By Andrew Neitlich

Secret of a 180 degree turnaround

By Andrew Neitlich

It’s halftime here in the USA, and the New England Patriots are beating the Seattle Seahawks 20-6. For those of you who aren’t into USA football, the NE Patriots have won 19 straight games, an NFL record. It looks like, barring a meltdown, they’ll win 20 after today. And they’ve won 2 Superbowls in 3 years, an incredibly difficult feat in today’s sports environment (e.g. free agency, parity, etc).

Keep reading even if you aren’t a sports fan….the business lesson will come soon….

When I was growing up in Massachusetts, my Dad took me every Sunday to see the Patriots. Back then, the Patriots were losers. They had lousy players, one of the worst stadiums in football, and almost always had a losing record. The idea of the Patriots winning a Superbowl, let alone 2 of them in 3 years, was ridiculous.

So how did they turn themselves around, and what does that have to do with you?

First, a new owner (Robert Kraft) took over. Unlike the previous owners, he took a long term view, and worked to build an organization. In fact, he even let Bill Parcels, one of the greatest coaches ever, leave the team after taking the Patriots to the Superbowl. “This is about the organization,” he said. “Not any one individual.”

He nurtured the organization, paying for some top personnel and even investing private money in a new stadium to keep the team in the area.

During their first Superbowl victory, instead of being introduced as individuals, the whole team came out as one. That’s a first in the NFL — and unheard of in today’s sports world of egos.

And now the team is well- respected as a team. They don’t have the best talent in the league (although they have some excellent players). But they have great coaching, and play as a unified group.

So what does this have to do with service businesses? Here’s what:

1. If you want real success, nurture your organization. Make it about the organization, not yourself.

2. Be patient. Invest in the organization.

3. Create a culture that’s about winning together, not about ego.

4. Think big. Bob Kraft saw the possibility of winning it all and being a dominant franchise, when few others did. I still can’t believe that I’m watching the New England Patriots. I knew some high school teams that could almost beat them when I went with my Dad to see their games.

5. Study organizations like the Patriots. Read Built to Last and From Good to Great, both by Collins for more information about this kind of turnaround.

P.S. Now if only the Boston Red Sox can come around (but here I’m really dreaming)….Go Yankees! Take away my misery quickly and painlessly. Don’t let the Red Sox linger only to build and then dash my hopes once again.

  • Kevin

    Nice analogy.
    Until last night, I too was a fan of the Boston Red Sucks

  • It will be interesting if a book is being or will being written about their business process, ala Moneyball about the Oakland A’s.

  • aneitlich

    Whew, close game in the end. But here are three other lessons, some made by the announcers:

    1. The team makes the big plays when others don’t. In this case, a player who was inactivated the previous week made a huge, difficult catch to keep the Patriots ahead.

    2. They take care of the details. Too many businesses are sloppy when it comes to execution, especially of the little things.

    3. They prepare. This team spends more time than most coming up with a game plan to win every week. In business, that means having a strong strategy, and being willing to do more than the next company to get visible and win.

    Enough sports for now, no?

  • No, never enough sport! ;)

    Aussie equivalent is perhaps the North Queensland Cowboys. Losers since their inception a decade ago, but this year they almost made the grand final – not because they had champions in their team, but because they played as a champion team.

    I don’t know anything about their management, but I think that you can never underestimate an organisation that operates as a team rather than a group of individuals.

  • aneitlich

    The classic book on the subject of business teams is The Wisdom of Teams, if anyone is interested. Talks about teams vs. work groups and what high performance business teams do that work groups don’t.

  • steve

    The Detroit Pistons are another excellent example of team vs individuals

  • Kristina

    Guess you are not too heartbroken today! :}

  • Si

    And it looks like our friend Robert Kraft is lining up to take over one of my local football, sorry – soccer teams Aston Villa in the UK.

    Are there any more analogies that could be made with this bit of information? “Think big – don’t let Internationalization put you off!” :)

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