“The underdog does not stop to philosophize about his position.”
- Paul Laurence Dunbar
That’s a picture of me and my family celebrating Loyola winning the NCAA South Regional final game here in Atlanta. Our oldest and middle daughters are Loyola graduates. (I didn’t go there, but my money did.) We have followed the team since the NCAA Tournament started. They beat four teams far taller than they were; four teams with more famous players than they had; four teams with an athletic budget that dwarfs theirs. Loyola beat the competition the same way smaller businesses beat larger ones. Their success is based on three factors.
1. Agility. Agility isn’t a methodology – it’s a mindset. Speed beats size every
time. Specifically, the ability to make adjustments faster than the competition. Big
organizations are trying their best to become more agile. For example, to be agile, you
have to have a culture that accepts bad news. Within most large companies, everyone
is trying to look good, so no one wants to say something isn’t working or won’t work,
especially if that something is within his area of responsibility. Take GE for example.
Their culture didn’t accept bad news, so leadership kept changing people and
sugarcoating things instead of changing strategies or approaches.
2. Efficiency. Being resourceful beats having more resources every time. Smaller
companies are more focused and make the most out of what they have. They operate
from a mantra of “Think Big, Start Small, Learn Quickly, Grow Fast.” Big companies
think big and start big. As a result, everyone is always competing for more resources
versus optimizing what they have. Another downside of starting big is it also causes
people not to accept bad news because of the large investments that have been made.
Everyone is trying to save face, so they point fingers at each other instead of the
problem. Big companies also spend tons of money on high-priced consultants instead
of listening to their people and customers, and more money analyzing instead of
doing. They do because they have more chefs in the kitchen who have to have a say on
what’s on the menu and how it gets cooked. In other words, there are way more
politics at play, which consume more resources and slows down progress.
3. Trust. Believing in your teammates beats only believing in yourself every time.
Another way of saying it is you don’t care who gets the credit as long as the team
wins. Within a culture that trusts, people are willing to pass the ball and let others
take the shots. In large companies, people are more concern with who is gets the
credit than winning the game. They are because leadership celebrates who takes the
shots and overlook who passed the ball and set the screens to open up the shooters.
Leaders view the “Back office, Behind the scenes” people as expenses to minimize
instead of core competences to maximize. Organizations who trust are also more
efficient and agile because everyone knows their contributions are appreciated. As a
result, people do more than what is required of them.
Regardless whether Loyola wins the overall tournament, they are already winners. Their leadership has institutionalized the three factors it takes for underdogs to win.
In closing, always think of yourself as the underdog and focus on how your team plays instead of the size of the opponent you are playing.