Change Management at Manchester United

courtesy: BBC

The week that just ended was extremely demanding for me. I needed to stay focused and organised as we welcomed the birth of our new baby. Amidst the stress of checking into a hospital and the trepidation that overwhelmed me on knowing the baby would be delivered through a surgical procedure, I still took time out to check the results of Manchester United’s games. Sadly, the two games ended in defeats for the current English Champions as Everton and Newcastle United came out with ‘rare’ away wins.

Wondering what HR has got to do with football? I answered this question in a previous blog post titled ‘Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement: The HR Perspective’. Football is about man management and providing leadership for a team of mega-millionaires. In that post, I wrote about the huge vacuum created by Sir Alex’s exit and how ambitious it would be expecting David Moyes to replicate his successes. I used Lewin’s Field theory to analyse the changes that took place at Manchester United.

The post also raised some concerns on whether David Moyes was the ideal replacement for Sir Alex. I suggested there existed proper succession planning within the club bearing in mind the ease at which Moyes was appointed. Traditional HR will always look inwards for a successor for Ferguson and this was not the case in this instance. Players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes should have stepped into the shoes of Sir Alex which would have paved way for continuity.

It is also important to know that businesses are becoming more adventurous by seeking for external talents to fill up vacant positions. This is the line which Manchester United decided to take by appointing David Moyes who knew nothing about what the club represented. How effective has the change been? The answer is obvious, it has been a disaster. Like I always say, change unsettles the still water. Complete overhauling of the coaching crew, a more rigorous style of training and experimentation with players’ positions have all unsettled a winning team. This is the worst Premier League start for the reigning Champions in a long time.

An HR perspective to the change at United reveals that things could have been done in a way the winning momentum can be sustained. Sir Alex’s assistants – Rene Meulensteen, Mike Phelan and the goalkeeping coach Eric Steele were all relieved of their jobs. If these people had been encouraged to stay and work with Moyes, it could be argued that things could have been better. These changes also coincided with the exit of the club Chief Executive, David Gill. The former Chief Executive understands the business aspect of football and also the daily operations of football management. He was replaced by Ed Woodward whose overseeing of the transfer market in his first outing has been described as ‘shoddy’.

Manchester United currently sits ninth on the League table and fourteen points adrift of current leaders, Arsenal. The dwindling fortunes of the club can be partly attributed to the exit of Sir Alex which further testified to the man’s ability and leadership qualities. While it might be too simple to count the club out of contention for the title this season, attention should be focused in qualifying for next season Champions League – Europe’s elite club championship. A slip out of this competition will affect the financial fortunes of the club. At Manchester United, it has been one change too many.

Bashir Mudi Baba can be engaged on Twitter via handle @El_De_Bash             

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4 thoughts on “Change Management at Manchester United

  1. Well outlined piece. Wholesale changes will always have a ripple effect, mostly negative, on any organization.
    Some changes can reverse the downward spiral at Man United again. We find a team more experienced in different battles than their handlers. That alone does not augur well for any organization.
    How do you give someone more experienced a boss who is inferior in terms of the same? It simply means the boss has come to learn on the job.
    Big up sir

  2. Nice piece. Too bad for Manchester United, because I personally resigned (by suspending) my loyalty to the club as a fan after the last defeat to new castle. For now, am looking for a club to woo me in as a new supporter.

    Bash, talking about Change Management, the Former GM of GE proposed that episodic (large scale) changes can be introduced into organisations first by introducing series of incremental (little) changes, then gradually followed by the episodic change. This would help cushion the impacts of shock and dismay that usually comes with episodic changes.

    I am sceptical on how well the change initiative at ManU was planned and managed. First of all, the inevitable retirement of a well famous, widely celebrated and influential Sir Alex was episodic enough to shake the entire club off its global esteem. Second, to accompany the untold retirement with a thunderous replacement of the entire back room staff at the same time was a an approval for catastrophic commotions. Two episodic changes of these magnitudes at the same time? No organisation would ever remain the same. Except COERCION is adopted as an instrument to combat resistance and gain employees’ support. Unfortunately, you cant force players to score goals, football is more technical than that. It was a complete overhaul of leadership, the entire staff, players and supporters would need some time to blend into the system. Until that time finally comes, all attention should be devoted to making it come faster.

    I hope to return then…

    Good-luck ManU

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