adversarial thinking is very popular and is sometimes useful but it has one serious drawback. It does not encompass creative and innovative thinking, the building blocks of success in today’s highly competitive and rapidly changing world.  It is very difficult to prevent or resolve conflicts with conflict thinking.  The Board should therefore ask itself if its thinking and approach are really the best way to solve its problems, reverse its failure spiral and change the fortunes of West Indies cricket.

Recently, the Barriteau report pressured the leadership of the Board to contemplate this question and chances are that the Board will now use a different tactic. It will try to bargain and negotiate with the CARICOM Sub-Committee on Cricket.

Under normal circumstances, negotiation is better than fighting but in the current situation it is just as bad. CARICOM leaders must be vigilant and guard against falling into the Board’s trap. The leaders should be resolute and should remind the Board of its joint agreement and commitment last April to implement the recommendations of the Five-person Committee.

Negotiation is about compromise, arriving at a position that is somewhere between two existing positions. The problem with this approach is that it restricts us to what is already there and forces us to work within boundaries that already exist. It does not inspire the design of new frontiers. The common feeling around the Caribbean is that the Board will only change its structure and boundaries under great external pressure, and even so it will negotiate for cosmetic adjustments.

The major motivation of the Board’s leaders is undoubtedly the preservation of their power and position and they will do everything possible to protect these things, even if it means sacrificing some of their colleagues in the process.

For example, they might agree to reduce the number of representatives per Board from two to one as a first step. And as a smoke screen they might give the Board a new name or set up new departments like a new marketing company. These remedies are reminiscent of those used by Peter Chingoka and the Zimbabwe Cricket Board a few years ago when that Board was in trouble with the ICC.

Dysfunctional organizations often use problem-solving methods to overcome their difficulties. They analyze the problem, find the cause and then remove it or put it right.  They believe that once the cause is removed the problem would automatically be solved. But in complex interactive conditions finding a single cause might be difficult and if one is found organizations run the risk of staking everything on removing that cause and ignoring the rest of the situation. Remove the dictator and democracy will flourish; remove Cameron and West Indies cricket will flourish. Complex systems simply do not work that way.

What these organizations do not realize is that while the cause was in action the effects and changes were so widespread that it may no longer simply be a matter of removing the cause to solve the problem. In recent times the WICB has had six presidents and God knows how many CEOs. And yet the removal of these people did not change the fate or trajectory of West Indies cricket.

In the current situation, however, removing the leadership of the WICB and its disruptive culture are a vital and necessary first step in the rebirth of West Indies cricket. Failure to do so will compromise or abort that process.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world that we have made as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level as they were created.”  If that is true we need our people to address today’s problems from a different level of thinking (creative and innovative thinking) and from a different perspective. This is one of the major challenges of 21st Century leadership.

So far the leaders in the WICB have been unable to meet those requirements and it is doubtful whether they will be able to do so in the future, hence the need for urgent change.

The new Board’s thinking must be focused on a sense of purpose and a sense of fit. Form and structure must fit purpose and function. The Board must be able to identify the most important demands and challenges in the situations it faces or is about to face and have the capacity to tailor its resources, expertise, systems, structures and technology to fit those ever changing demands.

The fate of West Indies cricket will be evident in a few weeks. Let’s hope that commonsense prevails.

About Dr Rudi Webster

A champion track-and-field athlete in school, Dr Rudi Webster studied medicine at Edinburgh University (where he was sportsman of the year and played cricket for Scotland) and later to universities in New Zealand and Australia for postgraduate training. He taught at the Universities of McGill, Miami and Lund.

Dr Webster has done pioneering work in the mental component of performance and the mental conditioning of athletes. He has also worked with the national cricket teams of West Indies, Sri Lanka and India. He is the author of the books “Winning Ways: In Search of Your Best Performance” and “Think Like A Champion”.

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of GrenadaSports.

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