People all over the world are fascinated by sports. Our sports teams provide a great source of pride, entertainment, and escape from our daily grind.
Sports are our original reality entertainment. The outcomes cannot be scripted. That is why the 1980 US Hockey Team was such a miracle. That is why the 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series title broke the Curse of the Bambino following a historic series comeback against their chief rival, the NY Yankees. And people will tune to see if this is the year that the Cubs end their 108-year championship drought.
Sports also provide valuable lessons in our daily lives.
They demonstrate the importance of teamwork, perseverance, commitment, and hard work.
I also think that there are valuable work lessons to be learned as well. If you have read the article I wrote last year, 4 Things CIOs Can Learn from the 2015 Kansas City Royals, then you already know what I am talking about.
A New NBA Season Is About to Begin
As we gear up for another highly-anticipated NBA season, I thought this was a good time to reflect on Golden State Warrior’s 2015-2016 season.
I chose to write about Golden State even though they eventually lost the championship to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a very exciting 7-game series.
This is not meant to be a knock on Lebron James and the Cavaliers. I believe LeBron is one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
I just think that there might be more to learn from the unprecedented regular-season success that Golden State enjoyed, followed by ultimately falling short in the finals.
It is why we watch sports. And we did watch. Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was the third highest watched NBA game in the last 30 years, with 31.02 million tuning in. The two games that had a larger audience included Michael Jordon (Game 6s in ’93 and ’98).
Belated congratulations to Lebron James and the 2015-16 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
So here are the 4 takeaways that I feel CIOs and other business leaders can learn from the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors:
1. Perfection Is Unattainable
Golden State won a historic 73 games during the 2015-16 NBA regular season. It was one win better than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls regular season, which many still consider to be the greatest team of all time.
The Bull’s record was supposed to last forever. It was inconceivable that it would never be matched. And then last year, Golden State started the season with 24 wins, not losing a game until December 12th!
Legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.” I think this as true in business as it is in sports. A great example of this is the current battle with cyber-crime.
Security experts almost universally agree that it is impossible to be 100% safe from cyber-crime. I do believe that everyone who holds sensitive data has an obligation to strive for cyber-security perfection. Even if perfection is unattainable, if we can catch excellence, most of us would be far better off.
2. Great Team Building is Critical
In the NBA, it is critical to have the right pieces on the team. Each roster can have a maximum of just 15 players.
By contrast, an NFL roster can carry 53 players. With rosters so small, NBA coaches have to get the maximum value from every member of their team.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the Smash Brothers, have become stars. And Draymond Green, a critical component, has become infamous.
But Golden State does not win 73 games without other critical role players, like Leandro Barbosa, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, and Andrew Bogut.
As you strive for perfection from your IT team, you need to get the most out of each member. You have to understand and maximize their strengths while working to overcome their weaknesses.
3. It Is About the Process and Sticking to It
There was a lot of attention focused on the Golden State Warriors last season. They started with 24 straight wins and did not lose until 2 months into the season. They didn’t even lose a home game until April!
When they did finally lose a home game, there were just 6 games left in the season. At that point, Golden State needed to finish the season with 5 wins in 6 games to break the Chicago Bull’s regular season record.
After that first home loss, Steve Kerr said this about the players on his team, “I think they want the [wins] record. But I think what they probably realize is maybe all the talk and all the focus on the record has gotten us away from the process of who we are.”
Kerr followed that up by saying, "I do think the constant questions and talk about — whether it's home win streak or record or whatever — I think all that stuff does take its toll, whether the players know it or not, whether it's a conscious thing or not, and it probably has taken a little bit away from, as I said, our process or our work."
What Coach of the Year Steve Kerr understood was that he needed to keep his team focused on their ultimate goal: winning a title.
Every team will face distractions, and that includes your IT team. They will encounter adversity and experience glowing successes. The key takeaway is that it is your job to keep them focused on the ultimate goal.
You are their coach, so make sure your team has a clear understanding of their goals and they get the support needed to reach them.
4. They Missed Their Goal. Now What?
The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors ultimately failed to achieve their number one goal of winning an NBA title.
They lost the NBA Championship in a thrilling Game 7, where LeBron James simply would not be denied. That loss may detract from the historical significance of their 73-win season, but it does not make it any less great.
The Warriors achieved something that no other team has accomplished in the 70-year history of the NBA. They should be extremely proud of that accomplishment. But that doesn’t mean they were going to rest on their laurels.
Golden State management immediately set their sights on how they could improve their team.
They worked as a team to land the most sought-after free agent in recent memory, LeBron James excluded. This fall, Kevin Durant will join the Warriors, which is the team that dashed his playoff hopes the previous two seasons.
The biggest question mark is how he will work with the other members of the team. It is only preseason, but the Warriors defeated the Clippers 120-75 on October 4th. If that is any indication of how Durant will fit with the Warriors, I would say they are in good shape.
The key point here is that you should always look for ways to make your team better. That could include adding team members with complimentary skillsets or providing training so your existing team can increase their value for themselves and for your organization.
I am excited to see what the Warriors can accomplish this season.
I do not think I am alone when I say that I am excited to see what Golden State can do now that they have Kevin Durant. They should be must-see TV again this year.
I also get excited when I see what teams are able to accomplish in business when they are provided with an environment that gives them the best chance at success.
To help you get the most out of your team, we put together the eBook, The Art of Understanding Your IT Team. Make sure to get your copy today.