Welcome to Ultimate Management Solutions
Ultimate Management SolutionsUltimate Management SolutionsUltimate Management Solutions
+254 788 858 570
Ultimate Management SolutionsUltimate Management SolutionsUltimate Management Solutions


A recent article on Sky Sports website described how Pep Guardiola, Manager of English Football Club Manchester City revived his team’s title challenge by changing his tactics in the middle of the season. According to the authors, no one had anticipated the drastic change in tactics especially since Pep started fielding FIVE defenders in his team with one playing in midfield. Most analysts were astounded because Pep’s has always been synonymous with attacking full backs with players such as Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Alex Zinchenko and Kyle Walker amongst others being his typical fullbacks.  This led me to reviewing a few articles about Pep’s innovations within the football game during which time I discovered many other inventions he has been credited with including the tiki taka style, “playing from the back,” conversion of midfielders into full backs or central defenders and inverted wingers amongst others.

Pep’s tactical innovations have been copied by other coaches and managers to varying degrees of success. For example, Arsenal’s largely successful 2022 – 2023 season relied heavily on Mikel Arteta implementing a playing style similar to Pep’s. Barcelona Football Club also won a first league title under Xavi Hernandez who, as a student of Guardiola’s has largely re-implemented the style used by Guardiola during his hey days in Barcelona, a period when Xavi was a key part of the team’s midfield.

Deeper review of Pep’s track record reveal that though he continues to innovate, there are some key principles that he has never discarded. These include possession based football, quick short passing moves and pressing high inside the opponents’ half after losing possession. He has also unapologetically insisted on having goalkeepers who are comfortable playing the ball with their feet.

Guardiola’s track record reveals that innovation is key to successful strategy implementation and by extension, overall success of any institution. However, one hidden lesson happens to be the way Pep and his mentees such as Arteta and Xavi innovate within a narrow ideology namely free flowing, possession based, tactically flexible football while largely using players who are versatile enough to play in different positions. This strict adherence to a narrow ideology during innovation highlights the significance disciplined innovation.

In contrast to the disciplined innovation of Guardiola, I have witnessed instances where companies largely jump from one ideology to another in search of success. For example, one Tier 3 (small) bank in Kenya shifted between microfinance, SME finance and Mortgage lending within one strategic planning cycle. It did not take long before the frequent changes in both strategy and ideology stated to negatively impact the bank’s financial performance. Ten years after the indecisiveness set in, the bank was bought off by some strategic investors who have experienced a lot of success upon sticking to SME lending. The strategic investors followed in the footsteps of commercial banks that have remained true to their core ideology e.g. Equity with Microfinance and Standard Chartered with Corporate and high net worth individual banking. These large banks have continued to grow from strength to strength despite their numerous innovations.

Lack of discipline in innovation is also witnessed amongst smaller businesses. In most instances, they keep shifting from one business line into another to the extent that they lack a clear identity. I recently talked to an old friend who has changed from graphic design and printing in 2018, sale of clothes in 2020 and now in the footwear business in 2023. I have also come across a transporter who has experimented with taxis, lorries and passenger transport within a period of less than ten years. While some may call this trying many things, I am persuaded that this lack of consistency is always more harmful than beneficial in the long-term since the said business persons fail to benefit from the experience they would gain by sticking to one line of business.

Dr. Weru Mwangi is the CEO & Lead Consultant at Ultimate Management Solutions, a firm specializing in training & consultancy in Finance, Governance, Strategy, Risk Management and Leadership Development.  He can be contacted on weru@umslgroup.com  

Leave A Comment