Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where Did You Get Your MBA? At the 2011 NBA Finals?

I was speaking this week to a CEO about his business.  When we were through, he asked me what I thought about the NBA Finals.  I gave him my take on it, but later I thought that my answers to his questions about business were no different from my take aways from the playoff series.  Success happens when you do things the right way, whether in sports or in business.  

Here are my business lessons:

Vision 


Dallas was on a mission of vindication and pride, but also established a strong following (outside of Miami) with those who wanted to see Miami lose because of what the Heat stood for and represented.

  • A clear team mission that is bigger than oneself is more important than individual missions. 
Leadership
  • Leadership is more important than talent.
  • Leadership is earned not taken. 
From Mark Cuban to Rick Carlisle to Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks displayed more leadership than their opponents.  Humility, community, character and culture are more important than individuality, swagger and arrogance.   

Teamwork 
  • Teamwork trumps talent.
  • Team chemistry is critical.  Chemistry takes time.
  • Role players are as important as stars.
Execution

Both offensively and defensively, the Mavericks had a plan and stuck with their plan to the end.  Crisp passing and hitting the open man overcame LeBron James and Dwyane Wade taking turns in one-on-one isolation.   
  • Teamwork is about workflow:  creating clear communication and roles; and making smooth passes, handoffs, transitions, and spacing.  Workflow is key.  Systems and process issues can hide problems.  Workflow fixes will illuminate talent and competency problems.  
  • Execution wins championship.
  • Winning is about closing the deal and finishing strong.
Mindset

Dallas had the confidence, focus, perseverance, tenacity and mental toughness to prevail.  When the games were on the line, they did not choke.  They did not overthink things, because they had a plan.  When they meet adversity, the Heat responded with a lack of confidence and resolve.  

Patience

Miami set themselves up last summer for the expectation that they had to win now. They created pressure and impatience. When they faltered, they panicked.  It was a recipe for failure. Dallas had been building the team in steps and were ready to win now.
  • Championships take time.
  • Continuous improvement bests talent.  
  • Learning from mistakes is crucial.
  • There are few overnight fixes.
  • Success and excellence come in stages.    
  • Organization continuity will trump an quick influx of talent.
Flexibility  

Dallas made adjustments to whatever their opponents through at them, Miami never adjusted their style of play.  In the playoffs, the Mavericks played and beat a young and hungry team, a former championship team, and a team of superstars in succession. They adapted and won.  
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