How Roles in Organisations Can Resemble Football Clubs

Organisations can seem very complex and usually are!

To work efficiently everyone in organisations must know their roles and how those roles contribute to common objectives.

In our day to day working with clients we try and find analogies, which help complexity become manageable. Keeping it simple often means being smart, not simple!

One such analogy is comparing the basic fundamental roles in a large business with the roles seen within a professional football club.

At NewLeaf International we use a colour coding scheme to define the basic levels in any organisation.

·         Green = Senior Managers. The direction setters

·         Red = Middle Managers and First Line Leaders. Coaching and managing improvement.

·         Blue = The Workforce. The people charged with achieving the day to day tasks

So, let us use a football match as an example.

As the picture below demonstrates a number of people are required to manage a football team, but they have quite different responsibilities. They are ALL involved in the game but with different viewpoints and responsibilities. The same applies to a business.

The “Greens” in this case are the Directors of the Club

The “Reds” in this case the Team Manager(s) and the various Coaching Staff

The “Blues” the Players on the pitch

So the players on the pitch have tasks to complete. The blues operate in a very short-term time frame and are focused on doing the tasks of playing and winning the game.

The managers and coaches monitor performance and react to circumstances in the moment. They also review the success of training and plan new training programmes from monitoring performance. The reds operate in a medium-term time frame and are focused on reviewing and improving.

The directors must determine the overall success of the team, future funding for players and stadium, understanding and correcting the impact of success or failure may require budget amendments. The greens operate in a long-term time frame with a responsibility for setting direction

If the results are not as the club would like, steps need to be taken at the appropriate level to remedy the situation. The players may react differently as individuals to improve performance, the manager may change the players or tactics and if circumstances persist the Directors may make changes too.

When football clubs are out of control we see Directors in dressing rooms and Players managing the Managers. The same can happen in business.

So relating the football analogy to large organisations, the colour coding can remain the same. Although there are a number of different levels and pay grades within an organisation, there still remains the basic three levels that should be adhered to. Keep it simple!

The diagram above shows the Greens, Reds and Blues in business and like the football club each person should focus their roles and responsibilities at the correct level. HOWEVER, the boundaries can become even more blurred in business organisations because everyone can get so focused in the short term “winning the game” and all get on the pitch.

When this happens there can be a tendency to rush to solve the problems on missed targets resulting in people operating at the wrong level of the organisation and causing confusion. This lack of discipline, in effect, is laying the ground work for future targets to be missed and a culture of short termism with very little forward thinking, planning and development.

It is essential that an organisation always maintains its discipline and structure to ensure short term, medium term and long-term objectives are continually being worked on to meet the overall business goals.

In Transformational Change programmes and Business Improvement projects, we always ensure that the “fundamental levels” have three “fundamental roles” and time is allocated accordingly.

·         The Greens = Senior Managers. Sponsor by envision, energise and enable

·         The Reds = Middle and First Line. Lead day to day “Work System” improvement via Chartered Projects

·         The Blues =The workforce. Adapt to new thinking and work process and be part of project teams.


Danny Goldie, Managing Consultant, NewLeaf International Ltd.