The Curse of Mid-Table Mediocrity
In the English Premier League, it is hotting up at top and bottom – with about 6 games to go, there’s just four points separating the top 3 teams and 5-7 points separating the relegation zone and the teams hovering above. It is, as the cliché goes, all to play for.
But in the middle is a dead zone. Teams like Southampton, Newcastle and Stoke could win or lose all their remaining games and their fortunes would be unlikely to change. This is the zone of mid-table mediocrity and, if like me you’re an armchair Newcastle fan, it’s a dismal end to what was a sometimes exciting season as the cosseted overpaid playboys players can hardly be bothered.
This analogy came up at yesterday’s Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group meeting (I’ll post a full report next week). What happens if your performance is good enough to avoid the wrath of NGOs, regulators, customers and employees in the sustainability relegation zone, but lacks the competitive excellence shown by the Champions League of Interface, Marks & Spencer, Unilever at al? It is all too easy to embrace the comforts of mediocrity and simply drift. I’m not talking about you personally, of course (you are reading this after all), but your board, your shareholders, your senior managers.
It is, as the Masterminds agreed, a false comfort. As with professional sport, people might think they are standing still in this game, but they will soon start drifting down the table as others improve – often so gently that they don’t realise until they’re in the drop zone. Breaking out of such complacency and putting some vim back into performance is a real challenge – as many a football manager can attest.