In this blog post, I will attempt to highlight formalization ideas proposed by Simon, 1997 and Stinchcombe, 2001 (both pg. 38 O&O) , and connect them with how a soccer team is organized and run.
Formalization is often viewed as an attempt to render behavior more predictable by standardizing and regulating it. According to Simon, formalization permits “stable expectations to be formed by each memeber of the group as to the behavior of the other members under specific conditions. Such stable expectations are an essential precondition to a rational consideration of the consequences of action in a social group.”
I believe Simon’s outlook on formalized practices, when applied to soccer, carries considerable weight. For all you non-sports fanatics that have not seen a soccer match recently; the most important aspect while competing in a match is teamwork. Unlike football, baseball, or hockey, soccer players are not limited in their movement (i.e you can go anywhere on the field). Because of the freedom of movement in the game, and the amount of people on the field (11), a certain amount of transparent formalization occurs. Expectations are placed on each player on the field to control their assigned area on the field, but the are not solely limited to that spot. For example, a forward might come back on defense on a corner kick. This is a preconditioned action that demonstrates a respect for the “rational consideration of the consequences of action in a social group.” Even though the forward is not required to come back on defense, the preconditioned rules formalized by the group, or in this case the players on the field, facilitates a certain action to maximize effectiveness (i.e not get scored upon). The intangible “consideration” Simon discusses is more directly addressed by Stinchcombe’s view on formalized organizations.
Stinchcombe believes formalization entails a system of abstraction. This intangible quality should be “cognitively adequate, sufficiently accurate and a complete to guide action, communicable, transmissible to users, and contain an improvement trajectory that enables correction over time.” All five of the values presented by Stinchcombe occur multiples times during a soccer match. For example, in order for a player to be subbed into the match, he must be “cognitively adequate, or in other words, smart enough and on the same page as the other players. Without this link, the player would become lost in the flow of the game, consequently negatively affecting the teams effectiveness. The team can also improve their trajectory over time through individual player development, new team strategies, and game formation adjustments.
A soccer team, in a way, can be considered a formalized structure. Unlike a company which has written guidlines on actions and tend to gravitate more towards a Taylor version of the scientific management model, soccer utilized a formalization technique which is unspoken, but yet understood. Throught practice, player form stable expectations and execute decisions according to what their teammates are doing. During a match, a player must constantly change and adapt their styles (or trajectory) to the different environments presented in order to maximize effectiveness and hopefully obtain the ultimate goal. (Get it? like a soccer goal!)