When these pleasantries are over, the conversation will then turn to the business at hand. At this point you would expect that those people, who know more about their tasks in hand than they do about football, would be able to apply the same razor sharp logic and analysis to deliver simple, pithy solutions. Certainly, you would think they would be very clear about what they had to do, and how they were going to handle the task or project. But so often the clarity that exists with the sporting analyses disappears when the individual is confronted with the complexities of work in hand.
Business conversation tends to get stuck at the level of minute analysis – the single pass or lack of pass by an individual. But have you ever heard somebody say: "Beckham should have passed the ball two seconds earlier by hitting it with the middle metatarsus of his left foot with a cross-swinging action, to deliver the ball onto the head of Campbell?" No, and you never will.
Yet in in the construction world, we are only too happy to miss the big picture in favour of the minute detail. Why? The aim of a football match is obvious, and the rules more clearly identified and understood. And there is an instant, unchallengeable referee, so there are no long disputes. But perhaps the most important reason is that the whole team plays for a team result: the individuals subsume their own input to achieve a team result.
A great football team is likely to perform badly if it is not supported by a coach off pitch, and it's the same situation for our project teams. We may have fielded a full squad of workers with a wide range of technical and managerial skills, but if they do not work in harmony, the spectators will see a lacklustre – or just plain lucky – performance. Similarly, if your project team does not feel like a team or have the motivation to win, no amount of shouting on the pitch will motivate it.
You would expect that those people, who know more about their jobs than football, would apply the same logic to their work
So here is the question that's been niggling me: what is it that stops us really applying our skills in sporting analysis to our work environment? Two aspects of the football scenario are, more often than not, missing from most work teams – spectators and the coach.
Let us try and imagine construction roles that fit these descriptions. A coach helps you to understand how you are doing things, and then helps you understand how to adjust your actions to improve both your own and the team's performance. Now ask yourself who could fit this description in any of your current teams. Who can you ask to help you improve your handling of meetings? Who helps you if your understanding of projects is insufficient? There are no coaching role models in our industry. Any resource that is not project-led or process-focused tends to be cut, both because the margins are thin and, it must be said, because if you do carry any extra resources this will be unfairly represented in any cost analysis.
As to the spectator role, we, the general public and our clients, fulfil this role very well – and, by all accounts, construction companies don't think too highly of us. Compare that with football teams. They get to know very quickly if their fans don't like their performance – they get less support the following week.
Paul Hodgkinson is chief executive of Simons Construction.