The story of the Heat is well known. “The Decision.” LeBron James leaves Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. The purpose: To win championships, multiple championships, to create a basketball dynasty in Miami. The result: NBA Finals three years in a row, with back-to-back championships in 2012 and this year.
The Miami Heat took a strategic leap approach to organizational success. They acquired the top player in the game to play with two other brilliant players. They built a different team. A radically different team. Some journalists referred to it as the experiment in Miami. It took time for the Miami big three to figure out how to work together. But with the help of Coach Erik Spoelstra, they made it work. Sometimes a radical shift, a strategic leap, can be the path to success.
The San Antonio Spurs have sustained excellence. In the past 14 years they have been to the NBA Finals five times, winning four NBA championships. The Spurs take more of a kaizen approach, incremental steps with an emphasis on player development. R. C. Buford, Spurs’ General Manager, has called it “organizational patience.” Writers often describe San Antonio’s big three, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, as aging players. A New York Times article by Billy Witz on June 2 was titled: “Spurs, as They Age, Remain Sustainable.” Witz wrote the Spurs “rely on shrewd evaluation and devotion to development.” Through “shrewd evaluation”, the Spurs acquire players with potential, players in leagues other than the NBA, international players, players perceived as lesser quality, and then develop that potential, grow that talent, fit that talent around the Spurs’ big three. Gregg Popovich, the Spurs’ coach, not only emphasizes discipline (see a previous blog) but also gives leadership credit to these big three: “Those three guys have a lot of character and they make it easy for whoever we bring in to adjust and understand their role on the team. They help me do my job.”
My take-away: Organizations are made – and die based on their ability to acquire the talent. At the heart of these two great NBA teams are the players. Using different strategies, both acquired the type of talent needed to be effective, to be excellent. Smart human resource acquisition is fundamental to success. How good is your organization at obtaining and sustaining talent?
Image of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tony_parker_spurs_vs_wizards_cropped.jpg