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30% Management Turnover Annually

January 4, 2011

Is there any industry besides professional football where over 30% of franchise owners would fire (or potentially fire) their top manager after a difficult year?

Imagine this: you are the owner of 300 retail stores. At the conclusion of the holiday season you fire 20% of your store managers for missing their goals, while putting another 15% on warning to improve or else. And you do this every year. Does that seem like a sound model for doing business? Amazingly, this has become common and accepted in the National Football League.

Why is this annual performance review, resulting in such drastic changes in management, accepted in sports and frowned upon in retail, public sector, manufacturing, etc. Specifically in the NFL, these firings have become so regular, the Monday following the end of the regular season has now been dubbed “Black Monday”, and media outlets post online polls as early as September, speculating who will be fired first!

As of this morning, six NFL coaches have been fired based on their team’s performance this season,

January 3rd, 2011 – Eric Mangini – Cleveland Browns

December 31st, 2010 – John Fox – Carolina Panthers

December 26th, 2010 – Mike Singletary – San Francisco 49ers

December 5th, 2010 – Josh McDaniels – Denver Broncos

November 22nd, 2010 – Brad Childress – Minnesota Vikings

November 8th, 2010 – Wade Phillips – Dallas Cowboys

What’s the driving force behind “Black Monday” in the NFL? If these teams were franchises of a business in another industry, could workforce management strategies have helped any of these coaches keep their jobs? In most cases the answer is clearly “no”.

Take the Broncos (McDaniels) and the Browns (Mangini). These were clearly cases of inexperience and poor management of mediocre talent, along with bad hires (signings). Carolina (Fox) had a very good coach with nine years of tenure, but simply had no talent to work with. And San Francisco (Singletary) had decent talent, and good motivational skills, but lacked the strategy to execute.

But, there is no consistency in this practice. How is it that Seattle’s Pete Carroll is praised for leading them to a 7-9 record, while Miami’s Tony Sparano (7-9) and Oakland’s Tom Cable (8-8) are on the hot seat to potentially lose their jobs? Just because Seattle made the playoffs? The Giants and Bucs won 10 games and lost 6, but did not make the playoffs. Which team was more successful?

The point here is that job security is rare, and is often ambiguous, even within the same industry. Success may be interpreted in different ways, and may simply be based on pre-set expectations.

For now, many of the 20 NFL coaches whose teams did not reach the playoffs are  breathing a sigh of relief – and you can bet many of them are evaluating their (talent/workforce) management strategies so they can avoid being one of the chopping block victims we’ll all be talking about on Black Monday 2012.

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