The Flaws of the Philadelphia 76ers' 'Process'

Those we lead must be taught how to behave like champions. It’s a cultivated and developed habit that’s not natural or instinctive for most.

One of the most popular management questions is: What comes first, culture or winning?

Can a great culture overcome losing or does winning come before culture?

The Philadelphia 76ers organization has served as a case study for the last 10 years to provide the correct and only answer.

When Sam Hinkie came to Philadelphia to become the newly appointed czar of all things basketball, he coined the phrase “The Process.” His messaging was brilliant as he sold losing badly as the only way to gain top players and get the 76ers back to the elite of the NBA.

He didn’t care about developing the players' mindset or using hard work as a foundational pillar; rather, he believed talent alone would win. Hinkie was all about asset management, not culture.

Naturally, the losing took its toll, and the owners of the Sixers became squeamish and decided to make changes — using all the assets Hinkie assembled, then allowing someone more committed to winning immediately steer the ship.

The change provided an excuse for all “The Process” fans to claim it would have worked had the owners not pulled the plug.

It also shifted gears in the organization, and since Philadelphia had collected high-level talent, winning a title would logically soon follow.

But it hasn't.

And now a once rich-asset team is in the same spot that the process was created to avoid — stuck in the middle. Not good enough to win a title or bad enough to have the first pick in the draft.

So what went wrong?

The plan looked perfect on paper. In theory, great talent should play great.

But it’s flawed logic.

The problem is when you build a program around asset management and not culture, you can never tack on hard work, perseverance and mental toughness later.

If the Sixers’ organization doesn’t lay down a foundation of accountability, toughness, dedication and mental resolve, then no level of talent can win a championship. If losing becomes acceptable, if leaders don’t demand players adhere to the standards required for a title, then how can a team possibly compete for one?

True champions love the work, they love the grind, they love being in tough spots, and they use adversity to build a stronger mindset.

But those we lead must be taught how to behave like champions. It’s a cultivated and developed habit that’s not natural or instinctive for most. Not everyone is born with a champion mindset.

Hall-of-Fame NFL coach Bill Parcells once said, “If you don’t teach them how to bite as rookies, they will never learn later.”

When an organization uses avoidance to cultivate talent, never wanting confrontation or to hold anyone accountable, it cannot be prepared to play at a championship level.

Asset management only works when a championship level of culture has been established first and monitored daily. We cannot assume those we lead can do this alone — it’s why we are in our positions as leaders.

The 76ers, who have failed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals or win an NBA title, provide us with the definite answer: Culture first, everything else later.

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