A resource allocation mistake from Louis Van Gaal?

Yesterday, before they were defeated by Leicester, the Man United manager said that he would get rid of players who stayed on the bench too long. What he meant was if they didn’t make it into the first team, he would get rid of them. At least, that was my interpretation.


As a project manager, I thought this raised some interesting issues:

  1. Why buy players – resources – that you’re not sure are up to the mark. Surely you need to do some due diligence first?
  2. As the players have no control of their playing time, why put them on the bench if you don’t intend to play them? Again, this seems a strange way to motivate players, ie employees, who have no direct control of their future. It creates a Catch 22. If they are not playing, how can they prove their worth?
  3. How long is too long? One of the difficulties of motivating teams is that unless there is a very specific time frame, well, things lose focus. What is too long in this case? A month, two months? Maybe he has told the players in private, maybe not, which of course, could be another way to create tension and possibly more efforts from under-performing players.

Let’s go back to the original point: churn.

As a project manager, or a small business owner, you only have limited resources. You can’t always afford to churn resources. It’s expensive, time consuming, and doesn’t guarantee any improvement.

The new resources could be worse than the current ones.

So, what to do?

Personally, I try to:

  • Look at what’s worked in the past, really worked.
  • Ignore current trends, fashions, and fads.
  • Create very specific aims. For example, right now, I want to create more video content. It’s related to a specific goal I have for mobile technologies.

Is Van Gaal doing the right thing?

I suspect he’s trying to do many things at the same time, and under pressure to deliver results almost immediately. This creates a frenzy of energy. Some will work, others not.

Churning people feels wrong. Maybe it’s a language thing I suspect that if people feel they are no more than objects that can be churned on a weekly basis, well, the results will reflect this.

PS: An alternative approach from Gen Schwarzkopf