The one big thing the All Blacks can teach you about being a high performing team!

Posted: 5th February, 2016

With a 76% win rate since first playing international rugby in 1903 and another Rugby World Cup won, what is the one big thing I learned reading Legacy by James Kerr about the All Blacks, in terms of team performance?

Here it is.

They spend a bloody lot of time thinking about what is it to be a high performing team.

Of course they train and develop skills and play matches – but so do all sports teams.

The All Blacks purposely spend time thinking about their stakeholders and context; about their purpose; about followership; and about norms. How many other sports teams can you image doing that in this age of millionaires, sports cars and agents?

Lets look at some of the things the All Blacks have done to be a high performing team;

Identified their key stakeholders (Context)

  • The New Zealand public is seen as their key stakeholder, and in response to demographic changes, the All Blacks revised their famous pre match Haka to ensure it was more inclusive of the growing population coming from Tonga and Samoa.


  • Every new All Black is given a bounded small black book on winning their first cap, with each page containing the picture of the different historical All Blacks jerseys through the decades starting with 1905. A few pages remind you of the values and standards expected. The last pages of the book are blank, waiting to be filled by that player’s contribution to the legacy. Pages for them to leave their mark. The key stakeholder here is every man who has worn that jersey over the last hundred and seven years.


Clear sense of mission (Mission)

  • The All Blacks mission is bigger than just winning matches – the team mission is about continuing the legacy and for each player to leave the jersey in a better place. On the night before their first match, a new All Black has to tell his team mates how he plans to leave the jersey in a better place.


Better people make better All Blacks (Talent)

  • A three day offsite in 2004 focused on the type of people required to be great All Blacks. Talent is obviously a factor, but the key focus was on picking players who could follow and play for the team. The All Blacks came up with an explicit rule  - “No Dickheads”– no matter what your talent is, you are here for the team and you are just borrowing the jersey.


No-one does your job for you (Norms)

  • Sweeping the dressing room – after every match the All Blacks sweep clean the dressing room (shed in New Zealand) – they sweep the mud and the dirt into a corner of the dressing room because the norm is 'no-one looks after the All Blacks, the All Blacks look after themselves'. And on the pitch you are personally accountable for doing your job, you don't expect anyone else do to it for you.

None of this is by chance.

It is intentional.

They could be practicing their skills or playing matches even more. It would be the easy thing to do – being busy.

Howver All Blacks take the time to look at themselves and to ensure that they focus on not just being a rugby team, but being a high performance team.

Does your team spend any time thinking about what it is to be high performing?


If you are looking for a model to understand the All Blacks approach or to help your own team, check out the Rocket Model of High Performing Teams by Curphy & Hogan (click here)  - it will help you see the key components of high performing teams that the All Blacks have built.


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