Research at AIIT

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

The 9th Installment“The Tactics of the Underdog”

by Hiroshi Koyama,
Professor, Master Program of Information Systems Architecture

There is an old saying in soccer: “the team that dominates the midfield wins the game.” Brazil’s golden quartet in 1982, a famous example of midfield play, shows how a champion team is established by selecting champion players with excellent individual skills. On the other hand, there is a tactic that leaves out the midfield players and involves kicking a long ball to the forwards, relying solely on the finisher’s ability to score goals. But no matter how many talented players there are in the midfield, the finisher and every other position, they may lose in terms of results. This is what is known as a giant-killing.

A giant-killing is not the product of coincidence. In countries other than South America, which produces one talented player after another, the absence of talent and the finisher’s inability to score goals are headaches for head coaches. If they keep grieving over the absence of talent, however, a giant-killing is never going to happen. It requires some ingenuity to assist a finisher who is not the most talented goal scorer, such as having a player return the ball from the right/left deep side of the field to the vital area so that the difficulty of the finish is reduced. For this purpose, it will become necessary to give up the midfield to exploit the numerical advantage on the right/left side of the field. The underdog is pitted against a champion with a number of such tactics based on the circumstances in which he finds himself, and causes a miracle, a giant-killing, to happen. This is the wisdom of the underdog demonstrated in the 1980s by Europe in its tactics against South America, which relied on its individual skills.

Interestingly, there is also a lot to learn from the tactics of the underdog in information system development projects, which consist of individual techniques (techniques, knowledge and skill) and tactics (development method and project management). If you weep because of the absence of talent, there will be no giant-killing. What is required is a tactic for snatching victory or achieving the optimum results with the current members.

There is no single tactic that can beat every opponent. A tactic should be appropriately customized to a goal. In addition, discipline is as important as the rule of a tactic. However, discipline can deglamorize champion players, who tend to dislike it. So a tactic should be customized for each member as well.

A tactic is very important, but it is not something that ensures you will win, and the same can be said for individual skills. Today, South American players have learned tactics and European players have improved their individual skills. These days, either individual skills or tactics can be neglected. Particularly since the Bosman ruling in 1995, players from both continents have been combined in teams, and such teams play at a far higher level than was seen in the past.

Lastly, I would like to mention the relationship between a strategy and a tactic. If the strategy is incorrect, there is no way of winning the game, no matter how well you fight in terms of the tactic. No matter how much an outstanding engineer and manager participate, system development will end in failure if the strategy is no good as a goal. What I would like you to understand is the fact that a system leads to success only when it is actually utilized.

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