The business sweeper

The concept of a soccer sweeper is something that can be applied to business formations too. The objective of a sweeper is to clear dangers that got past the initial defense.


I know it might sound strange to see “customer request” of “business actions” as an attack, but bare with me… We tend to set up our organization in a way that we structure all the flows. Yet we often see that informal streams exist or that bottleneck situations occur. It is in these situations that a sweeper role becomes interesting.

A sweeper is mostly a player who has great insight (experience) into the play and keeps a general overview. When something happens that’s not part of our flow, then he jumps in and clears the issue. We sometimes bring in the concept of “Service Level Managers” to tackle these issues. In other coorporations they’re called a different more sexy name. The point is that you have to consider a “sweeper” role…

Who to pick?
To be honest, I haven’t finalized my view on that matter yet. Currently I see two types of persons who might fulfil the role.

  • One is a young (at heart) person who doesn’t rank high in the organization. It’s a typical “hands on” guy who likes to keep a general overview of everything and isn’t shy of new things. The tough part is for his manager to get an insight on his work(load).
  • The other person is kind of a “teamleader”, who manages the team (in a structural way), where he jumps in (on technical matters) when things get rough. The advantage here is that this leader knows the painful spots of the organisation, and he’s in a situation to lobby/act for corrections. An additional surplus is that he gains in respect from his peers, as he’s doing the same “shit” as they are. He’s not “boss-ing” them around.


  • The same concept applies to Volleyball too. They have a sweeper (called libero) too. This person is in charge of doing solely defense stuff, and is not allowed in offense. He’s there to get the team out of the tough attacks and jump into the holes of the defense.
  • Never use more than ONE libero (free role). It might seem tempting, but a team with more free players will forget it’s tactics and create too many holes. One should drill (procedures!) a team to create SOP’s (standard operating procedures). This organisation has to be able to catch 95%. The libero is only there when a play goes wrong!

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