Monday, July 25, 2005

MBB Summarized in 60 Seconds
by KOMO's Brian Calvert  

It takes a heck of a talent to squeeze the key points of MBB into 60 seconds. No one's ever done a better job than KOMO-AM 1000's reporter, Brian Calvert. He broadcast the story this morning.

If you read this weblog regularly, you won't learn much MBB from the clip, but you will get the pleasure of observing an effective reporter/editor in action. Calvert's story is  here, and there's a link to the audio on that page.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Steady As She Goes: Managing
Goals & Objectives, Pedro Martí­nez Style  

A chronic weakness of large organizations in working towards goals and objectives is the subtle skill of finding the right point in the Preplanning<-->Flexbibility continuum. It's only a small surprise, then, that the New York Mets' Pedro Martínez, the most accomplished pitcher of his generation & this season's leading starter (Composite ERA of 1.48, 10% better than the closest also-ran, Roger Clemens) is an example non-baseball managers should follow in how to find that point.

The chronic weakness usually results in one of two opposite extremes in approach or course of action. This is the result of a simplistic, almost autistic response to nuanced situations that results in Binary Thinking (many bad managers are binary thinkers; all decisions produced from binary thinking are bad, though not all bad decisions result in bad outcomes). Binary Thinking is prevalent among those who like to or need to simplify options, and the kinds of people who ascend to positions of executive power tend to possess the ability to strip things down to simple (or simplistic) models, avoiding analysis paralysis.

Binary thinking is where the decisionmaker views things as having two opposite possibilities, and no others. Nuance tends to be winnowed out for the binary thinker. What channel shall I distribute through...direct or indirect? Is Jacques Chirac good or evil? Should I plant soybeans or sorghum? Should I expand our markets or look for a buyer? Shall I consumer 950 claories a day or not bother to diet at all?

Binary thinkers are mentally and usually physically uncomfortable in the grey areas (and almost all the best possible decisions are grey areas).

Pedro Martínez' approach is well within the grey zone, neither rational exuberance nor refusal to celebrate victories. Yesterday the Mets won with Pedro on the mound, moving their record to 50-47, 4-½ games out of first in the very tight NL East race. According to today's New York Times game story by Joe LaPointe, Pedro...

said the Mets seemed to be improving as a group. He suggested that October was the time for bragging, after teams had proved all their skeptics wrong.

"You'll see me dancing around after we do what we have to do," Martínez said.

Great baseball teams are good at maintaining this even keel, never getting overly-cocky and dismissive of their opposition, never coming apart at the seams in the face of a losing streak or losing a star player to injury. The great Baltimore Orioles teams during the Weaver era were as good as any franchise at this "talent", and when you went into their clubhouse after a game, you couldn't usually tell the difference in their demeanor between the days they won and the days they lost. If they won, they wore an air of that's what we get paid to do. If they lost, their demeanor was Okay we're better but we got beaten, we gotta/are going to win tomorrow.

Pedro seems to have found the positive middle ground, respecting and enjoying the fruits of the win to the degree it merits and not pretending it's either of the two binary possiblities a bad manager might: an omen that means they got the pennant cinched or an essentially meaningless game in July that because two of the three teams above them in the standings won their games as well.

Managers in non-baseball organizations need to avoid the binary extremes, the Bob Dole Generation pattern of withholding praise (because if you stop kicking their axes, they'll stop trying) or the warm unrelenting ego-massaging of the Norman Vincent Peale positive-thinker. Non-baseball managers find the positive inspirations of the victories they get along the way while still looking for what can be improved. They need to analyze the events as part of pattern, too, looking for what worked and why, what didn't and why, and how those factors interplayed along the way, so they can recognize patterns and improve their own performance.

There's an extra Pedro Martínez lesson to learn from the same story, an attitude high-achieving managers usually have.

Martínez navigates his career, his way of competing, by maintaining respect for his teammates and other crafts that complement his own. The "normal" attitude, a little more frequent among talented people is that the things they do well are important, and other things are less important. More damaging, sometimes people with that attitude allow themselves to believe because they don't do those things well, they must not be important. I see a lot of underachieving managers who disappoint relative to their obvious skill, because they undervalue other aptitudes they don't have, or simply ignore them without judging them.

Pedro's conduct is very different. As it played out in the Times story:

Martínez, who raised his record to 12-3 despite having trouble gripping the ball and giving up five runs, became animated when discussing (Met shortstop José) Reyes. Both are from the Dominican Republic. Martínez is 11 years older than Reyes and is a mentor to him.

"I become a fan at that moment when José Reyes is running the bases," Martínez said. "I wish I was him." Martínez said that in his next life, he wanted to come back with Reyes's abilities and play shortstop.

Martínez is not just focused on the importance of pitching. He sees it as part of a system. He takes the time to be a mentor (not an essential part of his job description) and he respects other skill sets, so much that when he sees skill at a very different one, he respects it enough to observe it and to wish he could do it himself.

Managers who achieve persistently respect and observe other departments, disciplines, talents, aptitudes, crafts, all looking for an edge or for deeper understanding of their environment. By encompassing knowledge about functionally attached workgroups there's a good chance they can refine how their own group works to the benefit of the overall system.

Pedro Martínez isn't just an exceptionally good pitcher. He's a Polaris for productive management insights.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Competitive Intelligence
Secrets of Ray Miller  

Non-baseball organizations in competitive fields, like their baseball cousins, have competitive intelligence (CI) departments. In baseball, that's the advance scouting function that sends individuals to observe upcoming opponents play, tracking individual and team tendencies, seeking weaknesses they can exploit, charting managerial decisions, and then reporting it back to the team.

In large business or government organizations, there is usually a formal CI department or specific jobs that have the responsibility for it (think product marketing manager in a software company, for example).

Baseball is much more capable & effective than other industries, though, because to some degree, it makes CI everyone's responsibility, pushing it out beyond the dedicated advance scouting group. Some players invest energy trying to steal signs, others hang out with opponents near the batting cage before games.

Non-baseball organizations, especially in the business and professional services world, would be wise to copy baseball's unusually broad CI efforts.

Ray Miller, the legendary pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles, uses a method that's uncommon even in CI-rich baseball. Beyond even combing through his pitching-coach peers' (the logical "competitors") wisdom for lessons, he went straight to the enemy for intel. As he says, "I learned more about coaching pitching from listening to hitters than listening to anyone else".

When Frank Robinson, one of the 15 greatest career hitters of all time, became a coach with the Orioles in 1980, Miller sought him out. "I talked pitching to him, he talked hitting to me," Miller explained. The pitching coach noted how similar the mechanics are, that looking at the mechanics of the other side gave you a little extra perspective. And, of course, Frank Robinson knew a lot of pitching, what was easy to read and what made his job harder, and all of that external (competitor) wisdom added an uncommon perspective to Miller's understanding.

That kind of approach (I'm no suggesting it alone, but that type of search for additional, related perspective) is a significant part of what has made Miller extraordinarily successful, with three Cy Young award winners and seven 20-game winners to his credit.

Organizations in competitive fields should consider encouraging everyone to explore CI as a sideline as baseball does. Different people bring different backgrounds and experiences to their perceptions, making possible delivery of different insights. True, not all will be useful, but that's true of dedicated, trained CI department specialists, too. And having everyone rolling up their sleeves and doing some level of CI work together, even a small amount, increases social cohesion, reinforces the us-v-them drift that, in measured quantities, boosts organizational torque.

And consider, too, Miller's CI Method. You can always talk with mutual customers or prospective customers, talk to industry-watchers, but consider a Miller: go to trade association meetings and query your peers at competitors directly. Listen to them talking with their peers, analyse their world view and responses to things.

Your dialogue with direct competitors, especially your peer equivalent in that organization, is a powerful CI gathering tool. Too few people do it, probably out of fear. But then too few people succeed, too.

Miller has an usual curriculum vitae, and we'll take advantage of his wisdom for a few other lessons later. He has gone from pitching coach to manager to pitching coach to manager to pitching coach, a path few baseball management folk have had, and an equivalent path fewer outside of baseball have had. Unsurprisingly, he has a lot of interesting and uncommon insights he was willing to share.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Thurs, July 14 - University Book Store Event
Management by Baseball Book  

Thursday evening at 7 p.m., I'm going to be reading and discussing with attendees the book Management by Baseball - A Pocket Reader at the University Book Store in Seattle.

University Book Store details here.

If y'all live in the the area, come join us.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Doug Glanville's Polymathic Path
to Empyrean Enlightenment  

Large organizations recruiting for a key position seek stars -- people who just have powerful charisma and overwhelming force of skill, accomplishment and alpha-dog personality. As in baseball, when you find a Reggie Jackson or Roger Clemens, that's great, because no matter what their personal shortcomings or bumpy stretches, they just elevate your entire organization's prospects. All organizations recognize the value of Reggies & Rogers.

Since they seek Reggies and Rogers with such passion, recruiters and scouts frequently fall into a MBWT (Management by Wishful Thinking) pattern, taking someone who on the surface kind of seems like a Reggie or Roger but who is all hat and no cattle. The swagger, unaccompanied by applied accomplishment, is just Potemkin leadership, and, more often than not, is worse than nothing -- the final box score more often than not shows a negative result from thrusting an ersatz talent into the mix.

Then there's Doug Glanville.

While few large organizations know it or choose to act on it if they do, all of them need some Doug Glanvilles, people who, even though they don't have close to Reggie Jackson caliber talent, elevate everyone's abilities through broad interests, multi-disciplinary involvement & emotional intelligence. You can't build a team around such individuals, they can't be your "franchise player", they are just catalysts, key parts all successful organizations in competitive fields have on hand. Organizations that suppress the natural connecting abilities their Glanvilles have will find it hard to excel.

Highly-studious, blessed with highly-educated parents and highly-educated himself, verbally-adept at a couple of standard deviations above the baseball player norm, Glanville's path to the elite-talent world of the majors began as a five year old when he started playing a baseball simulation (Strat-O-Matic, specifically) along with Wiffle Ball, so his baseball education blended mind and body both. Simulations are wonderful training tool, especially good ones. They teach a student of them some of the obvious foundations of what they're simulating, and that does several things:

  • It provides a framework on which to hang additional, more refined, information,
  • It simplifies, at the cost of a little creativity, decision-making by making "automatic" certain components of decisions, freeing the actor to focus more attention to other areas,
  • It supports experimentation and gathering experience at no risk to actual operations, by allowing the actor to find out certain approaches almost always fail.

SIDE NOTE: I've used simulations, particularly the urban planning sim "Sim City" as a test for job candidates. It's a powerful technique for exposing people's analytical and personality differences. I'll write about that in depth some other time.

Glanville found it easy (as his ilk always do) to slip between different levels of the hierarchy. As a degreed engineer with a background in transportation planning, he went to his team's front office to give them unsolicited counseling in transportation topics around the design and delivery of their new stadium. He was only a back-up outfielder, but he was fearless in sharing his knowledge with his "superiors" in an organization in which he knew more than anyone else about a subject.

The benefits of a Doug Glanville extend beyond the immediate skills required by their job description. Glanville, who retired during this season, will not be remembered as legendary by casual fans for his play.

Doug Glanville from Baseball-Reference.Com (link)

 Year Ag       G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB  SO   BA   OBP   SLG  
 1996 25 CHC  49   83   10   20   5  1   1   10   2  0   3  11  .241  .264  .361  
 1997 26 CHC 146  474   79  142  22  5   4   35  19 11  24  46  .300  .333  .392  
 1998 27 PHI 158  678  106  189  28  7   8   49  23  6  42  89  .279  .325  .376  
 1999 28 PHI 150  628  101  204  38  6  11   73  34  2  48  82  .325  .376  .457  
 2000 29 PHI 154  637   89  175  27  6   8   52  31  8  31  76  .275  .307  .374  
 2001 30 PHI 153  634   74  166  24  3  14   55  28  6  19  91  .262  .285  .375  
 2002 31 PHI 138  422   49  105  16  3   6   29  19  2  25  57  .249  .292  .344  
 2003 32 TEX  52  195   22   53   5  0   4   14   4  0   6  25  .272  .294  .359  
 2003 32 CHC  28   51    2   12   0  0   1    2   0  1   2   4  .235  .259  .294   
 2003 32 TOT  80  246   24   65   5  0   5   16   4  1   8  29  .264  .286  .346  
 2004 33 PHI  87  162   21   34   1  1   2   14   8  0   8  21  .210  .244  .265   

 9 Seasons  1115 3964  553 1100 166 32  59  333 168 36 208 502  .277  .315  .380 
+------- ---+---+----+----+----+---+--+---+----+---+--+---+---+-----+-----+-----+
 162 Game Avg     576   80  160  24  5   9   48  24  5  30  73  .277  .315  .380  
 Year  Pos   G     PO    A    E   DP    FP   lgFP  RFg  lgRFg  RF9  lgRF9  GS   Inn  
 1997   CF   30     61    1    0    1 1.000  .983  2.07  2.03                       
 1998   CF  158    360   14    2    1  .995  .987  2.37  2.15                       
 1999   CF  148    386   14    8    3  .980  .984  2.70  2.20                       
 2000   CF  150    380    9    4    4  .990  .987  2.59  2.24  2.75  2.64  145 1275.3
 2001   CF  150    413    8    4    3  .991  .986  2.81  2.18  2.89  2.59  147 1310.7
 2002   CF  117    220    8    0    4 1.000  .988  1.95  2.13  2.30  2.57   95  891.3
 2003   CF   67    144    2    0    1 1.000  .990  2.18  2.38  2.63  2.73   55  499.7
 2004   CF   56     90    0    0    0 1.000  .987  1.61  2.26  2.83  2.53   24  286.0
 Total  CF* 885   2062   56   18   17  .992  .986  2.39  2.20              466 4263.0

He had a sweet season in 1999, but really, he was a two-tool player with a merely-adequate major league career. He was a defensive specialist at a skill position. His fielding was consistently good statistically -- better than league average range every year but one and better than league average in errors every year but one. About a career 90th percentile center fielder.

He was an excellent baserunner and a very good base-stealer, with an 83% success rate, above the 80th percentile career for modern baseball stealers with that many attempts.

But his value transcended the numbers.

He was a player representative, using his communciation and self-described "nerd" skills to educate his fellow staffers about rules and regulations and industry trends. He was and is active in the community, bringing his fellow staffers into contact with the organization's customers. He was a talker in the clubhouse, being a joker and keeping people loose. Even in his retirement announcement, a time that would be sad for most, he milked it for laughs, arranging to have a one-day contract with his hometown team, the Phillies, and suggesting it was signed in invisible ink.

People who work in organizations without Glanvilles miss out on knowledge, connections and the ability such contributors have to break up stress and the mistakes that result from stress.

Large organizations are always better off with a lot of Reggies and Rogers than none. The error they tend to make is if they can't find superstar talent, they fall into the error of taking a chance on someone who really isn't one but who looks like he or she just might be.

Usually, they're far better off with a Doug. That talent at connecting people reinforces healthy habits and transcends the immediate stats they can put up. As long as the Doug is adequate, large organizations are better off with a Doug than a Potemkin Roger.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tampa Bay: First in Losses, First in
Walks Allowed, & Dead Frelling Last
in Marketing Savvy  

It's not just that the Devil Rays have the most losses of any team in the majors. It's not that they trail the 29 other teams in numerous pitching and offensive categories.

Just to put the icing on the cake, as an organization, they have the worst tin ear for marketing of any profit-making organization since the Seattle Mariners in the late 70's allowed a schizophrenic 40-something man to have, during a scheduled game, a try-out for team mascot dressed in nothing more than a giant diaper held together with a giant safety pin and, ambulating on all fours for hundreds of yards until the artificial turf lacerated his hands and legs so badly he collapsed and almost bled out next to the first-base coach's box.

The Devil Rays' ownership (I gotta think this is the ownership, and not the marketing department) have instituted an innovation that gives innovation a bad name. If you read this weblog much, you know I'm militantly pro-experimentation. But Russian Roulette with five bullets, what the Devil Rays are doing, is not conventional thinking for a heck of a good reason...it's got a benefit/cost ratio so low, it's beyond not worth trying. It's destructive.

Take a cautionary lesson here for your own organization.

To appreciate fully the abject horror of Tampa Bay's devilry, here's some background:

  • The team has the lowest payroll in the majors, 30th of 30 teams.
  • The payroll is so low that they'd have to increase it 54% to tie with the next lowest payroll in their division.
  • Their payroll is so low they'd have to increase it by 150% to be the median-payroll team in their division.
  • They posted very healthy operating income last year, $27.2 million, 2nd among all the teams in the bigs.
  • That operating income about covers their payroll.
  • They get massive influxes of cash from MLB's revenue-sharing plan, $20 million from last season, for example.

This is not a team that's suffering financially, nor one, based on the minor league players in its system (and on its major league roster), suffering for a lack of future talent.

From a marketing perspective, they really do need to be focused, and build their positioning as an entertainment choice, build baseball awareness in young people, and be all about baseball. They don't need to beg poverty or diminish clarity among game attendees about why they're at the ballpark: the overarching theme is entertainment, fun and entertainment.

¿So why the frell are they hawking furniture in a primary stadium entrance?

According to a story from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (thanks, Baseball Primer), it's this very chair-raising, sofa-the-little-children, just-say-yes-to-rugs madness that has gripped the Devil Rays, marketing household goods to people seeking out entertainment.

They're not the same thing. If they were, every Levitz would have a batting cage, every Ethan Allen (not him... him) really good sight lines, every Dania a video rental stand. People are not in hard-goods mindset at the ballgame, and if they are, they shouldn't be...the team has failed. Furniture retailing undermines the experience-as-fun, puts customers into a serious, nesting space.

There are probably lots of things you could sell at a stadium entrance that would be silly. But household furnishings are way beyond silly -- they simply run totally counter, 180 degrees from what you're trying to deliver.

It's really important to be flexible in taking on new products, to be open to ways you might manufacture or sell something seemingly different that adds to your capabilities or knowledge or customer goodwill or that slipstreams products you're already selling without having to add staff proportionally or a half-dozen other reasons.

Buckman Labs, for example, is in the chemicals business, but one of their main products is information about chemicals and their use. Their customers can tap into Buckman's expertise not only on Buckman's products, but competitors' as well. It's a different business, but it's related.

There are pizza delivery chains that sell and/or rent videos along with the food on the menu. Different, but makes use of the same distribution effort and the customer is the same. It doesn't confuse the customer -- the evening-at-home becomes a package deal.

There are counter examples, too, five-bullet Russian Roulette extensions that probably won't work.

A consultant in Texas who I used to work with had a client that was in the food processing business. When the price of oil flagged (yeah, that dates this one, doesn't it?) a lot of business and family spending contracted and the processor's customers were applying the old price squeeze on them. The owner, logically, hoped to expand into a higher-margin business. A wholesaler of golf equipment and accessories across town went under in the contraction and the owner of the food processor, a rabid golf enthusiast mortgaged his house and bought the distribution business. Different line of work, different customers, different field, different expertise required. It took the food processor's owner five months to go out of business, but he was able to live in his house for another four before he lost it.

There was the Northwest company that sold very high-end corporate computer equipment, ultra-high performance hardware for network storage. As margins in the category wilted, they decided to expand into new lines. The choice, office supplies. The rationale was "our customers buy computer hardware from us, and the same companies buy office supplies (true), so we can get them to buy their office supplies from us" (false). Bloodbath. They had no expertise in office supplies, nothing innovative to peel existing customers away from their existing suppliers, and the buyer/purchasing authority for one line is rarely the same human as for the other line in any organization big enough to make a difference to a seller.

I'm thinking the Devil Ray logic is the parallel to the computer equipment/office supply one (I'm holding on for dear life to the idea it wasn't completely random): The people who come to our ballpark to see baseball also buy furniture sometimes, therefore, we can get them to buy divans and futons from us.

This is really poor marketing. As I said earlier, blending ideas aren't bad in themselves, but a blending idea not thought-out is likely to stumble.

The Devil Rays aren't starved for money, they're starved for on-field success. The business of baseball comes down to the game and the entertainment/fun related to playing it and watching it played, and being in a place with other people who are being entertained. The Rays' customers (fans) are starved for on-field success. In the absence of on-field success, there is only fun to offer.

Instead, the Rays are offering their fans serious hard goods, major purchases, Divans of Doom, muddying the escapist fantasy of being at the ballpark with the domestic seriousness of furniture. Bad, irrevocably lousy, legendarily tone-deaf marketing.

If we're lucky, in his next dispute with an ump Lou Piniella will eschew pulling up first base and tossing it, instead grabbing a rasher of bar stools and spraying them around the infield, Extreme Makeover: Tropicana Edition-style.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Rick Peterson's Management by Baseball
Lesson #1 - Coaching IS Learning  

"All great teachers are great students"
-- Rick Peterson, NY Mets pitching coach

Most people think that coaching and mentoring in non-baseball organizations is about people management (Second Base in the MBB Model). In reality, it's a lot more about the other three bases.

To get the most value out of the staff you have, you have to reshape job descriptions and tasks to match the aptitudes of the talent you have on your staff, real First Base skills. Where you don't have the skills in place, you have to grow them, picking staffers to expand into those areas based on their available time and existing aptitudes. There are almost no cases where you can escape coaching or training or mentoring and are getting the most out of your team.

But here's the secret: These are all amazingly fecund opportunities for learning as well. As Angus' Twelfth Law states: "Everyone knows some things you don't. Inevitably, a few of those things will be both worth knowing and applicable later".

As the New York Mets highly-successful pitching coach Rick Peterson said recently, "All great teachers are great students". Peterson, as I've mentioned before, infuses knowledge throughout every level of the organization he works with, creating a common set of customized tools to further the craft of the pitching and catching talent, a common set of tools with which to view and dissect the craft.

When the Mets acquired Pedro Martínez, (in my opinion the premier pitcher of his generation, and certainly the best starting pitcher so far this season) Peterson sought him out and tried to acquire lessons from him right away. That part is pretty obvious: Martínez is not only a monster talent, but appears to have a monster ego, too (few humble 'aww shucks' guys seem to make successful major league starters). No matter how great Peterson's standing as a coach, this particular pitcher is coming into a new organization after feeling bruised by his previous one & taking on as his home city one that has shown him a truckload of derision and hostility. The coach coming to the pitcher as a peer and offering to learn and discuss opens up a positive communication channel, stripped of most emotional baggage. Sure, any great teacher can be a great student when his student is such a master of the arts. When the time comes for the teaching to flow the other way though, the pipeline is already open, the dialogue engaged.

Too often in management practice beyond baseball, the manager is afraid to put himself in a learning rôle, but if he does, he's missing out and probably losing much his own chance to grow. One of the best ways to learn about the staffer's learning style and the knowledge and skills she brings to the mix is to try to get her to teach you something. You can ask in a straightforward, not submissive but interested way -- if the new staffer is capable of healthy behavior, you'll benefit every time (and if the new staffer isn't capable of healthy behavior, why are you still cutting that staffer a paycheck?).

Peterson and the Mets have a rigorous, organization-wide system of methods and techniques based on a deep toolbox but with most tools customized to individuals' aptitudes. But it's not static, rigid and therefore brittle. When the Mets bring up or acquire a new pitcher and Peterson starts working with him, he strives to integrate the pitcher into the team's "learning environment", a place where everyone gets to learn and the coach gets to learn from the students, too. The knowledge he acquires is something he may use only to help that individual, but more importantly, he may use it tweak the overall organizational plan to everyone's benefit. On the surface, Peterson's learning environment will appear to some casual observers as a Second Base method as I mentioned earlier, that is, learning about an individual to manage her better or making the staffer feel like part of the group so as to integrate him better. And it certainly leads to those immediate benefits in most cases.

But every bit of knowledge we acquire, whether from the butt-crack idiot savant who maintains the computer network or the woman who sorts the mail in the mail-room is something that can add immediate perspective or be something we can draw on later as part of an overall tack. And by opening yourself up to these kinds of non-traditional information, you have a chance to find out something about yourself and the intellectual or emotional baggage you limit yourself with, that is, the Third Base skill set.

It sounds funny to admit, but the greatest workplace epiphany I ever had about one of my own self-imposed limitations was from a 16-year old U.S. Senate summer intern, one of a group of them I was managing. Because she was an adolescent, was intelligent but inexperienced in the organizational pressure cooker, she hadn't had her observational skill plaqued over with "shoulds" and "can'ts". She just came right out and mentioned to me that I would always be disappointed in my life because I always set myself reasonable ambitions (because when you fail to reach your reasonable ambitions, you feel cheated or perhaps a failure, but if your ambitions are shoot-the-moon, it's easier to take not achieving them in stride because you know they were aiming very high). My Calvinist way of doing things was just programmed, invisible to me, and I couldn't change it until she made it visible. And leaving that behind has been incredibly valuable to me personally and moreso in my management.

If you are open to getting knowledge or insight from the lowliest line worker, you'll be plenty open to getting it from everyone else. It doesn't have to be a Pedro Martínez. Just the fact that he or she is are an outsider and not yet used to your approach gives that newcomer an outside perspective that might reward you.

Finally, the strategic benefit of the Rick Peterson learning environment is at Home Plate in the MBB Model -- Change, and this is completely critical in a competitive field. Because as you accumulate individuals' insights, learn the tools and techniques they have been taught previously or just synthesized themselves, no matter how productive or even award-winning your own systems are, there's a decent chance you can add to or tune your systems.

Every tool in your toolbox is something you might use later. It means your system is evolving. Once your competitors have decoded what you do (and trust me, if you're successful, some will to at least a surface degree), they will start imitating or replicating some of the management DNA from you. If you're a learning organization, you are in constant prevolution and that means what they are imitating is what you did last year while you have moved on and aren't doing that any more. Eighty-five percent of large organizations are incapable of change, and even the 10% that are capable of decoding and replicating in a useful way others' changes are going to have a hard time competing with you if you manage change effectively. There's no bigger competitive advantage than that.

So the approach Rick Peterson and his associates have diffused through the New York Mets' organization touches all the bases like an invigorating game-winning home run. And please note what the learning environment has done for Martínez -- perhaps his second best season ever, and this after many teams considering his free agency were concerned he might be used up. Look at his month-by-month consistency:

Split   W L ERA GS   IP   H R   HR HBP BB K
Home   4 1 2.67 9   64.0   41 20   5 0 15 63
Away   5 1 2.82 7   51.0   31 16   4 1 7 60
Apr   2 1 2.75 5   36.0   18 11   1 0 6 46
May   3 0 2.83 5   35.0   21 12   4 1 6 37
June   4 1 2.66 6   44.0   33 13   4 0 10 40

Not just excellence, but with a consistency that's remarkable -- not that he hasn't had four weaker results spread out over the 16 -- just that the rolling average is very smooth, and he's more than just cashing in on the advantages pitchers have in the Mets' pitcher-friendly home stadium.

While the organization's biggest overall gains from a learning environment usually come from elevating average performers (¿because how much room does someone like Pedro's game have to elevate?), it stands to ratchet up everybody's game.

What do you have to change in yourself to make a Rick Peterson style learning environment happen in your group? And what external barriers are you going to start removing or eroding today?

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