Editors Note: If you're not sick of the all the Lebron/Miami Heat hype by this point, you're either not following sports at all (which is fine) or you're wearing a Lebron James jersey - right now.
So, we're a fourth of the way through the NBA season. It seems like a good time to evaluate what's going on and think about what it means for building a great organization. The Miami Heat go out and grab Lebron and Chris Bosh to pair with Dwyane Wade, and the result is a 13-8 record and early rumblings the All-Star crew was going to run a mutiny and force the young head coach of the Heat out...
Meanwhile, we've really heard nothing about the leaders in the West, which includes the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz (16-3 and 15-6 respectively). The 24-hour news cycle on the Miami Heat really tells us everything that's wrong with our society today. We cover the flash and ignore the quiet excellence...
Which is why I'm re-running the post below from last March. For lessons in how to build your company, look to Utah and San Antonio....I've left the comments from last March in, feel free to pontificate about the contrasts to Miami and what it means for our companies...
That's right - a post on the NBA. If you give me a chance, I'll make a comparison to your organization. All I need is a chance. From you. So keep scrolling...
Think you have a good talent culture? I'm no OD expert, but I'd tell you that the following things need to be present:
1. Ownership who knows who it is and what it wants. They don't try to be everything to everyone.
2. Continuity in Leadership positions. AND - that leadership doesn't try to be everything to everyone. They've got a system. It works. If you want to work there, you've got to be a part of the system.
3. A system (including recruiting, performance management, development, marketing, etc.) that is so effective that the organization can survive the departure of stars without a tremendous decrease in business results.
4. Points #1-3 add up to the following: The organization with a good talent culture routinely outperforms those who spend more on talent than they do. They compete in ways that they shouldn't because of their approach to talent.
No doubt you can list other factors that must be present to have a sweet talent culture. That's my short list, and the devil is obviously in the details that I don't have space to unfold in a blog post.
So.. Let's evaluate a real ecosystem and determine the winners and the losers....With the factors above in mind, who has the strongest organizational/talent culture in the NBA (pro hoops)?
If you said the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics, congratulations. You're a front runner and you've taken the simple way out. The Lakers have been outspending everyone for decades and have the natural talent advantage of playing in a market where every NBA player would like to play. The Celtics, while hot recently and holding 17 championships (is it 17? I think it's 17...), went through such a dry period between Bird/McHale and Garnett/Pierce/Allen that it's hard to say their talent culture is best in class.
If you really evaluate NBA franchises, two come to mind as having best in class organizational/talent cultures: The Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs.
First, let's examine the Jazz. The Jazz play in a market that is like kryptonite to the average NBA player. Salt Lake City is different from almost every other NBA city and is routinely voted near the bottom of the cities in which NBA players would like to play. Yet the Jazz deliver consistent seasons year after year. How does the Jazz franchise generate such results?
Let's go down my list of factors. They've got consistent ownership. That ownership has had head coach Jerry Sloan in place for almost 20 years, in a league where the average tenure of a coach is about 2 years. Sloan has the same offensive sets he's always run - the Jazz just execute with precision. You know what's coming. You just can't stop it due to the emphasis on execution. Because Sloan has been there forever, if you don't want to execute what he wants, you sit. And the owner has his back.
So the factors are in place for the Jazz. But here's what is really impressive - not too long ago they had two hall of famers playing for them in Karl Malone (the mailman) and John Stockton. When those two rode off into the sunset, Utah should have dropped to the bottom of the league while they rebuilt. But they didn't. Mainly because the primary factors outlined above were in place.
Many would argue that the San Antonio Spurs are in a similar position with organizational/talent culture. I'd agree, with the following additional thought - when Tim Duncan (the cornerstone of the Spurs franchise) finally retires and the Spurs remain a playoff team for 5-6 years, they'll arrive at the level of the Jazz.
For now, it's the Jazz. Build your company after the model that they've created. Strong ownership, leadership continuity, and a consistent system that works when executed. That's all it takes.