“We need a new structure”, “our re-structuring process has started”, “the task force is looking into changing the structure of our federation”. These phrases probably sound familiar to most people involved in the management of a sports organisation.

Many sports federations have been through a so-called re-structuring process, which often includes lengthy discussions about how many commissions are needed, which stakeholders should be represented in the board, and what the role of regional or local bodies compared to the national level should be. Unfortunately, the result of such a process is often that the new structure is unable to deliver significantly different results from the previous one.

One reason could be that too much focus is on structure and too little on strategy. The strategy of an organisation is the plan for its future, outlining the way forward, and the structure is no more than the way of deploying the resources (human and financial) across the organisation to deliver the strategy.

That is why it is essential for any organisation to remember that structure must follow strategy – not the other way around. There is no correct structure for a sports organisation – it simply depends on the strategy that is guiding the organisation where to go and how to get there. The strategy must guide the structure.

With this in mind, discussions about structure should be put on hold until the organisation has worked out a strategy: a plan or roadmap for the organisation outlining the main objectives and the way to achieve these. Just as a team or an athlete without a training plan or game plan cannot achieve big results, the same is equally true for organisations off the pitch.

Find out more about branding your sports organisation in BCW’s latest edition of “The New Sports Organisation: Eight Essentials for Renewing the Management of Sport”.

We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: www.bcw-sport.com