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NBA or MBA – part two

Published By Team AdaptiveWork

In part one of this blog we discussed how over the past few years, basketball and executive teams have seen major changes in management styles and an emphasis on versatility. Following the digital revolution, a major shift to real-time analytics and fierce, swift competition modernized the old models. Today’s game, in both business and basketball, is much quicker, highlighting strong teamwork, agility, and a dramatic redistribution of traditional roles and responsibilities.

Teamwork/collaboration – A team of stars

Collaboration is at the heart of success, on and off the court. Both the organization’s culture and its manager’s practices can either obstruct or cultivate collaboration.

Does teamwork make up for individual skill? “You should have the best talent, but everything fails if everyone’s just out for themselves,” believes Andre Iguodala, a forward on the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors analyzed their winning game performances, only to discover that their best games were won not just by the shots taken, but by how many passes they made to each other, with the golden number being about 300 passes, proving that increased collaboration had unlocked a key to winning games. On the flip side, three of the worst teams this season (Bulls, Cavaliers, and Knicks) were in the bottom five in assists per game, costing them points and ultimately wins.

In C-suite

In the past, each C-suite role had their specific expertise and area of focus. As the business world becomes more global, the C-suite is becoming increasingly cross-functional and cross-geographic. Overall, managers’ functional boundaries are becoming blurred. Companies are realizing that to succeed, managers need to be aware of and understand each other’s challenges and goals. They do so by collaborating closely, embracing the cross section of expertise and pooling knowledge and resources.

Communication Ahoy

Whether it is between teammates or managers, communication is vital to success.

Duke University men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, cites communication as one of the fundamental qualities that make up a great team. The most successful basketball teams practice open communication on and off the court. A good example were the 90s Chicago Bulls. One of the key reasons for their success, outside of great talent, was Michael Jordan, their captain, and his verbal and non-verbal leadership style. His communication style was open, direct and honest to a fault. Coach Phil Jackson was able to balance an extremely diverse set of skills and personalities and channel competition into trust and respect.

If you sit courtside at an NBA game today, you can catch all types of talk and discussion, most having clear communicative implications. Dysfunctional teams tend to have little overall communication, missing out on defensive assignments and not learning from mistakes; you can sense their growing frustration during most games.

The Harvard Business review cites that when 195 global leaders were asked to rate 74 leadership competence qualities, 56% rated “clearly communicates expectations” as third most important. Executive teams that communicate well have a higher success rate in meeting their goals, driving their business initiatives and growing revenue.

The world of business, much like the NBA, is constantly moving to a faster, fiercer game. Competition is now digitally enhanced, with players and managers who are dynamic and skilled across the board. Much of what it takes to create and sustain a winning NBA team can be applied to constructing a successful C-suite team. Collaboration, communication, insights and actions based on statistics and facts, and the ability to move fast in the face of change will be the key success criteria for any of these teams.



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Written by Team AdaptiveWork