The Pieterson Decision

15 May

It’s been a busy week in the news and on social media regarding Andrew Strauss’s decision over the selection of Kevin Pieterson. Strauss has come in for some heavy criticism, especially from current and former players, over his decision to exclude Pieterson from the England team whilst allegedly asking Pieterson to become an England One Day International consultant. It’s mixed messages to an outsider looking in, but how do you make and manage such an emotive decision?

I’ve always advocated it’s not so much about the decision you make, it’s more about being able to manage and adapt to the consequences. Before a decision gets made it’s never a bad idea to ask-what’s the worst case scenario and if it occurs, could I deal with it, and what actions could I reasonably take? When it comes to the Pieterson decision it’s pretty easy to make- if you exclude him from selection then the consequences, on one scale, are manageable; no life and death decisions, nothing of geopolitical significance, Pieterson doesn’t control a supply of oil or the military of another country, things will be more or less ok. So, the emphasis shifts on managing the decision.

There are three types of mind set which define the management of a decision, I’ll briefly summarise them below-

An open mind- sounds a good idea, but in reality it means keeping options open to the point where no real commitment is made to any course of action. This results in limbo, where speculation is rife about the future, and rumours fill the void left by a lack of clear direction. Working in this environment is a little like waiting at an airport to board a plane which has been delayed indefinitely. This is currently the environment Strauss has created, confusing mixed messages, which have allowed speculation, rumour, second guessing and criticism to dominate.

An adaptive mind- this is where a strong stance is taken, direction is made clear, but the direction is flexible enough to change as the situation changes. This is where the best clinical decision makers reside, making a diagnosis, testing it, and adapting to new and contradictory information. It is also where the best examples of organisational thinking reside, proactively responding to seemingly weak signals (the Sony Walkman, Atari, IPod) , as opposed to doggedly being driven by data and 5 year plans, regardless of contradictory evidence. This is where I think Strauss may have been aiming for-making a strong decision (exclusion from the team), but offering the ODI consultant role as a potential mechanism to address and rebuild the relationship between Strauss (and the ECB) and Pieterson, with potential recall to the England team. In summary, an adaptive mind set aims for this- clearly stating a direction with a method of adapting the direction as the situation unfolds.

A closed mind- this is where a decision is made and nothing will change it, regardless of new evidence to the contrary or insight. Imagine a Doctor making a diagnosis and then refusing to give it up regardless of any new evidence. Also imagine a business refusing to let go of its plan and mind set, think of Kodak’s lack of adaption to the emergence of digital photography or the USA motor industry in the 1980’s. I’d guess Strauss didn’t want to be here, or least seen to be here.

In summary, there could be good reasons for Strauss’s decision, but poorly communicated. So, how do you communicate an adaptive mind set without coming over as confused? Sutcliffe and Weick (2007) offer a script, which makes reasoning public, and I’ll contextualise it below by answering the questions the script poses as maybe Strauss meant it (an emphasis on maybe)-

This is what I think we face- The ECB doesn’t trust Kevin Pieterson but are prepared to consider that it’s overly personal, and should be prepared to change
This is what I think we should do- Currently exclude Pieterson from the England team on grounds of trust but provide a mechanism (ODI consultant) to repair that trust; otherwise it’s just lip service and a closed mind set
This is the reason why- He’s an international level batsman and if the trust can be repaired he would be an asset
This is what I think we should keep an eye on- Pieterson’s form, relationship with his county team, role as an ODI consultant, public statements etc.
Now talk to me- what do you think about that Kevin?

Reading
Weick, K. Sutcliffe, K. (2007) Managing the Unexpected. Jossey-Bass (Willey Imprint)

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