Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Virtual Baseball, Great Organization

The one thing that I love about baseball video games is that it takes the spectator "behind the curtain" of what it takes to put a team on the field, Granted, it's in a virtual environment, but the games are so detailed, and the Artifical Intelligence so advanced, that the lines between reality and virtual reality are becoming blurred.

In the Franchise mode of most baseball games, you are responsible for everything from hiring coaches, to drafting players, to, ultimately, playing the game on the field. When you suck, you have no one else to blame but yourself. You bought the groceries. You cooked the food.

The parallels between being a baseball executive (real or vitual) and being the leader of any organization are not surprising. In both instances, you are establishing a foundation, and building upon that with talent. However, it's not about the quantity of talent you have, it's about the quality. In order to build a great baseball team (real or virtual) or a great organization, you need these building blocks.

Mission and Vision

Why does your team or business exist? What do you stand for? Stand against? What drives your passion for the work that you? The Mission and Vision of an organization is the foundation upon which the super structure will eventually be erected. The key to a good Mission and Vision is not the words on your website or signs in a locker room, but the ways that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, live, breathe, and display the Mission and Vision everyday.

For example, when I think of Notre Dame, I don't think of a private, Catholic school known for its high academic standards, I think of:


The Mission and Vision can't mean one thing to executive management, and another to the janitor. It can't mean oe thing to the General Manager, and another to the lefty reliver out of the bullpen. All parties have to be on the same page, or you might as well not have a Mission and Vision at all. This is where Culture comes into play. Culture is how you LIVE the Mission and Vision of your organization. If a random person, who never heard of your company, walked into the front door, your Culture would tell you everything that you need to know about that company.

Colleagues have informal conversations by the water cooler, waiting by the clock to punch out, throwing impromptu dance parties, spreading negative gossip, and awarding extra days off for hard work are all signals of a organization's culture. How an organization lives and breathes its Mission and Vision in the form of Culture has a tremendous influence on whether people want to continue to work for you, come to work for you, or recomend you to someone.

If you have never heard of the Oakland Raiders, or even watched American football, the passion that the fans exude for their team resonates with you. The Oakland Raiders have established an organizational culture that transcends the doors of their facility.

Talent Selection

I've seen a lot of organizations (both in sports and in corporate America) try to attract talent before they knew what they stood for. That's like picking baby names before you've lost your virginity. If your organization has a Mission and Vision, and everyone has bought into it (Culture), then you're off to a good start. The next part of the equation is recruiting talent based on these principles.

If you're an organization that values quirkiness in your talent, then hiring a stuffy grouch is counterintuitive and antithetical to your values. In much the same way that a misplaced puzzle piece destroys the entire puzzle, having talent in your organization that doesn't fit the Culture can bring down the entire structure. Yeah, I know, it's not likely that one or two misplaced people will bring an entire organization to ruin.

Tell that to the 2012 Boston Red Sox...


...and the 2013 Boston Red Sox

Consistently compromising your values, as a person or as an organization, will bring ruin by a thousand cuts.

Training and Development

So, you've got your Mission and Vision. Everyone in the organization is on the same page, and actually live the values of the company (Culture). Your company is so awesome, that other people want to come and work for it. You're so committed to upholding the culture of the organization, that you won't just hire anyone. What now?

From an internal stability standpoint, employees want to get better. Some will take their personal and professional growth into their own hands, but most will need to have their hands help. It is imperative that organizations provide the resources that their employees need to get better at their jobs. On a baseball team, this might mean building a state of the art practice facility. For a corporation, this could take the shape of a Leadership Development program. Aside from compensation and management, the opportunity for growth is a key component of engagement and satisfaction.

From a market standpoint, your competitors aren't resting on their laurels. They're training and developing the hell out of their talent, positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities in the market. A car is only as good as the engine, and the engine of most organizations are their people.

Some examples of this principle in operation in baseball would be the success of the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and (eventually) Pittsburgh Pirates minor league systems. They turned negatives (consecutive losing seasons, high draft picks, low fan support), and turned them into positives (Multiple World Series titles for the Cardinals and Red Sox; first playoff appearance in 20 seasons for the Pirates). Examples in corporate America would be Apple, Amazon, and Grub Hub (to name but a few)

Begin With the End in Mind

I heard this phrase at a seminar on Employee Immersion (New Employee Orientation is lame now). The speaker said that, in order to create an Employee Immersion process that is sustainable, you have to decide what type of employee you want the orientee to be at the end, when they are out on the floor without supervision, and work backwards.

This is not just an organizational principle, it is a life principle. You should determine what you want to make of your life, and then work backwards, laying the ground work to eventually attain your goals.

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