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Performance Management Lessons Learned from the Ball Tampering Incident


Now that the dust has settled, let’s reflect on the lessons we can learn.


Remember that on 28 March 2018, Steve Smith and Dave Warner were banned from playing cricket for 12 months after their involvement in a ball tampering incident the previous week.

The incident was deemed a breach of the Code of Conduct, banned both players and cost the employer a reported $7M in lost sponsonship.


On reflection, I argue that: 

  1. The core reason for everything was an insufficient performance management system within Cricket Australia

  2. Responsibility for this lies squarely with the Board, CEO and Coach

  3. The incident and subsequent loss of revenue was avoidable.

I am assuming that Steve Smith’s inability to confront potential conflict and Dave Warner’s aggressive nature were well understood within Cricket Australia.  And while I was not there, I can imagine the conversations involving James Sutherland after the incident went something like this:


  • “Steve when you realised Dave and Cameron were up to something and you chose not to confront them, you failed to meet your responsibilities as the captain.  Now the problem I have is CA has lost $7M in sponsorship income.”

  • “Dave while I know you were employed to introduce aggression into the team, tampering with the ball overstepped that line.  Now the problem I have is that CA has lost $7M in sponsorship income.”


In my experience, the solution is:

  • The Board sets a strategy of adopting a proactive, simple and robust approach to performance management

  • The CEO implements a system avoiding The 2% Effect

  • And finally, the Coach acts in accordance with this proactive, simple and robust policy.

If this was followed, then instead of James Sutherland having his conversation after the event, the coach would have had the following conversations before the event.

  • “Steve if you think Dave and Cameron are up to something and you chose not to confront them, you will be failing to meet your responsibilities as the captain.  What will you do to make sure you confront potential problems early?”

  • “Dave while I know you were employed to introduce aggression into the team, if you over step that line by say tampering with the ball, you could be suspended.  What will you do to make sure you don’t step over the line?”

By systematically identifying, proactively intervening and managing known and escalating risks, poor outcomes such as occurred on this occasion would have been avoided.

To me, the lessons to be learned is that performance management is broader than just setting and monitoring progress towards goals.  It must incorporate both the achievement towards goals and the proactive resolution of escalating problems.


Let me know if you agree or disagree.

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