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Business Organization akin to Professional Sports Team

How many times have you heard this “My co-workers are just like family!”  

While it’s not surprising that we feel deeply personal since we spend most of our waking hours at work, it makes sense that many feel the need to define their organization’s culture and relationships within a family dynamic. However, if a company instills a false sense of belonging, someone who holds this thinking may become extremely disappointed when the family ties are broken. 

I’d suggest that a business organization is more like a professional sports team.  

Think about it. A professional sports team involves recruiting top talent and skilled contributors, strong teamwork and collaboration, coaching and strategy plus adaptability and continuous improvement.  

Comparing your workplace environment highlights a few organizational dynamics that are like a professional sports team. 

Clear Goals and Objectives: 

  • Business and sports teams both have specific, measurable objectives. In sports, it's winning games or championships while in business, it's achieving financial targets, market share, or other performance metrics. Families do not typically have such performance goals. 

Hierarchical Structure: 

  • Both businesses and sports teams operate with a clear hierarchy. In sports, there are coaches, players, and support staff. In a business, there's a management team, employees, and shareholders. Families operate on relationships rather than formal roles and titles. 

Recruitment and Talent Acquisition: 

  • Both businesses and sports teams engage in recruitment to find the right talent to achieve their objectives. They actively seek individuals with the necessary skills and qualifications. In a family, members are not recruited based on skills or qualifications but are born into their position of father, mother, son and daughter.  

Specialization: 

  • In both businesses and sports, individuals often have specialized roles and responsibilities. Businesses and sports teams select or hire individuals for their specific skills to contribute to the overall success. In a family, while there may be roles and responsibilities, they are less likely to be based on specialized skills.  

Performance Evaluation: 

  • Performance in a sports team is regularly assessed, and players are often traded or released if they don't perform to expectations. Similarly, businesses evaluate employee performance, and underperforming employees may be coached to improve performance. In a family, members don't typically face such consequences for underperformance. 

Competition: 

  • Both businesses and sports teams operate in competitive environments. They compete against other businesses or teams to achieve their objectives. In business, market share or revenue goals may be the goal line to work towards whereas families don't typically have this competitive aspect. 

Teamwork and Collaboration: 

  • Teamwork and collaboration are crucial in both businesses and sports. Processes may be defined as plays in which all business or sports team members understand their role and responsibilities within the dynamic of the team’s goal. Every team member needs to work together towards common goals. While family members often collaborate, it's typically based on different dynamics and not explicitly goal oriented. 

Economic Considerations: 

  • Businesses are fundamentally driven by economic considerations, such as profit, revenue, market share and sustainability. As to the professional sports team, effective management of revenue streams, expenses and investments is essential for the team’s financial health, competitiveness and sustainability. In contrast, families are typically motivated by emotional and social considerations, not necessarily economic. 

A leader in the entertainment industry has routinely communicated that their organizational structure is that of a sports team.

Netflix: A Case Study in Sports Team Mentality 

Similar to how successful sports teams constantly scout for new talent and adjust team compositions for optimal performance, Netflix maintains a proactive stance in seeking out and acquiring the best talent. Their philosophy revolves around the understanding that decisions regarding recruitment and team adjustments must be solely based on the performance required for the company to thrive. This approach emphasizes and aligns with the dynamic, goal-oriented nature of professional sports teams, where individual skills and contributions are paramount for the overall success of the organization. 

By aligning their organizational culture with the principles of a professional sports team, Netflix emphasizes the importance of talent, teamwork, performance, and adaptability in the competitive business landscape, which has contributed to its success in the entertainment industry. 

In summary, there are many similarities between a business and a professional sports team in terms of organizational structure and performance-oriented objectives. Businesses and sports teams are goal-driven, competitive and focused on performance while families are primarily driven by emotional bonds and social connections.  

Furthermore, if an organizational culture is described as familial, then that organization may hide some true interdependencies that could prevent growth and innovation.