Why baseball offers invaluable leadership lessons.
You may be surprised to know that major league baseball is considered the only industry to be operating at the highest level of process improvement sophistication. This is based on a model called the Capability Maturity Model, originally developed in the 1980's through Carnegie Mellon University for the US Navy. Known as CMM, this model was developed to address and understand how major software development projects went awry at the cost of $millions to the US Navy. Five levels of "process maturity" were identified, with the realization that most companies are operating at level 1 and 2, and only one "company" was at Level 5 - major league baseball!
Level 5 means that a business is able to not only reliably produce results using proven, documented processes, it is able to accurately PREDICT what is needed to get good results in the future. For baseball, an example of this is that a manager is able to use reliable data to predict what pitcher is likely to succeed against a given hitter, on a given day, under a given circumstance. All of this is thanks to baseball's proclivity for statistics and measuring performance consistently over long periods of time.
If "knowledge is power", and "you can't manage what you can't measure", then baseball has powerful lessons for business leaders. Of course, the main lesson is that with measuring comes the ability to understand the cause and effect relationships between what you do and what you get. If your sales person makes ten calls, what result does he/she get? If you follow a certain production process, what quality level do you get? What happens to results when you change one part of the process?
Even more enlightening is when you can correlate results with the person, IN ADDITION to the process. Baseball's processes are pretty straightforward - throw the pitch, catch the ball, get the batter out, with each person playing clear and distinct roles in how to make that process happen. Lesson #1 for many leaders is, do your "players" know their roles and how they fit into the overall workflow process? In many companies, this alone is a major weakness.
If roles are clear, then the question becomes do they execute their roles with others well? Often, there is a lack of understanding of how they perform affects the ability of others to perform well. A late throw caught well by the first baseman still does not get the batter out. In business, this is much less clear. A late report may be days late, not a micro-second late, making it much less obvious to see the negative effect on productivity. Lesson #2 then is, measure the process.
The ultimate question is, what makes each person perform at peak levels? Every sport has its superstars who fizzle in the playoffs, while others shine under pressure. Do you know what makes your superstars shine vs fizzle? Without monitoring performance in relation to results, many leaders fall into the trap of labeling their people in general terms as "great" or "deadwood". The reality is that every person is capable of shining in their own way. The leader's challenge is to NOTICE what makes a person shine and feed that.
Three baseball leadership lessons. 1. Clear roles linked to workflow. 2. Measure the process. 3. Help every person shine at what they do best.
Have yourself a great weekend!
Performance Shift Leadership Systems