Success as we all know can come in many forms, and it can also come in a variety of time frames. Individually, as a group, even organizationally, we can enjoy successful outcomes on singular tasks, challenges, projects or even competition.
Success can be ‘in the moment’. It can also be over a week, a month, a year–even longer. Success is important to understand for it’s value and its context, because each provide us with a more complete measure of what we as individuals or groups have been able to achieve.
Organizationally, Long-Term Success is in reality a mix of a process that Peter Drucker once referred to as survival, and a product described by Tom Peters as excellence. To bridge these two concepts in a seasonally-appropriate manner, I’ve chosen the industry of Major League Baseball.
This year, the playoffs of the final four teams–The Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers–represented a uniquely intricate series of successes for each of the four teams, ranging from the individual performances that have highlighted every contest between the teams; their respective seasons of 2013; and the historical achievements each franchise can look to as part of a very special standard they have all established over the course of their existence. Three of the four have also competed in the same city the entire time they have been in business, and the fourth has moved only once. But the best lesson may very well be in how long they have competed with one another.
In the case of the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, they are two of the original American League teams that began play in 1901. Since their inaugural seasons, these teams have played over 17,600 games each. Let’s look closer.
These two teams have also played against each other almost 2,000 times (1,996 to be exact). Boston has won exactly sixty-nine more games in the 112 years these two franchises have competed against one another. 69 more wins–a little more than one more win every TWO YEARS for Boston.
Now, let’s look at the Cardinals and the Dodgers.
These two teams have been around a long time, too. In fact, even longer–as both starting out in 1890 in the National League. The Dodgers have played just under 20,000 games and the Cardinals just over that amount. Now let’s look at these two franchises competing against each other.
That is, over the last 123 years…
Since 1890, the Cardinals and the Dodgers have played a total 2,021 times in which there was a winner at the end of the game. In 123 years and over more than 2,000 games against one another, the Cardinals have managed to win three more games. That’s correct-3. Advantage St. Louis: 1,012 to 1,009. To average that out, we could say the Cardinals have averaged one more win in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
These four franchises provide a powerful illustration of the richness and greatness when organizations are borne with a clear purpose, and who work to prepare for and to compete today and tomorrow. Each of these franchises have excelled and have achieved the highest position in their industry, and each on multiple occasions have become World Champions.
Competition then, it could be argued, is not only good—it is essential–but we must have a competitor, a counterpart. Like the tennis player who may look across the net to find no one there, we would know all too quickly that our desire to be rightly challenged and be a formidable and principled opponent is an absolute. And without that challenge, we cannot grow stronger and better-skilled.
Leaders of companies and organizations then must understand their role in both the creation and the preservation of opportunity as it comes in two forms: The opportunity to compete, and, the opportunity to succeed. To achieve this, knowing the value and context of success helps to solidify a developing purpose for individuals and organizations.