Watching the Protea Cricket team’s performance in the Cricket World Cup was like watching a scene from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Almost too brutal to be true. Staying with the theme, I again realised that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link…
I will not speculate about the weakest link in the South African Cricket team, but it made me think. In a team context, when your attention is on the top performers it might put you at risk when they are not at their peak – especially when the rest of the chain is not strong enough to pull you through.
This might be true for team sports, but it is also true in business. I am all for celebrating performance and we even have a very successful incentive programme with our Chinese wine reps rewarding exceptional achievement. I believe that being in the company of top performers, encourages others to step up. At the same time, however, even though they might be helped by the accomplishments of the rest of the team, it would be foolish to ignore the weaker links. After all, they determine how strong you are.
In any team or organization, it means identifying the weaker members for training and mentoring or even more drastic measures if the poor performance continuously influences and endangers the group performance. But sometimes your weakest link is not an individual.
What would be the weakest link of South African wine as an industry? We know we struggle with price, profitability and perception despite the fact that we have many star performers from a quality perspective and interesting diversity in our terroir. Perhaps our weakness is in our communication? Perhaps in our political situation and lack of international agreements? I think our weakness is in the fact that we are financially under pressure. When you are under financial pressure, you take what you get. This is to the detriment of the industry, of course, and might be short-sighted, but when you are in a tough spot, it is hard to resist a deal, even at a low price. And there is no easy solution.
South Africa is also in a tough spot when it comes to finding a solution for its crime challenge. Crime is a weak link in the governance of South Africa, but it is created by so many other weak links – from policy to police to socio-economics…
The weakest link in your outfit can sometimes be obvious and sometimes more complex. While I believe in being positive and promoting your strong points, one has to step back and evaluate. Identify your risks and determine where the weakest link lies. If detected early, you allow yourself time to address the issue before it becomes a crisis – regardless of whether you are swinging a bat, ruling a country or trying to make your wine farm profitable.