18 12 2011

The last couple of weeks have seen two important reports published, neither of which has been linked to the other by media or politicians but which together add weight to my oft-repeated suggestion that far better vertical integration of strategy is demanded of our politicians and their quangos.

First came Cancer Research UK’s report telling us that 40% of all cancers are due to the lifestyle choices we all make. This was reported (correctly) as a ticking time bomb for the NHS and while it hasn’t really added anything to the body of knowledge on the subject, it did come as a timely reminder that lack of exercise and poor dietary choices have more downsides than just the thickening waistlines visible on every high street.

The second report was Sport England’s Active People survey which, although suggesting physical activity is slightly up did not provide evidence that the government and its agencies are in any danger of delivering the participation legacy promised to the world in 2005. (Add to that, that other than the figures for athletics, none of Active People’s reported figures have undergone independent scrutiny and those for athletics have been shown to be wildly over-exaggerated the picture is likely far worse).

In July last year Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson insisted a national strategy for the development of sport was in place. Following the announcement of the latest Active People figures he told Sky News that a strategy would be in place early next year. The apparent contradiction needs explanation and, further demonstrating poor understanding of strategy, neither has anyone in government yet explained how scrapping New Labour’s targets for participation but not replacing them gives any strategy (current, future or imagined) meaningful measures?

If DCMS is failing in its duty to honour the sporting participation legacy (and in providing any strategy at all for the development of sport) it should realise that has impact far beyond the world of sport and what Cancer Research UK’s report reminds them is that a healthier nation will require far less intervention from an NHS facing obesity and cancer (and other) time bombs in the future.

I pick on the DCMS but in general, strategy emanating from all government departments, where it exists, continues to be poor. And where it shows any degree of integrated thinking is limited to the horizontally integrated only. There is no evidence whatsoever of any of the vertically integrated strategy demanded to link (for example) the needs identified by Cancer Research UK’s research and the promises made for physical participation when securing the 2012 Olympic Games.

In tough economic times it should also not be overlooked that ensuring strategy is well-integrated vertically doesn’t only help to recognise broader (but related) issues and increase the likelihood of strategy being successful; vertically integrating strategy always offers far greater value and economy.

© Jim Cowan, Cowan Global Limited, December 2011

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan

Twitter @cowanglobal



4 responses

18 12 2011

Jim, I’m a long-standing member of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club – which has seen a decline in members. I put this partly down to the cost of membership, partly down to s decline in interesting Squash but partly as we have fewer and fewer young members coming through.
I can identify some reasons for the youngsters (some of which may be unpalatable at the club!) stopping joining, but one of the big issues I think is the huge choice people have today. But it is not just sport they have to chose from. We have to compete with computers and the internet. It may have been TV in the past, but our young people now have huge peer pressure to be connected. Phones, blackberries, iPads, laptops et al.
I’m not sure I have the answer, but I think this may be part of the problem.
Politicians are unlikely to provide the answer though. They can hardly manage the purse strings!
Interesting blog – I’ll eat all my greens now!! Ready for my three squash matches next week!

19 12 2011

Hi Tim,

Undoubtedly it is a part of the problem but that does not excuse the lack of strategy. The harder or more complex a challenge is to overcome the more a quality strategy is essential.

Agree on politicians. They appear to have a huge blind spot with strategy. It is one of those specialisms everyone assumes expertise in when the vast majority have only a handle on the basics.

Have a good Christmas.

13 03 2012
Edward Ramsey

I’ve noticed that most children are going more towards console and pc gaming besides overly watching TV, as technology progresses with the record any time live TV children as young as 7 are sitting down not participating in some sort of a physical activity also weather changes are off putting parents to motivate their children to go out and play.

As a youth coach I noticed as the weather becomes colder and or rain is broadcasting on TV no parent really wants their kids to go outside and still play due to finance or lack of knowledge in how to keep warm and where to get it from, I do provide this to my clients and I mostly see changes in participants on my weekend voluntarily coaching sessions, children might not have the immune system as most of us at their age because they’re all kept inside in warmth and out of any type of weather that does not have warmth, I am not saying ALL parents are doing this but a majority are and this alone can affect life style later in life through out their teens to adulthood. I would also like to state that yes there is a limit where if its heavily raining there then keep inside but if any sessions is outside and it is a concern to the participants of the age group the coach and/or manager will announce a cancellation due to health and safety.

With TV and gaming, If I remember correctly screen time that you should have is at least 2 hours a day even for youths and adults!Children are exceeding this to 40 hours a week (according to Science daily) this is before we’re becoming young adults and 18. I am only 21 and when I was not watching TV as a child I was playing football, drawing, playing with friends, reading, writing or doing homework (the last 3 was forced into me from my parents as it should be) there was no internet till I was in the 5th or 6th year of school and even then there was nothing like Facebook or youtube that I knew of just a online chat room that my parents monitored called “Habbo Hotel at the age of 13” I was mostly active even if it was cold out I was given a jacket and a ball, the doorbell will sound off and my friend was there with his father also in a jacket most of the time it was me and my older cousin, we both lived far away from each other but still played football at least every weekend for a couple of hours. Because there’re less children and youths participating in sports I have decided to make it my career to introduce other types of sports that is not just football and also other activities that are not “sports” per say. England is a nation of loving sports and mostly Football but not every person of every age enjoys sports and this could be the biggest reason of them all for adults not being active because as a child through teens to adulthood they’ve disliked sports for whatever reason it could be which is understandable.

14 03 2012

Hi Edward,

Thank you for taking the time to add your thoughts.

You are absolutely correct that not all children will want to take up sport however the lack of properly thought out, vertically integrated strategy likely increases the number of young people (and adults) who are likely to enjoy sport simply by not teaching/enabling the right skills (physical literacy) at the right stage of their development. I touched on this in my blog ‘At Last, A Strategy For Sport – But Is It Any Good?‘ in January and have also referred to it in numerous articles both online and in publications. The sad fact is that those in charge understand neither (good) strategy not proper sports development.

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