Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winning is everything?

I think it was the UCLA Bruins coach, Red Sanders who, around 1950, is reputed to have said "Winning isn't everything: its the only thing!"

It seems that this has been taken to heart by athletes over the years - of most recent note internationally we have it in the person of Lance Armstrong and, just the other week, in the widely publicised claims by the Australian Crimes Commission relating to a range of sports in Australia. If only "the end" is important than how you get there is irrelevant. Cheating, whether by the use of drugs or any in other form, is always a case of "the end justifies the means".

But its not just in sport that we find illegal and/or immoral behaviour. In Sydney right now the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating how a then member of the New South Wales Parliament stood to gain up to $100 million in a matter of months from an investment of around $4million - it is claimed that a then Government Minister manipulated matters to ensure that his colleague benefitted. The hearing is being closely watched across the State with drama being played out every day and the final findings will be eagerly awaited whether or not corruption is held to have occurred.

There are questions in the business realm also. For years Australian consumers have been forced to pay significantly more for identical products when they are purchased in or from Australia rather than in the USA. In fact a recent enquiry showed that, for one product, it was cheaper to pay for a return airfare to the USA and purchase an item on-line there than it was to purchase the same item on-line in Australia. There is now a Federal Government enquiry being conducted into this possible price gouging and Microsoft and Apple (among others) have been summonsed to appear after they refused invitations to voluntarily appear. They are being asked to justify why identical products, both sourced from the same location and requiring no additional expenditure by the supplier, have such a huge price variance other than 'the end (profit) justifies the means'.

There is no doubt that winning is important. Equally there is no doubt that almost always (other than in some non-existent utopia) there are winners and losers in every arena of activity. This is normal and natural. However "how" you win should always be at least as important than the winning itself.

Recently I've been involved with a company that changed its "how" of doing business. Three years ago it was turning over around $55million annually for about $1million profit. Last year, without reducing staff levels, remuneration, or any employee benefits and while remaining a local manufacturing and distribution business they had revenues of around $70million for a profit of around $11million. Three years ago they saw themselves as losers. Today they know they are winners - all because they took a different approach to "how" and concentrated on a new form of leadership.

What happens in your organisation? Where is the emphasis - on the "what", the "how" or both?

Winning is important. But its not the only thing.

What do you think? Please add your comments below.

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