Discover your certification today Browse
Open page navigation

Question: Starting from there, how did we get to here? Answer: Olympic success and effective Change Management

Scenario: Atlanta 1996: 1 Gold, 8 Silver & 6 Bronze. Total 15 -- Rio 2016: 27 Gold, 23 Silver & 17 Bronze. Total 67

Over a 4x improvement in elite performance delivery and success.

Was Change Management involved?

Some background: As Janan Ganesh wrote in the Financial Times (16.8.16)

“Britain’s resurgence as an Olympic nation, its near-primacy in Rio traceable to funds…from a lottery set up in 1994…” (Trying to stay away from the politics and distribution of funding.) Andrew Bounds writing from Lilleshall for the Weekend FT on 20/21 August 2016 in a very informative article headed UK Sports ‘tough love’ puts gymnasts on a roll – from which I quote, “The British were a laughing stock,” says Vera Atkinson who competed for Bulgaria in the 1960s & 70s as Vera Marinova and who now works for the British Olympics. Vera also said, “There have been two generations of hard work and this is a dream come true.”

The fulfillment of that dream shows the impact of government body, UK Sport which utilized Lottery money & ‘tough love’ to achieve record results.

Question: Was Change Management involved?

Answer: Yes!

Let me expand a little on the ’yes’:

I’m making an assumption that everyone is familiar with the supply chain theory and how value is created with each link in the chain.

In your operating reality how much value do your supply chains really deliver and what changes would you love to make, but can’t “because…”

One of the supposed the ’big beasts’ of macroeconomics is the ’trickle/flow down’ effect. Sounds very simple but is it?

During the 2007 Financial Crisis there was a lot of talk around funding the Banks and how this money would flow through to ‘the man in the street’ (hope you received yours, I didn’t get any).

My point in mentioning this is the funding of UK Sport and its distribution of funding to support the Olympics’ success really works. For example, the Lottery Funding flows to UK Sport who then distributes it using ‘tough love’ and performance criteria; 1996 to 2016…more than a4x improvement sustained over time.

How many of our value chains could match that?

So to the relevance of the UK Sport Model to Change Management:

  • An agreed view of ‘what good looks like’ at the Senior Sponsor level and how it will be achieved
  • Sustaining and evolving Strategy to Delivery based on strong performance criteria over time
  • One of the key differentiators between UK Sport and some other organisations is the application of consequence.

You perform, you get funding, you don’t no funding.  Some would say harsh. However, the performance criteria are known by all – as are the consequences

  • Think about your Change Programmes and Review Meetings for a minute. Even with those around for a while, does everyone really agree what “good looks like”?
  • Think about individual contributions. ARE these technically and behaviorally at the highest level or do we make it easy to avoid what really needs to be done by using phrases like: we all know what [insert name] is like so we’ll do the best we can with sponsors not sponsoring, leaders not leading and managers not managing.
  • As a compare/contrast between UK Sport and other organisations. In UK Sport performance & consequence are clearly understood by all and applied. Compare this approach with nearly every Performance Programme, Development Programme or associated performance bonus payment. I’m pretty confident that you and I would agree, there is room for improvement in application and consequence.

A few closing remarks.

  • If you haven’t read it – Sir Clive Woodward’s book ‘Winning!’ is a great read on the breadth and depth he and his team had to cover to get the English Rugby Team ready to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup. It was close enough but they did it.
  • But there is a question they did it in 2003, when next?
  • Just before posting this blog I was searching on the BBC Sport website and found a report on the English FA and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
  • The Chair of the English FA, Greg Dyke, said that England should win the World Cup (2013).
  • The current Chair of the FA, Greg Clarke, revised his predecessor’s vision for England that the country should be ‘ready’ to win the competition, rather than it being an expectation.
  • “I’m not going to put pressure on and say we are going to win this tournament or that tournament,” said Clarke.
  • The English Premier League is the richest in the World, so funding shouldn’t be a problem. It is generally acknowledged as the most competitive. 1966 is a long time ago – maybe it’s time for the FA to apply some UK Sport-based Change Management?
  • What do you think are the chances of success based on a Leadership Vision of being ‘Ready’?
  • Learn more about the crucial elements that constitute a successful Change programme with one of our accredited Change Management providers


Mountain biker flying into oncoming trees

Management of Risk

Make informed decisions regarding risk

View more
orange butterfly approaching an orange flower

Change Management

Change can be beautiful

View more
Towering skyscrapers from ground perspective

CHAMPS2® - Business Change

Facilitating a business' rise to greatness

View more