As October draws to a close, the entire world of rugby is focused on the finals of the 2015 rugby world cup, well, almost the entire world of rugby.
For the host nation, the month of October must surely have felt never ending.
There has become a depressing inevitability to English sporting shortcomings at world tournaments, both our football and rugby teams have consistently failed to deliver their potential on the biggest stage but for that failure to occur at the home of English rugby brings a whole new level of misery to players and fans alike.
Like the jilted spouse forced to remain in the marital home all the while watching their ex partner fully embrace the single life, England have had to watch on from the sidelines as other nations have battled and performed heroics in contrast to England’s own whimpering display.
In contrast, as if to add insult to injury, England’s closest neighbours, Scotland and Wales both produced valiant campaigns bursting with courage and commitment.
One clear voice
While the press has crawled over every tactical decision made and scrutinized every player performance in an attempt to attribute culpability to individuals, the true culprit of England’s demise lies not solely at the feet of poor player performances or inadequate tactical nous but rather in a systematic breakdown in communication across the England Rugby setup.
Starting with England’s poor performance at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, England Rugby has presided over an amateur, ill disciplined and at every turn divisive approach to communication.
In the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup campaign, England Rugby undertook a wide-ranging investigation into the failings of the squad.
Players were encouraged to come forward and speak candidly about their experience with the promise of complete anonymity and confidentiality.
The report made for decidedly uncomfortable reading, players complained of overbearing and disorganized media commitments, fellow players motivated only by greed, a complete lack of communication between all levels of England Rugby and a lack of leadership.
Players were concerned that there was no singular voice coming out of the England camp, no unified message but rather individuals with their own agenda speaking on everyone’s behalf.
That members of the England Rugby setup then decided to leak the report to the press served to confirm the self-serving nature of communication at England Rugby. What followed was a complete breakdown in trust amongst players, coaching staff and the hierarchy of the England camp.
Learn from your mistakes!
Four years on and little seems to have changed. England Rugby’s defence of their disastrous handling of their 2011 report as tough lessons needing to be learnt rings completely hollow from the evidence of an even poorer World Cup campaign.
Within days of England’s exit from this World Cup, players were raising the exact same concerns mentioned four years previously. Players felt isolated and unsupported by a complete lack of communication both internally and externally from England Rugby.
When communication did come through press reports or social media, the message was often contradictory or vague. With so many avenues for communication open now and a press desperate to fill a never-ending news cycle, organisations must take control of their message.
The speed and ease of misinterpretation inherent in digital communication and social media necessitates a back to basics approach when handling communication.
When many voices make up your organisation it’s imperative to have them all working in unison rather than playing catch up with a game of digital Chinese whispers.
Perhaps if England Rugby had taken the time to utilize a well-run conference call detailing their strategy and message in an unambiguous and clear manner, England might have been taking to the field in the final this weekend rather than our antipodean cousins.