Written by Abe MaingiSenior Analyst, Kineticos

Imagine with me for a second: the market is roaring, and growth rates are the highest they’ve been all generation. The investments in innovation, infrastructure, and customer centricity are finally paying off in new products, lower costs, higher service levels, and improved customer loyalty.

The new hires are all A+ players, high in emotional intelligence, talented, and good culture fits. The poor performers have been identified, 30/60/90ed, and ultimately banished to the competitors. And speaking of competitors – they’re stumbling, having invested too late in Europe, or too early in Asia.

So everything is going right and the organization is hitting all its objectives.

What do you do then? How do you get the organization to perform at even higher levels?

Instead of talking about the latest management fad to squeeze out another 5% (which is not the point), let’s look at it from a different angle.

On March 16, 2012, Lehigh became only the second 15th seed to beat a 2nd seed in men’s college basketball when it beat Duke 75-701.

However, I think there was a bigger point in Lehigh’s win. Lehigh achieved more than they could have realistically hoped to achieve that year. And yet this was only the first game of the tournament.

So here’s the question again: how do you motivate a team that is hitting all its goals?

Well, consider a re-framing exercise. It is natural for all of us, when we are hitting our goals, to become a bit complacent and focus on other elements of our personal or professional lives. Re-framing the circumstances can useful in understanding what is possible.

Now let’s compare Lehigh with a true powerhouse: the UNC men’s basketball program.

Below is a summary of Lehigh Basketball. It’s an average school, with ups and downs like the majority of programs.

  • Overall record: 993-1340
  • All Time Winning Percentage: .425
  • Three players have been Honorable Mention All-Americans
  • Gone to NCAA tournament 6 times (all as 15th or 16th seed, 2 lowest seeds) – in other words, they barely made it in.
  • Lost all games in NCAA Tournament except one
  • Beat Duke 75-70 on March 16, 2012
  • Lost next game

Now let’s consider the men’s basketball program at UNC.2 This is truly an elite program.

  • All Time Wins: 2178-774
  • All Time Winning Percentage: .738
  • Number of Weeks Ranked All Time in the Top-25 of the AP Poll – 808
  • ACC Regular Season Titles – 30
  • ACC Tournament Titles – 18
  • NCAA Tournament Appearances – 47
  • NCAA Tournament Wins – 117
  • NCAA Final Fours – 19
  • NCAA Championships – 5 (2 with current coach – last in 2009)
  • NCAA Tournament Runner Up – 5
  • All Americans – 49 players chosen 78 times
  • Basketball Hall of Fame – 9 players and coaches
  • 16 active players in the NBA

I’ve found that re-framing the opportunity is a good start to jar the organization into a higher plane. But let me be clear: it’s just the start. It’s the price of admission.

After all, motivation is not management. Creating (and executing upon) novel approaches to complex business, scientific, and people problems to fuel the next stage of an organization’s evolution is the hard part.

So who would you rather model, Lehigh or UNC?


1Lehigh then lost the next game by 12 points to 10th seeded Xavier.

2Yes, I could have picked Kentucky, or UCLA or maybe even Duke but hey, I didn’t.

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Abe Maingi, Senior Analyst, is responsible for the delivery of customized solutions to clients across the life science ecosystem.  Mr. Maingi’s analytical mindset and problem solving skills help him execute on client engagements ranging from market research, strategy, and operational excellence.

 Contact Abe