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REMINDER : You Are Only As Strong As Your Weakest Link!!

I think you would agree events are a team game.

And as such the recipe for success in Events is pretty simple really.

Our events are simply the sum of all the contributions people make. The event managers, suppliers, stakeholders and partners. The participants and the fans.

And if the majority of these inputs are positive, the greater the likelihood we have of a successful event!

But of course, it is because of these many contributions, events are often NOT that simple.

And, as the success or failure of your event is the sum of all these parts, one really negative part can bring it all down.

It takes a ‘Team of Teams’ – and – it’s a ‘Weak-link Game’

I’ve spoken a bit recently and in my book about creating a ‘Team of Teams’… which is about having more than just the immediate team around you contribute to your events, by working with other teams (departments, organisations, suppliers, agencies, etc, etc.) to become ‘one team of teams’. And even if your not formally one team, at least by acting as a ‘team of teams’, you can harness a lot more positive contributions toward your event.

This ‘Team of Teams’ concept has been borrowed from a brilliant book by General McChrystal, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq. It is a fascinating insight, highlighting the management practices needed to succeed in todays world. Recognising the scale of the ‘events’ he was dealing with, in todays “VUCA’’ world, McChrystal discarded a century of conventional wisdom and reset the Task Force, making a highly complex network into a “team of teams” – faster, flatter, more flexible. It is a powerful book, and shows how the challenges they faced can be relevant to other organisations, businesses, governments – and events.

As McChrystal argues, the world is changing faster than ever, and the best response is to bring teams together, to build, test and learn with everyone, across an organisation (and in my view, across the delivery of an event).

AND – Your Only As Strong as Your Weakest Link.

The thing is, events are what we might call a ‘weak-link game’.

This is a concept famous author Malcolm Gladwell has been talking about recently, in that we are now living in a ‘weak-link world’, a form of the old ‘your only as strong as your weakest link’ theory. And as with all his theories Malcolm provides some compelling evidence and stories to back this up. He gives the example of US homeland security, where the major intelligence scandals of the ‘60’s were due to the leaders – the ‘stronglinks’ – in the FBI and CIA being to blame. This is compared to more recent times, where a low ranked army private (Chelsea Manning) and a part-time contractor (Edward Snowdon) were the ‘weak-link’ leaks breaking the chain. Malcolm’s point being that US security has moved from a ‘strong-link’ to a ‘weak-link game’ , with over 1.5 million Americans now having ‘Top Secret’ clearance. That is a lot of links that can potentially be broken!

Gladwell also put’s his argument into a sporting context (this always helps me), and cites different sports as either ‘weak-link’ or ‘strong-link’ games. For example Malcolm asserts that football (soccer) is a ‘weak-link game’, where one bad player can let a whole team’s performance down*, but where basketball is a ‘strong-link game’, relying on a handful of stars in each squad.  

(*Gladwell cites ‘The Numbers Game’ study in which they found that investing in a football team’s weaker players had more benefit than buying the next superstar).

‘Weak-link games’ being sports that need strong performer’s across a team – ‘Strong-link games’ being sports where a few strong players are all that is needed!

You and I might debate which sports are weak-link and strong-link games, but it is an interesting concept!

So Malcolm’s thinking led me to think about our ‘events game’. As event people we always talk about the team effort, the hundreds (sometimes thousands) of stakeholders and moving parts. With the many necessary links in the chain of a successful event, the risks of any weak-link emerging are significant. The safety and financial risks, along with our reputations, all under increased scrutiny.

It takes Just One Thing!

We’ve all had those moments, large and small. We all have many stories of where ‘just one thing’ went wrong and threatened to cause chaos. I recall a relatively insignificant tool, a pair of snips not being available, created a chain of events which led to a broken down forklift being parked on the start line, just before several thousand eager runners were due to start their race. Fortunately, we had it covered, by having ‘strong-link’ people in support roles we were quickly able to resolve the issue. But as we know, events have hundreds of ‘moving parts’, and we don’t always have the ability for just a couple of superstar ‘strong links’ to come and deal with every situation.

So I firmly believe, events are a ‘weak-link game’.

So, why is this important?

Whether you’re a team leader or part of a team, your success is dependant on the people around you. How good your events are, and how easy it is to deliver (that is – how much stress you may endure on the way!). So building a team, and recognising the potential of having a wider team around you is super important.

How can you use this?

I recommend that redefining your ‘team’, as broadly as you can, to be a ‘Team of Teams’ will:

1. Allow you to have more contributions, for bigger and better events.


2. Allow you to manage any ‘weak-links’ that may be holding you back (or worse!)So, lets make sure you have a strong team in our weaklink game.


It’s part art, and part science.

Having a ‘team of team’s approach is partly in your mindset, and partly in your design.

The mindset part means thinking more broadly. It may require a ‘reframing’ of what your team is, and who is in it, who to speak with, and in what ways.

The design part means you needs to map it out, to build your team of teams.

Our Experience Design Event Model looks at ALL the people, the ResourcesPartners, the Collaborators you need to succeed. Our stakeholder maps allow you to understand the relationships we need to have, with who, and, how to best work with them.

By doing so, you can create a much better team. Some peace of mind that you have no weak-links, and that you won’t be let down. And in fact, together you can, and will, achieve more.

If you need some help with that, just let me know!

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