Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Identity, Information, Relationships - the way forward for Irish Rugby

In his latest piece @BigJoeShep examines the IRFU's long term vision 

This weeks piece is simple, hopefully not long but is aimed to engage thought, debate and a better understanding of Irish Rugby and where it proposes to go. The links to the IRFU strategic documents are included. When I use the term Irish Rugby, it is meant in the very widest sense.


The IRFU have a number of documents that are designed to align their strategy, vision and future development,  Strategic View 2013 - 2017, "Plan Ireland" are the main ones but it is the excellent and very honest document "Vision 2020 - Emerging Themes" that should capture your imagination and want to go to the nearest piece of grass and re-live your favourite rugby moment.

Whilst the Strategic Review covers what you would expect, it is for me the foundation for development and that’s all. A paragraph from Plan Ireland's introduction sets the scene...

As part of its response to the 2011 Review, the IRFU Committee agreed to develop Plan Ireland, an integrated plan for professional rugby in Ireland, which would recognise the primacy of the National Team and the need to deliver consistent success for the National team in the Six Nations while at the same time sustaining success by the provincial teams in the ERC and the Pro-12 League. The ultimate focus of Plan Ireland would be improved results in the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.


Vision 2020 however has allowed the IRFU to accept and publicly acknowledge that there ARE issues within Irish Rugby from the top through the provincial setup down to grassroots.

It accepts that whilst people generically understand the “Ethos of Rugby”, they don’t always get the values, especially within the Irish setup …………...The values (of Irish Rugby) are implicit rather than explicit and this allows stakeholders to interpret or create their own definitions depending on their role or focus.  But isn’t that a human issue? Individuals will view things differently based on their roles, systems, experiences, own vision? Can we honestly expect to get a true agreement and consensus across the whole piece?

Regarding the Strategic View 2013 - 2017, they admit……… was not implemented in a focused inclusive way for all levels of the sport. This ultimately means the vision and strategy are not lived and do not guide the sport in Ireland.


The IRFU now sees itself not merely as the lead, nor even as the main key stakeholder, but that of a facilitator and that………..Resources and expertise are not being maximized at the level they need to be to address the tensions and challenges that exist in Irish Rugby. Worse, problems and tensions are being abdicated to others to resolve.


Furthermore they opine that………...Irish Rugby needs to recognize that a problem for one Province or for the IRFU is a problem for the whole sport and needs to be resolved collectively. No one Province or indeed the IRFU will find the solution and each Province and its stakeholders are part of the overall solution.


And the acceptance of………….Moving forward it is clear that existing and future challenges and tensions need to be openly acknowledged, defined, owned and resolved collectively by the rugby family.


Wow, normally I get easily bored of reading ANY corporate document, but this had me enthralled. The openness, clarity, acceptance of Irish Rugby “As Is” are breathtaking, not because it’s what we want to read (we all know what most of the problems and issues are), but because we are genuinely not normally given this level of acceptance, stance and vision. The IRFU are clearly not following a standard corporate or NGO structure, view or line, but seem to be standing out and saying, if we want to get to where we want to be, we need to accept where we are and what it will take ALL involved to get there!


Within the area of leadership, they state……...It requires people to act at a transformational level of leadership. I have written and opined much on the leadership issues on and off the park with Leinster Rugby this year. Clearly there is STILL room for improvement? Leaders lead. Stand up and take Ownership of Responsibility!


The key areas that will be the overarching ethos are;

→ Identity – moving from separated to oneness

→ Information – moving from silo to system

→ Relationships – moving from power over to power to


They accept that ALL levels of the game from schools, clubs, provinces, fans, (followers or supporters - not getting into that debate again!) MUST be involved in the decision making processes. It is about one 32 county platform that will benefit all within Irish Rugby and not turning club etc rugby into a professional game, but keep it at the heart of the community.


They very well espouse that information and knowledge must be harnessed and shared openly.………...where people can share (information &) knowledge that enhances the collective knowledge to make informed decisions.


As Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at (shameless plug I know, but hey), this aspect I found gets to the very heart of most issues that stifle growth, development and success in organisations from small to mediums right through to the larger ones.


In today's world it’s about creating the right opportunities to Engage, Understand, Share & Collaborate. It’s no longer about hoarding of knowledge. It’s about getting the Right Information to the Right Person at the Right Time in the Right Place to allow an informed Business Decision to be made. From an Irish Rugby perspective and from Vision 2020, they wish to……..Ensure the information available at an international level informs the Irish rugby family and vice versa. This means Irish Rugby must create the conditions to allow a free flow of information & knowledge from clubs to national level and back again.


Moving forward the recommendations for Irish Rugby are that……….. In creating a new vision for Irish Rugby some stakeholders will have to ‘give up’ roles and responsibilities, power and status and others will have to ‘take on’ roles and responsibilities. Oh and this recommendation is from when originally?...................a report into New Zealand 15 years ago.


In sum, this is a flavour. A must read document. I have never been so fired up and was glad I did so after reading the first two, standard, usual, corporate ones which said what we usually expect to get………….Vision 2020 will however, if it can be accepted at all levels and driven through by a newer and dare I say more flexible thinking types at all levels, ensure Irish Rugby can be the envy of schools, clubs, provinces/regions/franchises and national teams across the globe and place Ireland at the forefront of World Rugby… every sense  Faugh A Ballagh!

The Big Fella

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management atDigital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)
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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019