NSNO, Kaizen & Quo Vadis

Kevin O'Regan 07/10/2019 27comments  |  Jump to last

Maybe the title is confusing or enticing… or maybe you have no idea what this is about – one way or the other, I will explain.

Nil Satis Nisi Optimum

I have always had a problem with the NSNO ideology. Maybe even 'ideology' is the wrong word; maybe it’s a way of life or the blue blood that should be running through our veins, or maybe it’s something related to our proud history, but something which a few others struggle with for some time now. I certainly do. And this was made even more obvious to me by Lyndon‘s interview I recently read on ToffeeWeb with Elizabeth France – a person who, for me, shows a great understanding of what NSNO really means... never be content with mediocrity, always strive for the best.

But I, for my part, have had my problems with this for some time. Having followed the Blues since the mid-80s, there was always an aftertaste of former success in my Everton mouth. Of course, just as I got going with following Everton, we – along with all other English teams – were banned from Europe and have never recovered. The thing is, I have 3 brothers who are all Liverpool fans – at the time I chose to follow Everton, everyone else was either a Man Utd or Liverpool fan in my native Cork.


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Even though the European ban and demise of the team after that was a hard pill to swallow, there was still a pride in being different, in being Blue and in our history. And, of course, despite the banter and the smart comments from my kopite brothers, I stuck to the task of supporting the cause. I was infected by the likes of Southall, Reid, Sheedy, Ratcliffe, Stevens, Lineker and later Ferguson, Watson, Unsworth and Co.

Maybe apart from Lineker, all were true Blues who would run themselves into the ground and risk cards, broken limbs, and fame for the sake of the team. In later years, I would definitely add Tim Cahill and Captain Coleman to that list. My point is, they knew and understood the meaning of NSNO. And for that, I loved them and everything about them. No airs and graces, just hard work, day-in & day-out, to add to the pre-existing talent.But the bittersweet taste of success in the '80s meant that this was the benchmark.

I was also a sportsman and captain and knew there could only be one winner; one captain to lift the trophy at the end of the season, even if there were 20 teams. And what happens if everyone were to have that same ambition, those same expectations and aspirations? Their sayings, crests and expectations won’t matter as 19 of them will go home empty-handed. So, does this mean that we are doomed to be miserable? Apart from Celtic, maybe, and a couple of other teams arcross Europe who are perennial league winners, the rest were just hoping for the best. So if NSNO was to condemm me to being miserable, then I have to live with that? For the last 34 or so years?

Football, of course, as an Evertonian, is digestable if things are okay at home and at work, if the health is okay and the sun is shining. But if one of those other factors – or, God forbid, a few of them – are in trouble, then football takes on an extra burden of importance... an expectation to fill that gap, to give hope and, if we’re lucky, even a bit of enjoyment. But, of course, it rarely does; instead, taking us on a roller-coaster of emotions and sometimes even deeper into the depths of despair. So, what use then is having a motto like NSNO?


After World War II, Japan was a mess. The country was occupied by the United States, who helped to regenerate the struggling economy by bringing in top-class business people. Over the ensuing years, the Japanese economy gained in strength and many Japenese companies became household names in the Western world (Sony, Sanyo, Honda, Toyota). One of the ideas that was introduced to the production floors was named PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act). Later, other improvement or "Kaizen" methodologies were introduced, such as Lean, Kanban, Shingo and so on.

What has this got to do with Everton? Just bear with me for a minute… These methodologies have a lot to do with organisations who have been successful. Toyota introduced many of these to their production (TPS) and design and have become famous for their methods in making them the biggest car manufacturer in the world. The principles are often the same (regardless of the method): employ people with the right mentality, train others to understand the goals and to embody them in everything they do, perfect the way you work as it has an impact on others and on the success of the whole project, be a team player, take responsibility and ownership, and learn continuously (defend free-kicks and corners anyone?).

Quo Vadis?

Now you see where I am going? Well, to be honest, I can’t see where Everton FC are going, or have been going for some time. At least on the pitch, it seems just like the passes around the back and midfield we are going sideways and backwards and struggle to move forward. No-one to take responsibility. Are we too afraid to make mistakes? Are we fans too harsh on those taking chances which may not come off? Do we only promote people to captain after being at the club for 5 years plus? Or can we maybe challenge everyone to take responsibility and ownership of the task in hand? Can the blue blood and NSNO mentality be instilled in each individual and hence exist as the winning mentality to propel the team onwards?

Are we looking across the whole club from the groundsman, tea lady and kit man, to each and every one involved with the club, including directors, fans and youth systems? Have we got a mentality of learning every single day – actually getting better than the day beforehand? Or is that just the manager’s job? Have we fans become too used to not giving a damn? Or, if we do give a damn, to shout or write abuse instead of being creative and constructive with our criticism?

If there is a leak in the water pipe, will I just get some tape to cover it up or do I need to get a quality and long-lasting solution? Do we learn from our mistakes or just point our fingers away from us? Has the abundance of money made us as a club go completely crazy on incomes, on transfers, and weak in our ability to think? Why are we sticking to processes and systems which might work 10% of the time but not the other 90%? Have we no other way to play, to be adventurous and brave and agile? Where in the name of God is our resilience? What is our mentality and where are we going?

"Cristiano Ronaldo, why have you been so successful as a footballer?" Answer: "I train longer and harder than my opponents and my teammates, every day." So, even if you are talented, even if you have all the right processes and systems in place and have achieved success and greatness, there is always room for improvement and more training – in fact, it is vital. As the saying goes‚ "Get busy living or get busy dying".

Pre-Season & Relegation

Living in Germany, I can’t get to Goodison Park much, I’m afraid… but this pre-season, I did make the 6-hour trip from Munich up to Mainz for the Opel Cup mini-tournament. Of course, it turned out to be a disaster and not only did we lose both matches but, to add insult to injury, Mainz played You'll Never Walk Alone before our game.

Anyway, back to the game for a minute... in both games, I watched a very rusty team, slow off the mark, making stupid schoolboy mistakes and running around like headless chickens. Now, some might argue that pre-season is the place for that and who gives a damn? Well, Sevilla obviously did give a damn. They ran their socks off, tried lots of different combinations of players, mixed up their play on each attack and worked hard as hell for each other as if their lives depended on it. Meanwhile, Everton were strolling around as if we were a bunch of holiday-makers on the beach with nothing to play for.

Some have argued that we should be playing in better tournaments against better opposition. I don’t agree, at least not at this rate. At least in football terms, it’s not the opposition which matter but the mentality. Sevilla were better than us in every single aspect. But, most importantly, they had a fighting and winning attitude.

Which teams would invite us based on that performance? Are we to be invited to top tournaments based on our history? No. That counts for nothing in today’s mad world. Yes, we should be immensely proud of our heritage, and also very proud of the club for many initiatives, like EitC, but it’s the here-and-now which counts; results and improvement and not history, I’m afraid, and certainly not empty words and promises.

Often I have asked myself if maybe we have become too comfortable with not having being relegated? A right kick up the arse could maybe give us a sense of urgency, a feeling of failure that should never again be tasted. I don’t know… but I do know that we need to change something very quickly and a new manager will not be the answer if we do not employ a winning NSNO and Kaizen mentality of improving day by day in every single aspect of the game, the club, and its surroundings.

In an ever-changing world with high demands, we have no room for complacency and mediocrity. Get busy living or get busy dying. What is it to be Everton? A choice to remain miserable and in the shadows of darkness (you know who)… or do we make a decision to move in a winning direction?

Once we get there… well, that’s a different challenge to stay there – but it certainly also entails hard work and learning and adapting.

Are we up for it?

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Reader Comments (27)

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Mike Gaynes
1 Posted 07/10/2019 at 18:20:34
A very thought-provoking article, Kevin, and one of the best reads I've seen here on this subject. Well done.
Gerard McKean
2 Posted 07/10/2019 at 18:32:44
Well this does not happen often: I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Gaynes, this is a first rate article, Kevin, and thank you for sharing it with all of us. You've called it as it is.
Michael Kenrick
3 Posted 07/10/2019 at 19:25:56
It is a nicely-written article, Kevin, and I fully understand your analysis, with its tempting parallels and lessons learned from manufacturing success...

But that's where I suspect there's an issue. It's interesting reading so many fans with analogies they see that, from their own perspective and experience, should provide some better working environment, some path to success, that is – for some apparently obvious reason – eluding us at Everton FC.

Yes, we should impose Kaizen and TPS (what is TPS?) as a proven way to achieving better results. The problem is that I suspect making cars and building a football team just might not be quite the same in terms of the overall challenge.

I'm sorry... but we need good footballing people, not good car makers.

Mike Gaynes
4 Posted 07/10/2019 at 20:34:25
Michael, TPS = Toyota Production System.

What I see as Kevin's primary point is that the key to success is an organizational structure built on a unifying philosophy -- getting the right people into the right places and inculcating them with that philosophy. Isn't that exactly what a good football manager does?

Of course achieving a good outcome at the end of the assembly line is a hell of a lot easier than achieving one on the pitch -- players have human variables, cars don't -- but I can understand Kevin's belief that having a more cohesive organization with a focused credo improves the chances of success.

Tony Hill
5 Posted 07/10/2019 at 20:56:13
I agree with Michael Kenrick. It's a very good piece of writing but we know what we should be doing and never do it. I think it's going to take an extraordinary individual to change this club, not corporate effort. I'm not sure that any such person is going to arrive.
Paul Tran
6 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:13:29
Pieces like this are why this is my favourite EFC site. Thanks Kevin.

If we're going to talk about running the club like a proper business, let's talk about business processes, let's use successful businesses as a model.

For every person on here saying 'move along, no need to talk about this sort of thing', you probably have many people within the club agree with you.

Tony Hill
7 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:32:12
But who is going to do it, Paul ? None of the current board. Our mediocrity is now ingrained. You need someone to rip it up by force of will, you can't just decide to have a corporate philosophy.
Billy Bradshaw
8 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:32:14
Mr Klopp, Volkswagen, don't think so.
Tony Abrahams
9 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:42:06
Tony, we have got a corporate hospitality, running right through the club mate. No disrespect to Duncan Ferguson, but how can a first team coach see off three different managers and still retain his position?

Having once been involved in professional football, and seen how brutal it can be first hand, then this is definitely one of those things which makes the saying “that truth is stranger than fiction” so very true.

Don Alexander
10 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:46:56
Kevin, nice piece, genuinely, but you allude to a club culture (horrible as it is and has been in the 21st century minimum) as if it developed itself, beyond human control, and I cannot accept that.

Under Kenwright "NSNO" has long stood for "No Shame, No Optimism" and yet he remains.

As for Moshiri he personally surely accepted SportPesa as sponsors with all that came with it pre-season-wise ("important" games to be played in the back of beyond in prep for the rigours of EPL football and all) so he cannot escape culpability either. Has he got the sense or balls to do what fans require though? Personally I now doubt it.

Paul Tran
11 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:51:38
Tony #7, I thought/hoped Moshiri was going to do it off the pitch and Koeman was going to do it on the pitch.

I suspect that Koeman, despite his obvious shortcomings, was rebuffed trying this ('arrogant', 'mistreating Ross', etc.). I also wonder whether Moshiri has gone at least part-native. Bill still in the picture, DBB as CEO, etc.

The change has to come from Moshiri and the people he appoints. We're all waiting, aren't we?

Tony Hill
12 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:51:39
Well, yes, Tony that sort of corporate stuff is part of our foolishness, and I am afraid I do attribute that to Kenwright and his appointees. Those who say that Kenwright no longer matters, miss the fact that he has created the sentimental ethos which still pervades the club.

The moment to get a grip was when Moshiri and Ryazantsev came in, but the opportunity to turn us into something truly businesslike and focused was fudged and missed. Bill's Big Blue Family rolls on.

Kieran Kinsella
13 Posted 07/10/2019 at 21:58:11
A year ago when asked where Everton would be now, Ryazantsev said "in the top four and in the group stage of the Europa League." Obviously, he at least had some belief in our motto 12 months ago. Where does he stand today?
Tony Hill
14 Posted 07/10/2019 at 22:01:17
Not in power, Kieran, alas. I'd hoped that he was Usmanov's man.
Jerome Shields
15 Posted 07/10/2019 at 22:09:28
Good article and I agree with Mike's (#4) interpretation of it. I think there can be another conflicting attitude to this in a Club, a sense of entitlement to continue as they always have. Managers and players that do not conform to this attitude can be isolated and pushed out.
Dick Fearon
16 Posted 07/10/2019 at 23:34:46
It infuriates me when our defence piss-farts about with brainless passes to each other while the opposition has time to retreat in numbers.

To replace NSNO with a more modern motto I suggest KISS. At the same time we should ditch that cringeworthy embarrassing 'Grand Old Team'.

Michael Kenrick
17 Posted 08/10/2019 at 03:02:10
Thank you, Mike. I could not find that with my cursory Google search.

Yes, it sounds great. Just like the classic How To Win Friends And Influence People by your compatriot, Dale Carnegie. Fine if you're in sales and want to get a jump on your fellow sales-persons. Should we have all the players, management and coaching staff read, digest and implement that tome?

Or The Art of War? Or The Inner Game of Tennis?. Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment — there must be hundreds of thousands of these self-help personal improvement books out there now. Which one should we have the players read, mark, and inwardly digest?

Come on, Mike — you must have your finger on the latest and greatest West Coast self-help solution to get Everton out of their current morass.

Jamie Crowley
18 Posted 08/10/2019 at 03:28:44

Jesus I'm reading a lot tonight! Very, very good piece.

I mentioned on another thread, I own a small business.

TPS, Dale Carnegie's The Art of Corporate Gobbledegook, Kaizen, The latest self-help book, Corporate approaches to all challenges.. . .

How about my way? I hung a shingle, rented 400 square feet of space, had a desk, laptop, and a cell phone. And then I dipped my head in gasoline, lit it on fire, and ran around asking anyone with ears if they'd let me have their business.

Think that'd work? ;0)

Can't be any worse than what we find ourselves in now!

I'll take the CEO position at Everton, and work for half the salary. We'll have a new coach tomorrow, Bill will be dismissed from the Board, Marcel will oversee all football operations, NSNO will be replaced with WTYP (Work Till Ya Puke), and we'll claw our way upwards with a lot of hard work, and some flair and personality mixed in, on and off the pitch.


Oh, and I'll have a Blue book-burning kickoff party, and start with torching How to Win Friends and Influence People by the Charlatan Dale Carnegie.

Kevin O'Regan
19 Posted 08/10/2019 at 11:23:17
Thanks for the feedback lads. The idea is that no one system or process or wise words or book has all the answers. But if you're not learning new ways (to change the styles and adapt to the current challenge), if you think you have the right solutions and if you don't have a clear vision that everyone buys into, If you don't have open and good communication, people taking responsibility (rather than just receiving instructions), if you don't have a professional group of people looking at all aspects of how to be successful and make the necessary changes quickly then you will simply stay put or live with a mindset of 'the status quo is fine' or 'nothing ever changes'. A process or foundation stone is just a framework to support the cause and each organisation or business or team needs to find their own way. If it's not working for the past 30+ years you need to change the mindset. Yes, leadership is still needed and even a captain (did we not have about 5 former captains in our squad recently?) but in all good teams there is a culture of leadership, of some risk taking and above all of learning from mistakes in order to improve every single day. Sure have fun along the way, but remember that the most pleasure comes from trying your very best and seeing the results. Won't happen overnight but we are well used to patience right?
Matt Traynor
20 Posted 09/10/2019 at 07:46:17
This gave me a giggle, and pause for thought. I stopped working with Big Corporate some years ago, when I realised that senior positions in corporate functions, usually HR, were being occupied by "snivelling little shits". Working for a big global firm at the time, and being "fast-tracked" to junior director level (because my carefully-honed team of 'arl arses and young keen-to-learn graduates was one of the best-performing units), my road to Damascus moment was reached and I said "fook this, I'm off". And moved abroad - to a continent I'd never been to, on basically a whim.

For me the parallel with Everton is - during the 80s, clubs were relatively small businesses, and were usually fairly tightly run, with a Board traditionally made up of local successful business people (who may fund or underwrite the club), etc. Plus the views and sentiments of the fans meant something, as our revenue was vital to the club. Fast forward to the mass media era, and the money pouring in meant that model had to go. Hence why football now is Big Corporate on steroids. And we as fans don't matter - we're not a big contributor to top line revenue.

Although no longer a UK resident, whenever I caught episodes of W1A, 2012 and the like - that's exactly how I imagine some of the strategy meetings now at L4 4EL sound...

Reality indistinguishable from parody...

Jamie Crowley
21 Posted 10/10/2019 at 14:40:36
Matt -

Your post cracked me up. It sounds all too familiar to me.

I just stayed on the same continent and chose Florida to start my “enlightened” life.

Reality indistinguishable from parody, indeed.

I often thought, “Do I stay and fight, trying to create a new culture? Or do I just insulate myself and create my own culture?”

In the end I just wasn’t up for the fight. I’ve been hiding ever since. 😉

Karl Masters
22 Posted 11/10/2019 at 00:54:18
Whilst some of you almost mock Kevin's post, I think there is something in it even for a football team.

If you want to see the results of a team all pulling together for a manager and adopting an attitude of wanting to improve all the time, then sadly you only have to look across Stanley Park.

On the other hand, take a look at Spurs where clearly there are other things at play. They don't look like they are playing with an attitude of self-improvement and wanting to take the team forward with the manager, do they?

As for Everton, it's too early to say if the current malaise is a blip or something more serious, but I'm definitely concerned that this Club has lost its hard-work ethos. Even the most talented players will be nothing without hard work, as Kevin points out referring to Cristiano Ronaldo. We play like individuals, there'll always be another team daft enough to employ these players and they know it.

Is everybody pulling together, is everybody truly motivated for The Club, The Team? I'm not so sure.

Dennis Stevens
23 Posted 11/10/2019 at 03:46:21
If only we had Liverpool's Just In [Stoppage] Time approach to penalties!
Jamie Crowley
24 Posted 11/10/2019 at 05:59:28
Karl I think I should be clear. If you are referring to me, I’m not mocking this post at all.

It was very well written, and makes a lot of salient points.

Everton may need a more corporate, organized approach and culture. God knows it works for many an organization.

It’s just not my personal cup of tea. But I make no claim as to if it’s the right way forward or not. It very well may be. I don’t have that answer.

I honestly don’t have that answer. I simply have a negative reaction to corporate approaches. A personal opinion, and nothing more.

It was an excellent piece, and food for thought.

Geoff Trenner
25 Posted 11/10/2019 at 07:46:09
Good article Kevin. I particularly enjoyed the Kaizen references. Good luck with that!

I am currently consulting with a number of public sector clients and trying to get them to understand that there is a place, outside manufacturing, for Kaizen, 5S, poka-yoke, SMED etc. is proving ‘challenging’.

Paul Brierley
26 Posted 11/10/2019 at 09:12:56
Great read Kevin, I too am from Cork and followed Everton much like you despite all around being red, I did it in large because I fell in love with the blue jersey but also to be different, something I gladly retain in my thinking. Funny about looking to our beloved Everton more when the chips are down in our own lives, I endured a desperate situation in the work place a couple of years ago and leaned more on our great club, it's performances & result to help lift my spirit in those troubled times but unfortunately Everton did an "Everton" for most of the season offering only further pain on top. When I emerged from the darkness I was more upset that my beloved club offered me no crumbs of comfort when I really needed them than what I went through at work! I agree with your mindset regarding NSNO, something I use in my everyday life and all work I undertake, aim high, be consistent, execute, deliver. and repeat! Think I have a fellow PM in you!
Stan Schofield
27 Posted 31/10/2019 at 19:31:28
Kevin, thought provoking article.

Sometimes I think we have been midtable for so long simply because successive boards have been happy for it to be that way. I've no direct evidence, just circumstantial and a feeling.

To be the best, in addition to the necessary talent you need real desire, a hunger. I don't think we have it. We had it in the 60s through John Moores, and in the mid-80s through Kendall, which was a direct result of the 60s success.

You cite the success of Japan. They became successful because they hungered for it, worked for it. Same with Germany. It was necessary to change from the disasters of the past, it was imperative. Just as a war can prompt a nation to succeed, so can the after effects of a war. Military competitiveness is usually a great impetus for scientific and technological advance. This was the reason for the superiority of Britain and Germany, the two most powerful nations on Earth in science and engineering, up to WWII.

Similarly, the Cold War prompted massive technical progress and the space race. We don't now have that, and massive wars between great nations are probably a thing of the past, because of nuclear weapons. We are now in an era of 'steady to middling progress' rather than the 'rapid progress' that accompanies conflict between big nations.

So, getting back to Everton, unless we have an injection of massive desire and the finances commensurate with that desire, comparable to the John Moores era, we'll likely remain where we are, 'steady to middling', with the usual ups and downs of a midtable club.

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