The Plight of 'The Process'

After eight seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have talent, but lack a culture of accountability, hard work and mental toughness.

In 2013, Sam Hinkie became general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. Hinkie believed that in order to win NBA championships, he had to acquire talent and assets. Since Philadelphia isn’t a common destination for top free agents, Hinkie tore down the 76ers to the bare bones so they would lose games and gain top picks in the annual NBA draft. Hinkie abandoned the present for a better future and labeled his endeavor “The Process.” 

Thirty-four months later, Hinkie resigned. The losing, the lack of trying, the willingness to go to extremes in order to gain picks eventually became too much. Hinkie wrote a manifesto expressing his view of The Process, taking full accountability for the things he did wrong.   

“The strategy we settled on was straightforward, even if arduous,” he wrote. “Replenish the talent pipeline, improve the quality and quantity of players on the roster, shift the style of play towards tomorrow’s champions, and become a culture focused on innovation.”

On Sunday, the 76ers were eliminated in Game 7 of the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs. They’ve yet to even make it to the Eastern Conference Finals since this entire experiment began.

What has caused “The Process” to fail lies with Hinkie’s decision to create “a culture focused on innovation” instead of on mental and physical toughness and accountability.

Legendary football coach Bill Walsh once said: "The culture precedes positive results. It doesn't get tacked on as an afterthought on your way to the victory stand. Champions behave like champions before they're champions: they have a winning standard of performance before they are winners." For all of Hinkie’s intelligent ideas, the fact he didn’t adhere to the culture of champions from the beginning made it all fall apart. 

In any successful team come players who want to be coached hard, who want to build their toughness muscles, who respect the culture and want to be held accountable. Ultimately, what good is talent if it doesn’t work hard, compete or raise its level of play when the games matter most? Without accountability and mental toughness, any elite leader knows that talent cannot reach its full potential. After eight seasons, the 76ers have talent, but lack a culture of accountability, hard work and mental toughness.

As leaders, the lesson we can all learn from The Process is rather simple: the right culture is way more important than talent.