At Their Dysfunctional Best

By David

It hasn’t taken long. Yesterday we predicted Swimming New Zealand would eventually launch a campaign to undermine the findings of the Moller Report. We never expected “eventually” would mean less than twenty four hours. Tonight SNZ dived into round one of their counter offensive. Chris Morgan, the SNZ National Learn to Swim Manager sent an email to everyone on the SNZ database pleading for New Zealand to overturn Moller’s recommendation that SNZ get out of learn to swim. The email included a four page submission “on behalf of the management and staff of Swimming New Zealand to the draft findings and recommendations of the Independent Review of Swimming New Zealand”.

Of course Chris Morgan thinks that getting out of learn to swim is a bad idea. His submission is full of the same mismanagement clap-trap that has come out of that Wellington office for years. If you want to read an example of why Moller’s recommendations should be implemented in full, read the Chris Morgan submission.

Here are examples of plain old fashioned bad management; examples of why we are in a mess; examples of the malaise Moller has set out to fix.

Quote: “All these people now have some positive awareness of and feelings towards the Swimming New Zealand brand.”

I’m not sure where Morgan has been for the past three years. Didn’t he read the Inesson Report? Eighty percent of the people interviewed for that document had a very negative opinion of SNZ. They thought SNZ was a shambles. The reason Moller was asked to prepare this report was certainly not because the whole of NZ thought the organization was wonderful.

Quote: “SNZ is a “one stop shop” for swimming. It has a pathway from learn to swim through to high performance.”

Here in lies one of the real SNZ problems. Morgan would not be the first person to believe that control of the whole process makes the organization better at the individual parts. Dozens of companies have gone under pursuing the dream of “one stop shop”. The organization may have a pathway from learn to swim to high performance, but it is a bad one. Since Danyon Loader’s Atlanta success SNZ has failed to win a medal at the Olympic Games. SNZ may be sending a largish team to the London Games, but consider this. If the dozen or so members of our team had been living in Australia only two would be going to London. Morgan needs to understand that the way he and his mates in Wellington are doing it now, does not work. The “one stop shop” has failed.

Quote: “It did not provide any evidence that the ‘teach the teachers’ programme impeded any of the other SNZ roles and responsibilities.”

SNZ’s primary function is to manage the affairs of competitive swimming. For ten years that job has been done badly. Generation after generation of swimmers have come and gone and, at an Olympic Games, we have won nothing. That is a poor return on the sixteen million dollars or so that Miskimmin has spent on this sport. The reason is not that the athletes have not been up to the job. The reason is that Byrne, Coulter, Cameron and the Board have managed the place badly. Like Morgan they wanted to rule the New Zealand swimming world. They knew best. Well they didn’t and failure has been the result. There is every evidence that the “teach the teachers’ program” has impeded other SNZ roles. It is certainly not the only reason but the diverse nature of managing learn to swim and competitive swimming has been too much for the skills available in the organization; too much for them to handle. Moller is right. Pass learn to swim over to someone who specializes in that field and concentrate on SNZ’s core activity. Perhaps then we will stop losing international swimming races. Perhaps the sport will become a fairer and more decent place. Perhaps then swimmers will not have to shift from their homes to receive the support of their country.

Quote: “To ensure the growth and success of competitive swimming in New Zealand learn to swim teachers and swimming club coaches need to collaborate to ensure that similar philosophies are encouraged. This will only happen if both LTS and competitive coaching sit under the national body.”

There is no evidence to support the view that the growth of competitive swimming depends on similar philosophies being followed throughout the organization. That socialist propaganda has been peddled at a hundred miles an hour by Byrne and his Board. It is an argument intended solely for the purpose of SNZ gathering power. The most successful swimming nation on earth has diversity and difference as its defining characteristic. Salo in Los Angeles is hugely different from Boweman in Baltimore or me in Florida or Schubert in California. There was little of no connect between what we did and the Red Cross program that ran the majority of the country’s learn to swim. Diversity, competition and the interplay of competitive philosophies work best. They offer parents a choice and that is good and successful. Morgan’s vision of a “whole of sport socialist regime” is Marxist nonsense. It is not good and in competitive sport will not be successful.

Moller has made the recommendation that SNZ should concentrate on its knitting for very good business management reasons. He has recognized that SNZ’s management has been stretched too thin and has failed as a result. In reaching that judgement Moller’s commercial experience has been vital. He will have seen the same malaise many times before. Instead of questioning his recommendation Chris Morgan would be well advised to look closely at the Moller decision. SNZ are getting the benefit of Moller’s huge commercial experience. Decisions like this one have been made from a background of sound business experience. In this case Moller is right. His recommendation is a good one. Understanding the reasons Moller wants change would help Chris Morgan become a better learn to swim manager; only not at SNZ.