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Lessons in organizational success or What I have learned from watching the New England Patriots

Full disclosure – I am a HUGE New England Patriots fan. Some might call my fanaticism borderline insane, out of control, or simply bizarre. While this blog and this post is not intended to be sports related, I can’t help but venture down this path at least once as I bask in the glow of the Patriots heading to another conference championship game next Sunday.

Quick history lesson – For those non-football fans, the New England Patriots are one of the premier franchises in all of football and perhaps all of sports. They have fielded a team that has competed for the Super Bowl every year for the past 13 years, (winning it three times and playing for the championship five times) despite dealing with the league’s salary cap, free agency and the fact that every other franchise tries to knock them off their podium.

It got me thinking – what has made them so successful? Growing up a Patriots fan they were a complete joke for many years. During the late 80’s and into the 90’s, except for the odd season, they were one of the worst teams on a regular basis. So what has been the key to success for them and how does that translate into the business world?

Pats logo1) Ownership stability – the team went through 3 owners during the time period mentioned above. In 1994, Robert Kraft purchased the team and has been their owner ever since. He provides economic stability to the players (employees) and essentially ensures that there are no rumours or threats to re-locate the team (company) to another state. In short, the team (company) is firmly grounded within the community.

2) Positive work environment – Mr. Kraft (a.k.a. the President of the company) was able to secure a brand new, state of the art stadium for the team in 2002 (a.k.a. office space) that made coming to the games (provided a comfortable work environment) a positive experience for the players and its fans (customers).

3) Leadership stability – the Patriots have had the same head coach (CEO) since 2000. The team is able to focus on winning (turning a profit/shareholder value) instead of dealing with the constant change and turmoil brought on by changes in leadership. When you have stability at the top with the owner (President) and coach (CEO), the team (employees) is able to focus on organizational excellence and not worrying if the organization (business) will be around next week or next month.

4) Aligned & clear vision – Their coach has installed a playing system (business plan) that is well understood by the team (employees) and its coaches (managers). The Patriots’ players (employees) are given clear goals and they are aligned with the team goals (company’s vision and business plan). Each player knows what is expected of them and how their performance will be measured.

5) Talent management practices – One of the main reasons for the continued success of the Patriots has been their ability to draft key players and develop/acquire high potentials/performers through free agency (i.e. talent acquisition and development). Their star player (employee) is Tom Brady who was a late round draft pick of the Patriots. The impact of their scouting abilities (recruiting) cannot be understated in this regard. They are also very adept at identifying players from other teams that are undervalued at their current club (company) but add great value to the Patriots – again, further examples of their superior talent acquisition practices. The Patriots are also very adept at developing their offensive and defensive coordinator positions in-house. (i.e. middle managers). They focus on talent development and succession planning so that if/when a coordinator (manager) leaves; they are able to replace them with a “ready-now” employee. The same holds true for their players (employees). The Patriots always have someone trained and ready to step in should they experience some turnover.

What do you think? Are these 5 key factors in organizational success? Is there anything that I am missing here? What does your team do well…or not well that they could learn from the Patriots? As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Axel.Foley/Flickr.com

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2 Responses

  1. Well, as a follow Patriots fanatic I completely agree. In fact I might add a couple points of my own:
    1. Core Values: From the owner on down this team is committed not only putting a quality product on the field but creating an organization that the team and the fans can be proud of. This team does not suffer from the drama some other professional team do, and dare I say some organizations I have worked in.
    2. Humble and Hard Working Leaders: Tom Brady is the on-field leader of this team. He is one of the best to ever play quarter back in the NFL and a future member of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame. Yet he is incredibly humble. He speaks about his competitors with great respect and he never criticizes his teammates or organization in public. And he is constantly trying to get better at his craft.

    We could all learn a little or even a lot from this organization.

  2. Andrew – thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate the 2 suggestions and totally agree with you. The whole trifecta of organizational stability, leadership and adherence to core values goes a long in attracting and retaining the right “stars.” The classic leadership lessons of humilty, as you suggest, are also at play here. The best leaders share the success with their teammates and take the blame/criticism when warranted. Those are the leaders that employees (team mates) will always follow. Fingers crossed for the AFC Championship on Sunday.

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