Culture and Belief – The Winner over Talent

Have you ever wondered why some teams and businesses are consistently successful and others come and go? How has IBM been able to stay at or near the top of the business world for over half a century? Why are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics always at or near the top while the Los Angeles Clippers are perennially at or near the bottom? How could four of the five top teams in the current BCS rankings, have achieved those rankings without having a single top 20 ranked recruiting class in any of the past five years between them?

Let’s start with the NBA teams I mentioned. I would argue that the overall talent level in all these organizations is comparable. So what makes the Clippers different than the other three organizations I have mentioned? It’s the culture of the organization. While the Clippers play basketball, the Lakers and Celtics work and live basketball, it’s in their organization’s genetic code.

It takes time and commitment to create a culture of winning. IBM along with the Lakers and Celtics all built solid foundations with the clear goal of dominating their field. Meanwhile the Clippers have taken a piecemeal approach, gradually increasing their efforts, but without ever articulating or committing to and sticking with a guiding vision. It’s impossible for employees or team members to buy into something that is not consistent and clear. Additionally, once you have articulated a clear vision you must make an unwavering commitment to it and there must be accountability at all levels. It has to start at the top or it will fail before it gives itself a chance to succeed.

Being a part of IBM, the Lakers or the Celtics allows each individual to be a part of something bigger than they could ever be alone. Being a Clipper often means being a part of something smaller than you could be on your own. Thus, the Clipper players in the past easily fell into a “me first” attitude and we’ve all seen what results come from that.

In the case of college football you have to look no further than the current BCS rankings to clearly see the benefits of buying into the culture of being a part of something bigger than yourself. How else could teams like Oregon, Boise State, TCU and Michigan State be winning with all these passed over players?* Those four schools boast a combined record of 31-0 right now while the three teams with the combined highest ranked ESPN recruiting classes for those years (Florida, Texas & USC) have a combined record of 13-8.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s comments after his team’s come from behind victory last Saturday are instructive: “You go 8-0 with players that believe, you go 8-0 when you build a program, and there’s a ripple effect top down throughout our whole program that people believe in what’s going on.”

It all started with a vision four years ago. Dantonio’s message has remained consistent throughout, which has included suspensions and dismissals. As a result he has created a culture where players are held accountable in a family like atmosphere with a purpose and the whole team is starting to reap the rewards.

Just like Chip Kelly at Oregon, Chris Peterson at Boise State and Gary Patterson at TCU.

*=If each team takes an average of 22 new players in each recruiting class and none of those four teams ever cracked the top 20 classes in the past five years, hypothetically speaking that means a minimum of 440 players a year or 2200 players over that five year period were taken ahead of the players on those four teams. And this number grows larger if those four schools classes weren’t ranked 21-24, which they weren’t.

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