Every Team Isn't Trying to Win
Part of being a football fan is discussing why National Football League (NFL) teams make the decisions they make when building their roster of talent: players, general managers, and coaches. Some teams seem to consistently field winners. Other teams regularly field teams with losing records. Then there’s a cohort of teams in the middle who are championship caliber from time to time. Some owners and general manager’s seem to consistently make decisions that put their teams in position to win their division, get to the playoffs, and play in the Super Bowl. Other teams seem to make decisions that consistently position them to lose and have one of the top 10 picks of each spring’s NFL draft. As I often direct my flurry of football questions towards my father he quickly interrupts me.
“Russ Russ Russ! You gotta remember… every team is not trying to win.”
I always struggle with this reality. As a fan, it’s hard to imagine a team not doing everything it takes to be the very best and to try to win the Super Bowl.
As many of you know the National Football League is big business fueled primarily by large television contracts that practically ensures each franchise will be extremely profitable on an annual basis regardless of the outcome on the field. Some franchise owners are eager to invest their profits back into the organization to field a winning team. Other owners are content to make a profit, watch their team value increase, and enjoy the benefits of owning such a unique and exclusive asset.
Like in the NFL not every organization in every industry is trying to win or achieve excellence.
Many organizations and their leaders are happy to stay in their comfort zone; content with the outcomes and the returns they’re currently generating even when the returns include high employee turnover, lawsuits, and reputational damage from bad press.
Achieving excellence is uncomfortable because it requires people to grow and change, creating cultures and systems to maintain excellence. In an increasingly diverse and complex world with new and emerging critical needs, excellence in the form of innovation is prized. Innovation often requires working with people from different backgrounds with different beliefs, ideas, styles, and skill sets. Creating a culture that attracts and retains the best talent with all of the skills required to innovate consistently is a challenge every organization faces and the best organizations embrace.
Some organizations aren’t committed to innovation or excellence. These organization’s leaders are satisfied with not being the best because the benefits of being good enough are sufficient. Other organizations might be the best now and believe that by continuing to do things the same way they will continue to “win”. As our business environment shifts with increasing speed, organizations who do not create and maintain a culture that seeks to identify and retain the best talent regardless of background, race, gender, sexual identification or other affiliation will not win.
The best organizations will be in the Super Bowl so to speak, leading their industry. Everyone else will regularly be “on the clock” at the draft churning talent they inevitably can’t keep because their organizations are content with the comfort of the status quo. And so it will go because everyone doesn’t want to win.