Thursday, December 11, 2003

PART III - Where The Flubber Meets
the Mode  

In this entry I'm going to ante up the tool I promised so you can actually do something with this knowledge. It'll be familiar to any experienced baseball G.M.s (real, sim-, and fantasy), but it's not actually a baseball-specific tool.

When you're building a competitive baseball team, it's not just important to gather the best players you can. It's at least as important to blend them together in a way that   makes for the most productive combination, with complementary attributes. A GM would use a more complicated tool, but at it's foundation it's the same as the one I talked about: rows for each position, columns for each aptitude.

In the baseball example, there might be columns for speed, left-handed hitting power, left-handed hitting for on-base, hitting to all fields, fielding, etc. Then, as you put in each player you already have, you pour in the aptitudes into their respective columns, indicating which players have which aptitudes. When you look to add a player, you can see what it does to your overall mix. Here's a truncated baseball example, the projected (as of today) lineup for the 2004 Seattle Mariners.

Pos RH power LH power OBA Speed Spray Fielding
C         X X
1     X     X
2 X         X
3           X
S         X X
Lf   X        
Cf       X   X
Rf       X X X
DH X   X   X  

You can see pretty quickly that they have limited power from the right side, almost none from the left side, and not a lot of outstanding OBA. There are players at two positions who bring only a single strong aptitude to the table. And in trying to improve the recipe, the easiest thing to do is replace the two guys who have only a single aptitude. But there is a constraint here, because the player at "Lf" is the only power from the left side on the starting team. At a glance, you know what you have to build on to get to a balanced offense. As I said, this is truncated. It doesn't account for half the batters' factors you'd like nor any of the pitching. But it's illustrative of the kind of tool you could use for aptitudes.

In the last three entires, we've been talking about attitudes. Below, I'll run a table of an organization I used to consult for and show you how you might use it in that particular case, trying to note the minority of rules that are universal . I've used shorthand for the Dorfman/Kuehl winning attitudes for team members (described more fully in the previous entry below).

  Conscious Source Learn Team Enthuse Open Humor Social Empathy Balance Team Criticism
B       x x       x x x x
R x x x x   x x     x x  
D     x x x x x x x x x  
W x x x x   x   x        

B is the supervisor. From an attitude point of view, this team as a whole has some obvious strengths and weaknesses. On the good side, they are all dedicated to the success of the team and the greater organization, and everyone but the supervisor is open to change and understands the importance of learning. That combination opens up a lot of possibilities. And you gotta hope for that because except for the supervisor, they are absent the ability to restrain criticism of co-workers, and there's only middling enthusiasm (remember, I talked about how constant complaint undermines aggressiveness). That needs to change. The supervisor in this case is not the best hope to launch or captain the changes needed -she's out of step on criticism (she's a rah-rah, so her telling her employees to get with the joy is likely to trigger a counter-reformation, not compliance. And enerting what will be a tense situation (changing the criticism, upping the enthusiasm), she doesn't readily use humor to break the tension.

How would I design a project to improve the overall attitude? This is my take. D is enthused but is also a person who ciriticizes casually. I would enlist D's help, explaining the enthusiasm and the casual criticism are at cross-purposes. I would ask D to continue to criticize where (a) there's a good chance for change, and (b) the change would make a real difference to the team or organization. D, you'll note, cares about both, and has empathy, which means D won't just be a jolly airhead. D will be able to comprehend the criticism of others and consciously direct it, focus it on important issues. And then when D gets around to buffering criticism, it won't look like jolly airhead behavior. I would have D focus on both co-workers, but R most, because R has more components of winning attitude already. Once W is standing out as an exception, he can conform a little, conform a lot, or leave. If W is very disturbed, he may choose to stay and resist, and that becomes an H.R. department problem.

There are a trillion permutations here. In this example, once D is enlisted (and with this set of attitudes, you will always be able to recruit D) there are not multiple points that both R and W have that D doesn't. If there were, that would be advantageous; pick between R and W the one who has the most points in common with D, and count on them to link to the remaining person through those other points.


An exercise like the very simplified baseball GM's aptitude table is valuable for seeing what you need and for doing trade/change/succession planning. And if you just spray the attitude components on a table, you'll see some basic info about group strengths and weaknesses. If you take more time and pay attention, you can use the attitudes of individual team members to complement, buffer and improve the attitudes of their team-mates. In a reasonably healthy organization, you can craft plans to improve attitude over time and not have to live with the self-centered or hyper-complaining or change-resisting group.

Questions? Write me via the Contact Me link in the upper left of this page.

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