The phrase “to leave your foot in” in soccer is analogous to behavior we sometimes see in software implementation.
“To leave your foot in means to first go for the ball but continue after the ball has been won, or lost, and kick the opponent. The ‘in‘ in the phrase refers to the tackle, giving ‘in the tackle’. so, if you leave your foot in the tackle, it means your foot is used to catch, kick, or stamp on the opposing player. The opposite is to pull out of a tackle, and a player does this when they realize they cannot get the ball without fouling the other player. In contrast, a player who leaves his or her foot in, does so deliberately, meaning to foul, or even hurt, the other player. The player definitely decides to foul the opponent, and it is, therefore, a nasty challenge, one deserving of a yellow or even a red card.”Language Caster – Football Language
In other words, to leave your foot in is to add something extra with the intention to hurt (maybe a little, maybe a lot).
The equivalent behavior can be seen in software implementation when the implementer adds more than is required to ensure they are still needed after launch. You’ll often see this behavior from delivery organizations (System Integrators) or individuals that benefit (usually financially) from this unnecessary dependency. In most cases, the partner implementer will add custom or very specific technology that ensures they are called back when things go awry. Like football, it can be very subtle.
This issue can be addressed when you establish clear roles at the onset of any implementation. Having one team as implementors and a separate team as “run and operate” is a good first step. However, even within these two phases, you’ll want to ensure that decisions are being made that benefit the organization and not the implementation partners. In our experience, you’ll want to develop a governance framework that not only evaluates the change management plan but analyzes the proposed solutions.
You don’t have to be driven by skepticism. “Trust but verify” is an excellent mantra when trying to avoid Implementers that “Leave their foot in.”