The Giants are 0-5
As I write this, the NFL’s NY Giants are winless with five losses. ESPN sportswriter Bill Barnwell cites a number of reasons for their poor performance. You may not run a football franchise, but any business can learn from these reasons:
Drafting Disaster – The problems for the Giants start with one number. Of the 2016 playoff teams ranked by the number of players they drafted between 2009 and 2013 who were on their roster for at least one snap last season, the Giants were dead last with a mere four players. Barnwell points out that the Green Bay Packers lead the league in quality drafting over this period with 13 players still on the roster. They are followed by the Steelers with 12, and Patriots with 11. (The Raiders–with 6–are in the cellar with the Giants.)
Quality recruiting is key to organizational success. The US Marines are successful because of the high standard of their recruiting effort. They take people who want to be Marines, because that makes it easier to make them Marines. There is a proven process for this. Turnover rates are fairly well publicized. You can calculate yours and make the comparison. Of course, then you might have to face the fact that you are not as good as you think you are.
The Wheel of Cash – To fill out his roster, General Manager Reese did what desperate teams do: He spent oodles of money in free agency. First, he pursued a bevy of mid-tier free agents with limited success, paying premiums to add replacement-level players. ‘Sound familiar? I cannot tell you how often I hear employees lament that, to get a pay raise, you need to leave the organization and then come back. We throw money at poorly-screened market hires, thinking they are the solution, even the salvation. But all too often, they don’t work out.
Your profitable growth is based on long-term employees who understand what you do, why you do it, and how you do it. They know the policies, procedures and values. Yes, you should always be looking to upgrade, and a market hire can be a great asset. But you don’t build greatness for the long term with free agents. And when you spend, you hit the P&L, leaving little room for other investments in people and equipment.
The False Hope of 2016 – The Giants got really lucky in a bunch of games last year. Much of their improvement between 2015 and 2016 came down to their performance in games decided by seven points or fewer. Both the 2015 and 2016 Giants were 3-2 in games decided by eight or more points, but the 2015 Giants were 3-8 in the close contests, while the 2016 Giants went 8-3. There was no reason to think they would continue to win nearly 75 percent of their close games on an annual basis. This year, they are 0-3 in one-score games.
Construction projects are subject to huge positive and negative variances across cost codes and activities. Somehow, they usually net to a percent or two positive or negative, and it all works out. But sometimes, firms simply fail to look more closely at critical activities, and they incur risk in doing so. Maybe you aren’t as good as you think you are at a certain activity because costs are being put in the wrong place. I just watched a presentation from a project manager on the real cost of punch list work, and it opened a lot of eyes in that firm. How closely are you willing to look at historical costs and the way you really do business?
What to Learn – Barnwell said it best: The biggest lesson from the Giants’ fall from grace is simple: If you’re a coach or an executive, be honest with yourself when you evaluate your team. If the metrics disagree about your team, as is the case with these Giants, you might want to re-evaluate whether you’re actually as good as your record says you are. The most common mistake fans make in evaluating their teams before the season is to count on everything that went right a year ago to stay right while all the problems get fixed. Organizations make the same mistakes sometimes, too.
Benjamin Franklin summed it up this way: “One of the greatest tragedies in life is the murder of a beautiful theory by a gang of brutal facts’. He could write for ESPN today. Could he be writing about you?