Organisational Creep

 We have all heard of excuses for not rushing change. “More haste, less speed” and “take it easy” come to mind. There is good sense in these sayings. “Act in haste and repent at leisure” has a lot of merit. But really the speed of change at Swimming New Zealand makes the progress of a garden snail look like a Ferrari at top speed.

But possibly we should not be questioning Swimming New Zealand’s management of change. After all, the Chairman, Bruce Cotterill, has published books and sold speeches on that very subject. The Celebrity Speakers’ website tells me Cotterill “is a passionate leader of change, and is genuinely interested in business performance improvement. He is a lifetime leader, who focuses on clear objectives, enhanced personnel engagement and improved customer orientation. He has continuously delivered vastly improved results through his involvement in organisations.”

With that resume the performance of Swimming New Zealand is a mystery beyond reason. Take the appointment of Gary Francis for example. Remember when he was appointed as the Targeted Athlete and Coach Manager? This was going to be the change that would lead New Zealand swimming into the 21st Century. This was the dawn of a new era. This was Cotterill and Johns in action; breathing life into their drowning sport.

Well the appointment was announced in January 2018. Note, the “NZ Swim” Facebook page says it was in February but, as usual, they get the facts wrong. Anyway Francis has been paid by the Swimming New Zealand membership for four months and what has happened. In wages we have probably paid Francis the thick-end of $50,000 and what Targeted Athlete and Coach results have we got in return. Not a damn thing is the answer.

On the 24 April 2018 the admittedly unreliable “NZ Swim” Facebook page tells me that:

The targeted athlete and coach programme is an initiative that will form part of the refreshed Swimming New Zealand High Performance Strategy that will be communicated to the swimming community shortly.

This communication was hoped to have been done before the National Age Group champs last week, but this has been brought back to be communicated towards the end of May and beginning of June in meetings in regions such as Auckland, Taranaki, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Specific details of these meetings will be communicated to the swimming regions.

That was a month ago, we are now well into the “end of May” period and we have heard nothing. No meetings have been arranged, nothing. With the exception of the “NZ Swim” item, which, at best, needs to be treated as school yard gossip, the membership has been kept in the dark. I imagine Cotterill’s Celebrity Speakers’ guests would love to know that their instructor’s idea of managing change is to do nothing for four months and above all else don’t communicate in any way with those affected by the change. I can’t imagine any behavior more characteristic of this particular “passionate leader of change”.

So what has Gary Francis done for the $50,000 we’ve spent on his employment so far? Well the truth is we just don’t know. Swimming New Zealand propaganda says:

His role is to provide support, guidance and leadership to identified targeted athletes and coaches regardless of where they live and train. It’s a key role within Swimming NZ, and and is a step away from insisting that all our top swimmers have to be training at the same high performance centre to receive funding, as it means that their home coaches also receive support and continue to train their performing swimmers.

That gem also comes from “NZ Swim”. The Facebook page makes great play of standing up to Swimming New Zealand, of speaking truth to power. Sadly the truth is very different. Scratching John’s back and massaging Cotterill’s ego are NZ Swim Facebook specialties.

But back to the employment of Gary Francis. When he was appointed we said the big question was whether Gary Francis was going to change Swimming New Zealand or was Swimming New Zealand going to change Gary Francis. After four months it looks like we are getting our answer. And it is not good. It is not the answer New Zealand swimming wants or needs.

The same delays, indecision and confusion present in much that Swimming New Zealand does has characterized the appointment and inaction of Gary Francis. I don’t know how much time Johns, Francis and Cotterill think the sport has got. Do they realize the mess we are in? It certainly does not seem like it. We know the average good swimmer’s career lasts about ten years. That means something like 5% of the careers of Ashby, Clareburt and many others have come and gone in the months since the Francis appointment was announced. $50,000 and 5% of their careers have been wasted while we waited for Swimming New Zealand to do something. It is that serious? The Titanic has hit an iceberg and is sinking fast. But the reaction of the captain and his two senior offices is to spend four months playing patriotic songs and rearranging the deck chairs. Well done you guys. It has been a performance entirely in line with our expectations.

When the appointment of Francis was first announced Francis asked for Swimwatch to give the appointment time before expressing critical comment. Well we did that. Four months is plenty of time. Our patience has been tried to the limit. It is time for Gary Francis and Swimming New Zealand to join the real world where people tell the truth and meet their obligations. Avoiding criticism should be very easy. Just do something. We look forward to the Gary Francis meetings in early June – yeah right.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.