"Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing", Vince Lombardi (1959) : a case study of the winning ethos and organizational culture of the All Blacks (1950-2010) : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Management at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Organizational culture has been defined as, “a pattern of shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, which has worked well enough to be considered valid, and therefore to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems” (Schein, 2010, p. 18). The winning record of the All Blacks, a 75% success ratio in test matches, is part of their organizational culture, which has been developed, nurtured and sustained since their inception in 1903. This case study evaluates the All Blacks during three distinct eras between 1950 and 2010. Primary data was obtained through the use of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with past and present All Black captains and coaches. A cross case analysis has been chosen because it is a method used in qualitative research to investigate different phenomena within their real contexts (Yin, 2009).
A key finding is the strong senior collective leadership that has been ever present. Originally lead by senior players informally from ‘the back seat of the bus’ this internal leadership has been formalised by the recent coaching team and has proved to be very effective. Pride in the All Blacks legacy, pride in selection and pride in winning are also constant factors in their success. Symbols, such as the jersey with the silver fern are clearly important as well as rituals like the haka, which has become increasingly important. The learning culture within the team has emphasised constant improvement through scientific use of exercise physiology, video analysis, nutrition, and developing effective decision making on and off the field. The importance placed on winning has remained consistent. The learning culture and learning leadership within the All Blacks instils a commitment to total honesty in self and team evaluation and reflection. It is anticipated that these findings will be transferable to other sport team contexts and assist in the organizational development of sport team culture.