How Business Imitates Basketball

March Madness brings basketball to the center of American culture and society for 3 weeks each year. The national college basketball tournament has become a defining annual event with fans cheering for their local favorites, their alma mater, the team with their favorite mascot, the underdog, or the Cinderella team.

Even as workers across the country are distracted by the tournament and the teams filling the brackets, with consulting firm Challenger, Gray estimating 2018 US productivity loss to be $2.3 billion in lost wages per hour watched, the spectacle on the court offers instructive parallels to most every business.

Successful business teams, like successful basketball teams, begin with clear objectives. Let’s delight our customers by delivering great products and services. Let’s delight our fans by winning our next game.

How will we know we are successful? When our customers find great value in purchasing our products and services. When our fans cheer our talent and effort in successfully overcoming our opponents.

Successful basketball teams win games by scoring a point at a time. These short term goals – let’s make a basket – add up to a longer term goal – let’s score more points than the other team, and culminate in the definition of a successful outcome – let’s win the game; let’s win our bracket; let’s win the tournament.

Successful businesses imitate this model. Short term goals – let’s find out what customers want and create a great product or service to delight them -link to longer term goals – let’s find more customers who find our product or service valuable, or, let’s improve our product or service so customers find it more valuable – link to the definition of a successful outcome – we are profitable and our employees, customers, stakeholders, and shareholders embrace our business model.

Successful basketball teams have players who understand their roles and responsibilities. They each understand what is expected of them and step up and deliver their appropriate role and responsibility in each situation. They support their teammates, give them help and support, and play in alignment with the plan.

Successful businesses do the same.

Successful basketball teams and successful businesses have coaches and leaders who create plans that draw from the strengths of the players and minimize the weaknesses. They communicate the plans in a way that the players can understand, and they define the vision so the players can be aligned and perform to create successful outcomes.

Successful teams and successful businesses learn how to communicate and how to create repeatable plays and repeatable processes so the players can anticipate and participate in predictable patterns whenever possible, patterns that have been tested and proven to contribute to successful outcomes.

And, successful teams and successful businesses empower their people to make bold decisions at the appropriate times to respond to the situation with the best interest of their teammates, colleagues, fans, and stakeholders in mind.



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