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Defending Organisational Values - Townsend Vs. Russell

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

Written by Andy Goram, Bizjuicer

Gregor Townsend Finn Russell Argument
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There are two sides to every story, but if we can believe the press, there is a fine example of the power and commitment it takes to hold on to your organisational values for the greater good, playing out in the public eye right now.


The Scottish Rugby Union team looks to be in turmoil, as their Coach, Gregor Townsend defends his position in not selecting arguably their star player, Finn Russell, for what is reported as a disregard for the culture, values and behaviours applied to the team. But with 2 losses from their first 2 games in this year’s Six Nations tournament; two games in which Russell didn’t play, has Townsend cut his nose off, to spite his face?


“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” said Peter Drucker, credited as being the father of management thinking. Meaning, you can have the greatest strategy in the world, but if your organisational culture won’t play ball in its delivery, then it isn’t going to happen. Today there is far more focus on creating and fostering positive cultures within business, that engages employees, promotes discretionary effort and provides an environment where people can be their best, every day. But, just like what is happening with the Scottish Rugby team, this resolve to keep your culture sacrosanct gets severely tested when one of your “greats” doesn’t play by these rules of behaviour.


Jack Welch’s Performance-Values Matrix (below), referenced in Ken Blanchard’s business writings, suggests the bold action to take when you have a High Performer with a Low Values Match. The people who reside in this top-left box are described by Blanchard as “poison within your organisation.” They may well exceed performance expectations, which is good, but they demonstrate a very different set of values from those you desire, which is bad. What should you do with these people? You need to get them out of your organisation as quickly as possible. Why? Because they will erode leader integrity and employee and customer trust.

Performance Values Matrix Welch Blanchard
Jack Welch / Ken Blanchard Performance Values Matrix

That’s pretty strong stuff. But how many of us have been strong enough to do that? How tough is it to sack a tangible result-getter, in favour of the future protection of an intangible culture? But the thing is, it isn’t an intangible is it? You can feel a culture and you can witness good and bad behaviours that align to and show disregard for it. Making compromises today might not break your culture and take you off-course of your goal delivery today, but adding up the series of compromises you’ve made down-the-line, surely will.


So, the stance Gregor Townsend appears to be taking against Finn Russell, looks on the surface to be a bold defence of his organisation’s culture. A culture he believes will get the team to where they want to be in the future. With all the reaction and counter-claim, will he get to see his plan through? Will he get to show us a great example of brave and courageous leadership? Or will the short-term results desire of professional sport blow the whistle before the organisation benefits? I guess time will tell. If the reports are true, and this truly is a defence of team values and culture, then I applaud Townsend’s actions and hope he gets the chance to see it through.

Andy Goram is the owner of Bizjuicer – a consultancy that believes people are the often-forgotten internal fuel that can power businesses and brands to greater success. He helps businesses build stronger brands through engaged and aligned people and consults on vision & values, transformational change, brand development and employer branding.

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