As the Rugby World Cup frenzy gathers pace - and the agonising over "whether we will or won't" increasingly dominates our lunch breaks, All Blacks coaches and management teams are turning more attention to strategy and preparation.
And while the sporting analogy is often used in business to provide the inspiration for high-performance organisations, it's interesting to reflect on what sporting teams (the All Blacks included) can also learn from organisations that have built great workplaces.
Research carried out by JRA over the past 12 years has shown that while organisations have gone about this in different ways, the best have all shared four characteristics - the "four pillars" of a great workplace, as JRA describes them. These include having a clearly defined vision and values that are "real"; creating a strong sense of community; a commitment to developing people to achieve their fullest potential and the creation of a culture of sustained performance.
The New Zealand Rugby Union has been a JRA Best Workplaces finalist many times, so it's no surprise to hear All Black coach Graham Henry's reference during a recent media briefing to the importance of "alignment" to ensure players and coaches have the same mindset; to "a good environment the guys enjoy" and a culture where "the loyal bloke will get the nod". He also spoke of having "the most experienced squad in the history of the game" and his respect for them "as people and as footballers".
And, finally, he mentioned "the biggie - performing under immense pressure".
The other clear lesson from the Best Workplaces programme is that success doesn't come overnight. Creating a great workplace, or team, is a "hearts and minds" thing, and therefore is about as strategic as it gets. And, as many past winners have shown, achieving excellence can take years and requires sustained effort. Henry knows that, and we all hope will see him "do the business" this year.
JRA is running the 2011 JRA Best Workplaces Survey in association with The New Zealand Herald and sponsored by the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce, KiwiBank and Haines Attract. The survey runs from June 1 to August 31 and registrations are now being taken, with 135 organisations already registered - a new first-month record in the 11 years of the survey.