迈克尔•乔丹的管理课 / Michael Jordan on Management

迈克尔•乔丹的管理课

我从来没有狂热地迷恋过某种体育运动或是某支球队,但在迈克尔•乔丹打球的年代,我是芝加哥公牛队的铁杆球迷。

事实上,在公牛的鼎盛时代过后,我的热情就消失了。我想这表明我只能与球队同甘,不能共苦,并非长年不离不弃的死忠球迷。

也许,这里还需要讲到芝加哥人,以及当地长期以来的缺憾:在乔丹时代到来之前,芝加哥一直缺乏一支能够称霸某项职业体育比赛的王者之师。

NBA的迈克尔•乔丹时代正好赶上包括体育报道在内的信息全球化加速期。在此之前,如果你身居海外,是不可能实时看到家乡球队的比赛实况和图像的。而NBA是全美首个认真对待“出口”市场的职业联盟,它将赛事的转播权推广到了全球更广的范围。

总的来说,当年观看迈克尔•乔丹打球和公牛队比赛的一个非凡之处,在于你不必是个篮球迷,也可以欣赏比赛。作为球迷,可以给你带来更多的见解和收获, 但想获得乐趣和看到精彩的场面,不一定非是球迷不可。在大多数情况下,乔丹都是队中最出彩的球员,然而公牛队人才济济,不仅个人出色,也因为它神奇的团队配合。

团体运动,无论是业余还是职业,在世界范围内都能唤起无数的追随者,并形成巨大的全球性产业。有些项目,例如NBA篮球赛、世界杯足球赛、国际七人橄榄球赛,都拥有大批球迷,遍布几十个国家。

但是,大多数项目带有本土性,至多也就是区域性的运动,只在历史上或政治上有关联的国家和地区内流行。例如,板球就是在英国、南亚及英联邦国家内盛行;而棒球则在北美、中美、日本和台湾比较流行。这两项运动在上述地区以外并没有得到普及,部分原因是需要了解较多的相关知识,才能享受到观看比赛的乐趣,还有就是它们怎么也不如篮球、美式足球或英式橄榄球那样激动人心,活力四射。

近十年来,随着全球体育市场的发展,使用违禁品和滥用药物的丑闻也在日益增多。由于奖金不断提高,诱惑不断加大,总有品行不好的人伺机而动。

这也是我对迈克尔•乔丹以及老芝加哥公牛队存有愉快回忆的另一个原因。乔丹是一个真正的好人,一些年轻人以他为榜样。他有着讨人喜欢的谦虚形象。

要说如今的职业体育有何缺陷,似乎正是缺伟大的、可持久的楷模——当然姚明给人感觉是个例外,他是一个非常正面的榜样。

可我跑题了。其实,我提到迈克尔•乔丹,真正目的是为了说说他曾在无意中给我上过一堂管理课。对此,他当然无从得知。当时,乔丹在克利夫兰,公牛和骑士正在打一场激烈的半决赛。而我在新加坡参加电信博览会和会议。我很忙,但在给我上课的时候,乔丹比我忙得多。

当时,我脑子里都是正处于爬坡阶段的创业者所面临的普遍问题:现金流。那时候经济出现了严重问题,我们公司的营业收入骤降,运营资金极为紧张,如果不马上想出办法,企业可能要遭遇灭顶之灾。而且作为老板,我同时被太多的目标牵扯着,不知道如何优先安排自己的时间和精力。无疑,这将是我作为创业者所面临的最大风险。

我从展厅的一端走向另一端,看见一家参展的电信公司布置了一整面墙的电视监视器,上面正在直播公牛队对骑士队的半决赛,于是我驻足观看。

比赛已经进行到了最后几分钟。公牛队大概落后9分——在余下的时间里翻盘并非不可能,但难度极大。几个疯狂的回合过后,公牛队将比分的差距缩小到了2分,可时间只剩下了3秒钟。

看来骑士队将赢得最后的胜利。

在最后一次暂停之后,公牛队半场发球。所有的目光,实际上是骑士队全部五名球员的目光都盯住了迈克尔•乔丹。球传给了乔丹,他站在半场和三分线之间,四周围满了骑士队的队员。

时间只剩下一秒钟,乔丹如火箭般拔地而起,一个后仰跳投,命中三分,赢下比赛。这是芝加哥公牛队的巅峰时刻。

我回过头往自己的展位上走,脑海中突然迸发出了灵感,解决了一个一直让我头疼的问题:如何在解决企业危机时设定最佳的优先目标。事情突然变得非常简单。我们需要的其实就是在比赛结束前的一记三分球,而球正在我的手中。

除了一些零散业务,我们不久前为两个大项目做了竞标和报价。只要其中一个项目中标,我们就能获得足够的收入,马上度过现金流难关。于是我决定集中力量,争取拿到这两个项目中的一个。

幸运的是,我们做到了。

迈克尔,多谢!

Michael Jordan on Management

I’ve never been what you would call a rabid fan of any particular sport or team, but I was a great fan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team during the Michael Jordan era.

The fact that I’ve drifted away since those halcyon days demonstrates, I suppose, that I’m a fair weather sports fan rather than a perennially loyal, diehard one.

It may also say something about people from Chicago, and our puzzling long-term deficit of championship-winning professional sports teams.

The Michael Jordan era in NBA basketball overlapped with the accelerating globalization of information, including sports coverage. In earlier times, if you lived overseas, it was impossible to get real-time information and images on your home town sports teams. The NBA was the first professional league in the U.S. to get serious about the “export” market, including making broadcast rights more widely available around the world.

In any case, one of the remarkable things about watching Michael Jordan play basketball, and the Bulls in that era generally, was that you didn’t need to be a basketball fan to appreciate or enjoy watching it. Being a fan gave you extra insights and dividends, but was not a requirement for entry into the fun and the spectacle. Jordan was the most spectacular performer of the group much of the time, but it was a team of extraordinary athletes who not only excelled individually but because of incredible teamwork.

Team sports, of both the amateur and professional variety, inspire and excite an amazing number of individual followers around the globe, and they have developed into a huge global business. Some, like NBA basketball, World Cup Soccer, and the IRB Rugby Sevens, have legions of followers in dozens of countries.

Most sports, however, are local or at best regional, popular in countries and places with common historical or political ties. Cricket is wildly popular in England, South Asia and Commonwealth countries, for example. Baseball is very popular in North and Central America, Japan and Taiwan. But neither inspire large groups of fans outside these areas, partly because they require a higher level of knowledge of the sport as an entry ticket to the enjoyment of watching it, and at the best of times they are not as exciting and dynamic to watch as great basketball, football, or rugby.

As the global sports market has grown in the past 10 years, so has the taint of scandal involving banned substances and other abuses. When the stakes are higher, the temptations are greater, and the bad guys are hovering around the edges looking for opportunities.

That’s another reason why I have fond memories of Michael Jordan and the good old Chicago Bulls. He was genuinely a nice guy, someone young people could look up to as a role model. There was a refreshing humility about his image.

Speaking of deficits, it seems professional sports is lacking in great sustainable role models nowadays, although Yao Ming comes to mind as an exception to this — a very positive role model.

But I digress. My real point in mentioning Michael Jordan is to mention the day he taught me a management lesson without realizing it. Of course he couldn’t have known. He was in Cleveland, where the Bulls were playing the Cavs in a hotly contested semifinals game; and I was in Singapore, participating in a telecommunications expo and conference. I was pretty busy, but he was a whole lot busier than I was when the lesson actually took place.

My head was full of a common concern facing entrepreneurs on the way up: cash flow issues. The economy had taken a serious wrong turn, our company’s revenues had plunged, operating capital was extremely tight, and failure to come up with a solution soon might have had fatal consequences for the business. Meanwhile, as the boss, I found myself torn in too many directions at once and debating how best to prioritize my time and energy. This was arguably the biggest crisis I’d faced as an entrepreneur.

As I walked from one end of the exhibition hall to the other, I saw that one of the telecom company exhibits had a whole wall of TV monitors, and that they were broadcasting the Bulls-Cavaliers semifinals game live. I stopped to watch.

The game was in the final few minutes. The Bulls were down by something like 9 points — not an impossible deficit to overcome in the time remaining but a very, very challenging high-odds situation. In the ensuing frenetic back and forth, the Bulls narrowed the margin to 2 points, but with only three seconds remaining on the clock.

It looked like a Cleveland victory after all.

Following their final time out, it was the Bulls’ ball, at half court. All eyes, and virtually all five Cleveland players, were glued on Michael Jordan. The pass came to Jordan, who was between half court and the three-point perimeter, surrounded by Cavaliers.

With one second remaining on the clock, Jordan launched an off-balance rocket from nowhere, bagging the three-pointer and winning the game. Bulls basketball at its best.

As I walked back toward our exhibit, a light bulb went off in my head regarding the question I’d been wrestling with on how best to set my own priorities in solving our business crisis. Suddenly it seemed very simple. What we needed was a late-in-the-game three point play, and the ball was in my hands.

Apart from other bits and pieces, we’d recently submitted proposals and price quotes for two major projects. Winning either of them would yield enough revenue to get us through the immediate cash flow crisis, so I decided to focus almost exclusively on getting at least one of these projects.

And fortunately, we did.

Thanks, Michael.


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