Culture is Heart of San Antonio Spurs Organization


If you could play for the Miami Heat or the San Antonio Spurs, which team would you choose? The Heat won the most recent NBA championship, but the Spurs were very close. In Game 6, they blew their chance to close out the series, thereby letting the Heat get one last crack.

Miami has the best player in the game and maybe of the last several years, but the Spurs have a great organizational culture. So which is better? Culture is generally better than a star player or two, because it draws out the best in a whole team. You might say that the Heat won the Finals, though. However, the Spurs are the most successful basketball team in the last fifteen years.

The Spurs have older players and more role players that worked together to have one of the best records in the regular season and get to the Finals. If they didn’t have a strong organizational culture as their foundation, they might have had just a so-so season and lost in the second round of the playoffs to a very spirited Warriors team with younger players.

Recently there was an explanation of how organizational culture works within the Spurs management, “Values-Based Leadership is a management approach that uses a company’s core ethical values as the foundation for all business decisions, believing that the ultimate measure of a company’s success is the degree to which its actions — internally within the business and externally in the marketplace — exemplify those values.

Companies that manage by values use a different yardstick to measure success. It’s not just about making profits – it’s about how much you’re profiting others around you. It’s not just about the quality of your products — it’s about the quality of your relationships with all your stakeholders, inside and outside of the company. Success is gauged by your reputation for integrity, your involvement in the community and your environmental stewardship.” (Source: San Antonio Spurs Run on Values)

Values may not be very exciting, but they work well and that is all that matters. Core values have been at the center of a number of organizations that have strong culture, like Zappos, Wegman’s and Whole Foods. These values are not just lip service. They are the guides for decision-making and how employees behave within their companies. Zappos, Wegman’s and Whole Foods have done very well by both defining and sticking to their values. It isn’t only these three companies though that have emphasized company values and strong culture. Google, Pixar, Costco, and Virgin have also and continue to do so.

Company culture might sound like an odd concept and practice to those who have not heard of it, but Wegman’s, Costco and the San Antonio Spurs are not at all fringe organizations. In fact, the Spurs sometimes are criticized for being ‘boring’ and not at all flashy or extreme. Their style of basketball is old-school fundamentals – very little showboating or trash talking. Their approach to the game is linked to the values and culture instilled by their management. So, do you work for an organization that has clearly defined and frequently articulated values or one that might benefit from declaring them?

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