Commentary

May 2, 2014

Winning ways, culture lead to victory

Lt. Col. GREGORY COLEMAN
56th Medical Support Squadron

After several years of being unable to put the right pieces together, the Boston Red Sox figured it out. They developed a system, a strategy and a culture that led them back to victory. A shared vision between owner, general manager and manager resulted in the execution of their strategy and a new winning culture.

Geno Auriemma, head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, has redefined success in basketball. He has amassed nine national titles, 15 final fours, and five perfect seasons to include back-to-back 39-0 seasons. What’s most impressive is 100 percent of his athletes graduate from college. Auriemma’s success is modeled very much after John Wooden, head coach of the UCLA Bruins 1948-1975, arguably the greatest basketball mind ever. Wooden was interested in developing the right environment to be successful and developing people, not just winning games. Both Auriemma and Wooden’s strategies work, because they created cultures that support and sustain success.

Those teams didn’t start off great; they had challenges to overcome in order to become successful. Changing a culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges there is. Culture is in essence an organization’s operating system. It is comprised of interlocking goals, roles, processes, values, attitudes and assumptions. Changing the culture isn’t as easy as identifying a new behavior you want articulated and saying “Go that way.” In sports, you will see a coach fired and a new, more of a disciplinarian-type, coach hired only for them to fail as well. One person can’t change a culture; they need help.

Success didn’t change the Huskies or the Bruins, because at the core of their culture the focus was always the system, and was not on winning or on individuals. In 2011, the Boston Red Sox team collapsed at the end of the season. The system and culture that had been cultivated and had produced three world series championships in 10 years became secondary. The new focus was on “winning.” In what seemed like an overnight change, they had in some respects become their antithesis – the New York Yankees.

As a member of the Air Force you are on a winning team with a winning culture. Our culture is tied to our storied history, a history that is intertwined with our vision and our strategy – Airmen caring for Airmen. The Air Force culture is one of high standards and values, and we articulate our culture through integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

Recently that culture has been tested internally and externally leading some to believe that our culture has changed. I assure you our culture is sound; it is intact.

I am reassured that our culture is intact because we have great leaders showing us the way. Leaders who stand up for what is right and defend the core of our mission – to fly, fight and win! I am reassured because we have Airmen, who hold themselves accountable, as well as those around them. We also have those who remain faithful to our proud heritage, tradition of honor and a legacy of valor. I am assured our Air Force will never falter from its purpose and will remain a guardian of freedom and justice. I know this because you are that wingman, leader, warrior, and Airman.




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