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Reflections on Rio

I was drawn to some of the comments made by (losing) competitors of the Great Britain cycling team during the Olympics...

rio cycling image

“How do they lift so much when in so many events they have not even been in contention in the World Championships.” (Anna Meeres, Australia)

“I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything, but it’s certainly questionable.” (Kristina Vogel, Germany)

Clearly an element of sour grapes, maybe a veiled allusion to illegal performance enhancement, or possibly just understandable envy about the Lottery funding the team receives.

Laura Trott was very clear in her explanation as to why Great Britain regularly outperforms ot

"Don’t get me wrong, it would have been nice because they [the World Championships] were in London, but it’s always been around the Olympics. That’s what our funding is pushed towards, that’s where they spent our UK Sport money.


So for us it was about performing there and I think if we’d come away and under-performed at the Olympics, we’d have been gutted if we’d cleaned up at London because it would have meant we’d have peaked at the wrong time."

So the issue of finance is totally relevant. While, doubtless, like any competitive sportsperson Laura wants to win every pot, domestic or international, the reality is that all the funding is geared to Olympic performance, and hence training regime is geared to this event. If domestic or international competitions inside the four-year cycle are helpful milestones on the journey then great, but if they aren’t relevant to the overall mission then they will get less or no focus.

Not unlike an interim delivering on assignment. A well-constructed interim project, with an overall objective and milestones leading to it, will always create the platform for success better than one where the goal is ill defined. Interims need to be told what they need to ‘do’ (e.g. deliver £4m of procurement savings) rather than what they need to ‘be’ (e.g. Group Head of Procurement), just as Laura Trott needs to deliver a gold medal rather than just turn up and represent the team.

Of course it doesn’t take biggest intellectual leap from this to the thought that maybe interims, and the specialists who source them, should be funded like GB Cycling i.e. on a risk/reward basis? This is fairly common practice in many areas of professional consulting, and a popular discussion point with our clients and best performing interims.

By using a methodology such as our Return on Interim model, overall objectives can be set, milestones agreed and value of the interim’s work measured. While some of the poorer performing interims may lose out, the best will be rewarded and this also has a knock on benefit to the whole interim management profession, by changing the conversation away from cost and towards value. 

We, the GB tax payer, pay £30.2m annually to fund GB cycling. A big cost.

That’s 8p each per gold medal.



Steve Rutherford is a Principal in the Public Sector.

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