3642 km (2263 miles) of competitive cycling, and in the end the winner was separated from the runner up by just 39 seconds. This year’s Tour De France, despite being less noticed by the media than in some years before, was one of the closest ones ever (for the records: the smallest gap was the one between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon in 1989 – eight seconds).
The difference this time was how those 39 seconds were won by Spanish Alberto Contador against his opponent from Luxembourg, Andy Schleck. On the 15th stage from Pamiers to Bagnères-de-Luchon, Schleck was attacking Contador on the climb up the “Port de Balès” mountain and looked like the stronger one of the two, when he suffered from a mechanical problem: His chain dropped and forced him to repair it. Contador decided not to wait and joined a counter-attack while Schleck was still working on getting the chain back on. Schleck gave his best during the remainder of the stage, but only managed to cut his time difference on that stage compared to Contador to – guess what – 39 seconds. Exactly those 39 seconds that Contador was ahead of him at the end of the Tour in the overall ranking. By the way: As there is no dead race foreseen at the Tour De France, in case of both reaching the end at exactly the same time, the exact measured times of the individual time trials would have been counted and Schleck would have won by a margin of 640 thousands of a second.
Should Contador have waited for Schleck? Many felt so, obviously including Andy Schleck who was pretty angry at Bagnères-de-Luchon. They felt like it’s unfair and unsportsmanlike to attack when the opponent has a mechanical problem.
In comes Johny Schleck, Andy’s father. Johny Schleck rode the Tour De France seven times in the late 1960s and early 1970s (and even his father, Gustav, was a competitive cyclist). His brief comment after the stage: “He (Contador) didn’t have to wait. No one is giving away gifts here”.
Even though it seldom happens in a meeting room that your chain drops, I believe that most of you have been witness of mechanical problems there, too. How often have you been waiting for the projector to work, for someone who wasn’t able to get his computer linked to the projector or to save a Powerpoint file on a memory stick. Pretty basic stuff for a presenter, just like a chain is for a pro cyclist. Still we all see many struggling with it every day, on all management levels.
And Johny Schleck’s words are probably true for this context as well: “No one is giving away gifts here”. It’s not that computer would have just been invented, they are around for quite some time. It’s not that anybody asks us all to become experts, but some basic computing skills can be expected today. Knowing the basics of your laptop, Powerpoint and Excel is no rocket science. The same applies for offline tools. Using a flip chart in a productive, readable way is not a miracle, it can be learned.
That may sound like an unexpected rant to most of you, and most probably you are not part of the group I talk about as you obviously made it here. But it’s not a rant, it is my plea for an efficient training in basic tools, it is my plea for the right prioritization of trainings. Before sending an executive to the fourteenths strategy training session, how about showing her the basics of data analysis so they will be able to challenge the next strategic advice they get. Before sending an executive to hour long meetings without a result, how about showing him how real-time capturing and processing of information can have an impact on immediate results.
And that’s where the issue is. All training programs that I’ve seen on the market are starting from a tool. That’s simply as much of the wrong approach as starting your marketing efforts from a product instead of a customer need.
There’s no point in teaching “Excel” to managers, what they need to know is how to learn the most of your spreadsheets. There’s no point in teaching “Powerpoint” to managers, what they need to know is how to bring a point across in a convincing way. Technology can and does help, but not for the sake of technology.
Those companies that will first manage to create training programs based on their customer needs and still manage to bring across where and how technology can help will win the market in the future. Given how simple it sounds, I wonder why no one came up with it yet.
This approach would also help to bridge the gap to those that have an aversion for e.g. software tools in general, as they would never sign up for an Excel training, though they are the ones that would need that kind of training the most.
If you allow me to modify Andy Schleck’s father’s words: They (the technology savvy) don’t have to wait.
Today, they still do. In the recent past, they also did in cycling: Just nine years ago, when Jan Ullrich fell off, his rival Lance Armstrong waited for him, and Ullrich did alike two years later when he waited for Armstrong in the climb to Luz Ardiden. These days are obviously over in cycling. Be prepared for the day they will be over in business, too.