- The big news in the sporting world this week has been the firing of the president and general manager of the Detroit Lions, Matt Millen. He had been president for seven years. Millen was one of those leaders, he was going to save the organization, and he was convinced he knew what he was doing. As one sports commentator said, Millen took a mediocre team and made it worse.
The larger story though, is that this team organization has been dysfunctional for almost 15 years (if not longer). It does not seem to matter who comes in, or what they do, the Lions rarely have a winning season, and have won one playoff game in recent history.
My undergraduate degree was in organizational behavior, so I am interested in things like corporate culture. Some organizations and companies seem to always find a way to be successful and when talk rolls around to “who is the best in the country” their names are mentioned most years. Then, there are the mediocre ones, who seem mired in a “next year” mentality. People come and go, but the mediocrity stays the same.
The Detroit Lions are a case study in mediocre, dysfunctional organizations, and why they stay that way.
They are constantly looking for the quick fix.
Detroit drafted a fast wide receiver three years in a row. They even traded for a flashy wide receiver one year. Why? Because their leadership said “Well, what we need is the right wide receiver. If only… we had a fast wide receiver we would be in the Super Bowl.” Everyone around the table nodded and said “wonderful idea.” “
In reality, building a winning organization takes years of selecting the right players, finding the right staff, and putting an offensive and defensive line (infrastructure) in place. You must have the right people in place who know how to do that.
They don’t know how to hire the right people– and keep them.
One coaching solution was to hire an old coach who should have already been retired (Bobby Ross), then they swung the other way and hired the bright young talent who had shown tremendous potential for success (Steve Mariucci).
They have also hired people for coaching positions who have never had experience in those positions before. No other organization would have selected these people for the positions they were given with the Lions. Too many of their draft picks are players no one else wanted.
The talented and competent people soon start looking for reasons to get out. They get frustrated at the environment they are in and how it seems to suppress excellence and success.
So the bottom line is that success in any company or organization boils down to the right strategy at the right time, and having the right people and resources in place who can execute that strategy. It’s an easy formula, but a difficult place to get to. Some have never gotten there, and never will.