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Patrick Bruggmann: The role of challenge in effective decision-making

Patrick Bruggmann, 18 Jan 2024

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The larger the organisation, the more susceptible it tends to be to “groupthink.” The Swiss Football Association has reduced this risk by splitting up the traditional technical director role, as its Director of Football Development Patrick Bruggmann explains.

Learning

  •  The benefits of acting as a “sparring partner” for senior team members 

  •  How challenging ideas can help resolve problems and find solutions 

  •  The importance of fostering collaborative environments when making decisions

Splitting the role of the technical director

The Swiss FA has split the traditional model of technical director across three positions. One of these is Bruggmann’s current role of Director of Football Development, which covers six specific areas: grassroots, club development, refereeing, coach education, youth development and talent management. “We changed our organisational structure in Switzerland two years ago,” says Bruggmann. “We don’t have one technical director, we have three. We have one for the men’s national teams - from the youth teams to the A team - and we have one technical director for women’s football. In between, that’s my position.”

Bruggmann is a supporter of the new system, which he believes fosters better collaboration and encourages challenge during the decision-making process. “There are more brains involved,” he says. “That maybe helps us to think from different points of view, to look at problems or solutions a little bit differently and to find solutions together. So, it’s a specification that can really help to improve what we are doing. In all roles, I think it’s very important to have other minds who give their input. There should be other brains that come with the right questions at the right moment.”

Innovating to compete

As a relatively “small” country in terms of world football, Switzerland needs to innovate and do things differently if it is to continue punching above its weight on the international stage, as Bruggmann is only too well aware:

“We are a small country and we can’t afford to lose any potential talent,” he stresses. “So, that’s certainly a challenge that we have. We have to find our talents and then do our best to develop them to the top. 

“We also need a strong collaboration with our clubs because, at the end of the day, the players belong to the clubs. The players are developed there and we can support them. But the challenge for Switzerland is to find potential talents and to develop them well so that we can deliver the results as we did in the last few years.”

Two of the biggest challenges Bruggmann faces in his job are staying “connected to the pitch” and reminding the association’s partners and member clubs that it is run by real people, as opposed to being a faceless governing body operating at arm's length:

“For technical directors I think it’ll be even harder to have good time management in the future,” he says. “I wish I could be on the pitch a little more, to have a little more direct influence on the pitch, rather than having too much administrative work, but I accept that this is part of the role as a technical director. 

“We have to be careful that we don’t go in the direction where we’re just managing things,” he adds. “We also have to do things on the pitch in supporting the different departments, the people responsible for football and the clubs. They have to feel us, see that it’s not just an association, but that there’s a face behind a name. We have to communicate and support each other, because that’s something that helps football to grow.”

Summary

  • Appropriate challenge can help resolve difficult situations and encourage new perspectives 

  • Asking the right question at the right time can help team members find effective solutions

  • Splitting the role of technical director can help bring more brainpower to the decision-making process 

Reflection

  • How do you challenge your senior team members effectively? 

  • How can you foster an environment in which heads of departments can collaborate and solve problems together? 

  • Who is your sparring partner? Who challenges you?

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