Spotlight on Dom McKay’s First Hundred Days as Celtic CEO

There is a cliché trotted out when an organisational restructure takes place that a CEO has 100 days to lay out his plans and begin their implementation. Often clichés are such because they are true and, in most organisations, a new Chief Exec is often tasked with that timeframe to outline his vision, assess what he has, bring in what he hasn’t, communicate it all and get to work implementing it.

In truth however that is an old school approach and 100 days was never really a thing in any case, it was adapted from President Franklin D. Roosevelt who coined the concept but even then, he was speaking of the 100-day session of Congress, not the fact he could implement a presidential vision by himself in 100 days. However, it stuck and you’ll see it mentioned in almost every leadership book published from then until now.

For Dominic McKay that timeframe is an arbitrary figure best ignored. What matters is taking all the time required to assess what he has inherited and spend as much time as possible, initially at least, listening to everyone from ticketing to the tearoom, then seeking advice from stakeholders, be it shareholders or supporters, before seeking out external ideas from comparable organisations who have exceeded expectations in their field.

Photo: Jeff Holmes

From there the work becomes how to tailor those best practice examples into what you’ve learned when you were listening intently to those inside the organisation then incorporating that into your own vision. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But not at Celtic.

Dom McKay not only inherited a CEO role from Peter Lawwell, he inherited a micromanaged organisation, one in the early days whilst cutting the budgetary cloth that was beneficial. However as much as micromanagement has a stigma attached as a bad approach to business, it isn’t. It can be wholly appropriate, but only ever in the short term when fast change has to be implemented. Long term it stifles modernisation and discourages constructive criticism, it creates a workspace where departmental autonomy is non-existent and it discourages forward thinking ambitious people from wanting to join your organisation, and those within it with ambition and ideas to seek new pastures. Long term it stagnates and strangles an organisation. It can also lead to real reticence from individuals at the organisation to communicate valid ideas they may have to the new incumbent. Old habits die hard and if you don’t use it, you can lose it. If heads of departments haven’t been encouraged to think for themselves it can be like pulling teeth to encourage ideas out.

And it is into that environment that Dom McKay has entered Celtic. If anyone was expecting a plan within 100 days it may well happen, however McKay needs to be cut some slack in that for the last two months he’s also been performing – alongside Dermot Desmond it would seem, a sure-fire example of an organisation running without a plan, despite press leaks designed to make us think such a thing should soothe our worries – as a Director of Football, a role some would argue was also vacated by Peter Lawwell.

Photo: Andrew Milligan

Now that transfer window turnover has at least abated until January, McKay can now get to work on modernising the football structure at Celtic, but also it should be remembered he’ll also be looking under the bonnet and improving the performance and efficiency of every department at the club. All of that is time consuming and deflects attention from football operations, yet all of it is just as vital when it comes to attention as every department ultimately feeds into the football department.

Yet despite a hoped-for level of patience being afforded to Dom McKay those ideas will have to be implemented soon, even if not at the expiry of those 100 days. Indeed, a new plan with people in post to support the loss of positions such as Head of football Operations and Chief Scout, vacated some time ago, and many more besides, will ideally be up and running by the time the January window comes around.

There is a Japanese market much more open to selling assets in January than in their mid-season during our summer window, and none of wish to see those opportunities missed due to a lack of structure being in place, not with a manager in place who knows it better than most. And none of us wish to see our CEO, fine job as he seems to have done so far, dealing with all of that.

Dominic McKay in the directors box. Photo Andrew Milligan

For Dom McKay to get back to being a CEO, some form of a Nick Hammond replacement, be it Sporting Director or Director of Football, needs to be in post and that person has to choose people of his own to fill the vacancies they believe they’ll need to operate that model efficiently. That person will then help Ange Postecoglou navigate the January transfer market.

To do so the Celtic Board will need to back their man and sign off on Dom McKay’s plans. There can be no more of the dragging of heels we witnessed when Neil Lennon hung on to his post or when Eddie Howe was allowed time to keep the club dangling.

Costs will undoubtedly be a factor, particularly in a pandemic hit environment. However, although Celtic may not be able to afford the best of footballing talent, they can still afford the best of staff who can find that talent before it costs too much. There is a great deal of untapped talent, and in turn profit, to be made if Celtic get this right as clubs like Brentford, Sevilla and others have evidenced. To so will need a change in attitude from the Board, they need not have the modernised approach themselves, they simply have to trust the man they brought in to get that right and they have to sign off on it.

Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group

Dom McKay’s plan may not be outlined in the cliched 100 days, he may not even communicate much to the support in the time it takes to assess, but it will materialise. Many of us are already confident in Celtic’s new CEO, it will soon be down to the Board to mirror that confidence. If so a creaking old philosophy and a previously micromanaged organisation may get to realise its undoubted, yet up to now, untapped potential.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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