Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reprise W/A Reason
Pulling A Lenny: Evolution, Prevolution
& Lenny Harris' Deboning of the Marlins  

Invention is the mother of necessity -- Thorsten Veblen

Note from the August 24-30, 2005 Baseball Weekly insert:

CF Juan Pierre was in a 16-for-100 (.160) slump dating to July 24 before going 2-for-5 Sunday. Pierre had a .312 on-base percentage and was on a pace to finish with 50 fewer hits than he totaled last season.

"Nothing I seem to do is working for me this year," Pierre said. "I can't explain it."

I have a hypothesis to start with, as described in this February, 2005 entry. Pierre was the victim of a Lenny.

I was at the FileMaker developers' conference earlier this week, and with a pure slug of synchronicity, got to hear from a developer about a classic Lenny pulled on his department, and on the plane on the way home, got to read the Pierre item.

Has anyone pulled a Lenny in your workgroup lately?

Soon after my daughter started 5th grade she learned to listen to her peers and give them credence equal to that she gave her mother. It's a normal choice for someone that age. And it's equally normal that some of that advice will be given by sheer incompetents or will be totally dysfunctional ideas from a perfectly reasonable kid.

The case in point was an innovation sparked by a kid named Lennie. Since much of the mojo around pecking order was based on athletic shoes, Lennie decided there needed to be a post-purchase innovation to the shoes that he could claim as his own. I'm confident he didn't think about it too long, because the innovation he sparked, and that soon spread to any kid who wanted to be cool, was an evolutionary dead-end based on a total lack of investigation.

Lennie decided that from now on, athletic shoes should be laced in reverse...starting at the ankle and working down towards the toe with the bow laced in the front. This was a demented idea worthy of the post-victory moves of Esposito, the Latin American rebel leader, upon liberating San Marcos in the movie Bananas ("From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!"). Only three things were wrong with the idea: (1) kids kept tripping by stepping on their front-bows, (2) it took about ten times a long to get the shoes on or off, and (3) there was not one thing better or more functional about it -- there was nothing right about it. It lasted less than a week, but it was ugly while it happened.

This type of seat-of-the-pants innovation with no testing happens too frequently at the hands of executives and managers and peers in all kinds of organizations. Ever since the week my daughter tried to endure that innovation, I have called these brain-spasms of the nanosecond that get implemented without even a couple of minutes of investigation or doing the simple research "pulling a Lennie".

After 20 years, I may have to change that spelling. Because this week, according to this story in the Sun-Sentinel, Florida Marlin utility player Lenny Harris is counseling team leadoff hitter Juan Pierre to walk more, specifically by being more consistent with his approach on pitches when he has three balls in the count. By doing this, Lenny suggested, Pierre could be more like Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs and have a better chance to win a batting title.

Working out together for most of the offseason, veteran Lenny Harris drilled one thought into leadoff hitter Juan Pierre's head -- think batting title.

Harris wants Pierre to aim high and "shoot for the stars." After Pierre led the Marlins with a .326 batting average last season and finished second in the majors with a club-record 221 hits, Harris believes Pierre has all the makings of a batting champion.

"We talked about it a lot this offseason," Harris said. "When I first mentioned it to him, I don't think his expectations were that high yet, but that's what he has to reach for. He's got the ability to do it as long as he's more consistent on ball fours. If he's going to be the type of hitter like [Wade] Boggs and [Tony] Gwynn, he's got to walk more."

A year ago, Pierre led the Marlins with a .374 on-base percentage but only walked 45 times. Because he's one of the fastest runners in baseball, Pierre hasn't been as patient at the plate because he feels he can beat out bunts and infield dribblers. "I'd have to get 250 hits or walk more [to be a batting champ]," Pierre said. "I have to do one or the other. Sixty walks would help out."

On the surface, it seems like it might be worth a try. Contemporary baseball researchers and sabermetrics aficionados are enamored with the walk because it's been underrated for so long. In essence, since runs are the ultimate measure of success in a game, and since a necessary precursor of scoring is being a baserunner, it makes sense to harvest every opportunity you can to become a baserunner, and walks, as unromantic as they seem, are something you don't even have to create...you can can "take" them from opposing pitchers. And this will definitely raise your on-base percentage (because letting ball four go by and taking first with a walk is a higher on-base move than swinging, even at a meatball hanging curve, and putting it into play with a perfect smack because there's not a 100% chance the defense won't put you out or that the ball would be foul. And it has a good chance of raising your batting average because if you are letting a higher percentage of out of the strike zone pitches go by, you're going to have better success with the ones you do swing at and should make fewer easy outs.

But while this is overwhelmingly true in the general case, the average, that a player who is more patient and works pitchers for incremental walks is going to have a better on-base percentage and likely end up with a better batting average, it's not true for every single player.

It's not true, even remotely, for Juan Pierre.

There can be useful torque in taking tips from teammates. Sometimes they see things differently from managers. Sometimes, they're willing to look at data management won't. Not in this case.

Harris clearly pulled this Lennie without ever looking at Pierre's historical record. Not only has he been consistent on balls four, more important, he's been blisteringly effective. Here, courtesy of MLBPA and Yahoo, is Pierre's career historical performance and at or after selected counts. I abridged this table so we can focus on the Lennie Lenny pulled.

 Juan Pierre Career Situational Stats
 Total   2755 859 98 35 7 185 166 .312 .361 .380 .742  
 Count 0-0   343 114 9 2 2 1 0 .332 .342 .388 .730  
 Count 3-0   0 0 0 0 0 46 0 .000 1.000 .000 .000  
 After (3-0)   45 22 1 0 1 80 3 .489 .811 .578 1.389  
 Count 3-1   27 10 0 0 1 87 0 .370 .852 .481 1.334  
 After (3-1)   109 47 6 0 1 111 5 .431 .717 .514 1.231  
 Count 3-2   155 62 10 1 0 51 11 .400 .548 .477 1.025  
 After (3-2)   155 62 10 1 0 51 11 .400 .548 .477 1.025  

For his career, Pierre has been a leadoff hitter, so his job in the normal baseball view and the sabermetric view is to get on base. Up until 2004, Pierre has gotten on base at a .355 clip, though last year he improved it to .375, about 13% better than the league. His career OPS is a middling .740, about median for starting players, neither good nor bad. He walks rarely (more than he strikes out, which is a strong, not definite, indicator of decent plate judgment) so his on-base reflects mostly his ability to hit the ball and be safe at first.

Clearly, he has room for improvement and a swell foundation from which to build. But being more consistent on balls four isn't a place for growth.

You can only have a potential ball four thrown at you on the following counts: 3-0, 3-1, and 3-2.

On 3-0, he's obeyed the accepted wisdom of the ages and not put the ball in play even once. He's walked 46 of the 171 times he's been thrown a 3-0 pitch. He's created no outs at 3-0. No harm. Just fine, thank you.

In the roughly 125 times he didn't walk on a 3-0 pitch (that is, the pitcher threw a strike and he had to go on in the at bat to 3-1 and possibly further) he had a batting average of .490 and an on-base percentage of .810. He had a Bonds-ian OPS of 1.390. Once Pierre worked the count to 3-0 (that is, a count where his handling of potential balls four) he is Godzilla, Rodan and the resurrection of Sliding Billy Hamilton combined.

Does he need to change the way he deals with potential 4th balls? No way.

Here's another indicator: What he does on 3-2 pitches. The 3-2 count is not automatically in the batter's favor...the batter pretty much has to swing at anything that might be a strike, but the batter will more often get a strike, as well. On composite average, it's pretty close to a wash, but with a high variance depending on the kind of batter at the plate.

Pierre's OPS on 3-2 pitches that finish his plate appearances is a super-charged (for him anyway) 1.025, 39% better than his average. The last thing in Pierre's game he needs to worry about is handling plate appearances where he might see a 4th ball.

How often have you worked in a group where the manager hopped on some bandwagon she'd heard about at a seminar or trade show and tried to implement it without investigating the details of how it might work in your group's context?

I had an associate who had a client at the turn of the millenium she was trying to get to commit to implementing a knowledge management solution to his professional practice's professional development and training effort. It was a very appropriate idea, but "Lennie Merullo" had been in the profession a long time and nobody else did things that way. He was new to this function and was understandably afraid of trying to innovate and look like a fool. The consultant's boss trusted her, but Lenny didn't.

My suggestion to her was to take Merullo to a knowledge management trade show, where he could hear smart and enthused fellow-managers talk about the benefits, be informed by their questions, and see a broad field of systems, products and methods offerings. She took my suggestion but had to cancel at the last minute to take care of another client's emergency meltdown, and Lennie went alone. "Better than nothing," I thought.


The first person he talked to was a vendor with a loud, garish eye-catching booth. The vendor was selling a very powerful search utility, something that could have made a fine last minute addition to a knowledge management system, but could never be even a critical component of a knowledge management system. The company that made the utility had defined their product as knowledge management, something that seemed hot at the time and that many people didn't know better than to believe. The vendor filled Lennie's head with vaporous illusions from which Lennie didn't escape. For the rest of the show, his mind was empty to the possibilities, filled only with this first easy-sounding approach.

He came back. He insisted on implementing search and search alone as what he called a knowledge management solution. He wouldn't listen to her advice or warnings. The group wasted a few months in implementation and tweaking the system but it didn't, because it couldn't, yield any significant benefits.

A lot of innovation initiatives don't even have a 15-minute presentation at a gabfest to justify their initiation. Frequently in government and business especially, some higher-up will demand a change in vague or unclear terms and the line manager will implement without asking follow-up questions. Sometimes the higher-ups don't know any more than they said (a common problem in American management is executives who initiate even though they're ill-informed because they feel like that's their rôle and if they wenre't constantly launching a new re-org ot churning dust-bunnies people would think less of them).

Don't pull a Lenny. Don't hesitate to innovate, but do at least the easy-to-do research first, imagine how it might work in your own system, what you could do that would make it work better in your context, or at least test it in a small, controlled way before you hinge any significant effort on it.

And whatever you do, don't lace your shoes back-to-front unless you have a great dental plan without co-pay...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hiatus -- Rest of August  

I have pressing work and I'm mixing in a little vacation time, so I'm not going to be blogging the rest of August.

I will have some fun items for you when I return, though.

Business Intelligence Presentation
by a Master - Seth Stohs Does It Again  

I try never to repeat myself myself. But this was a choice enough example that I wanted to point out something quite similar to something I pointed out previously: a very cool analyst's presentation style for communicating numeric information in a sequence & order that supercharges the reader's possibilities for understanding.

Too often, analysts collect a tonne of data and just dump it on a reader. It's the analyst's job not only to analyze, but then to present that analysis in a way that (a) the listener/reader understands what point the analyst is trying to make, but also (b) that what's delivered is structured in a way that the reader can use it as a foundation from which to develop her own thoughts, ideas, concepts and deliverables. Eighty-five percent of analysts achieve neither. Ten percent achieve (a), and only 5% nail both (a) and (b).

Seth Stohs, author of a Minnesota Twins-focused site, got into this weblog last season with a brilliant dissection of a Johan Santana performance. His insights were valuable, but what really made it most useful as an MBB lesson was the sequence he took (from simplest through a series of drill-down tables) to present the data he'd collected.

Just this week, he recreated the dissection/analysis model with a business analyst's presentation of Félix Hernández' second major league start, an incredibly-pitched game by both the young Mariner phenom and his antagonist, the Twins' Kyle Lohse. Go to this link and then scroll down to "Analysis of a Phenom".

I won't walk through the analysis, but I strongly recommend it as both enlightning about Hernández and how to present numerically-rich data to an audience that has varying levels of aptitude for (and interest in) metrics and measures. He starts at the most basic level, and like a Euclidean theorem, builds on what he's already presented to make the traverse through dense data seem fluid and makes learning as effortless as it will ever get. He takes a reader not only to understand where there was success, but what factors made that success possible -- in knowledge management terms, he's creating actionable knowledge, something the rest of an organization can apply to recreate it.

I wish I could read a Stohs report like this every single day. I hate to repeat myself, but this piece of work is just too fine an example of how to deliver actionable knowledge...I just had to bring it to your attention. Try his approach yourself on an old presentation that didn't deliver as well as you'd hoped. Thank you Seth Stohs. And dude, please keep at it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Mon, August 8 - Elliott Bay Book Co.
MBB Book Reading  

Monday late afternoon at 5 p.m., I'm going to be reading and discussing with attendees the book Management by Baseball - A Pocket Reader at Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square in Seattle.

Elliott Bay Book Co. details here.

If y'all are planning to attend the Mariners-Twins game or just live in the area, come join us.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Beane Salad Surgery: If You Respond to
Current Events, You've Waited Too Long  

If it's broke, fix it
-- André Maginot, 1929

Managers who aren't skilled with change (home plate in the MBB Model), & most of them aren't, tend to react to change as it becomes obvious change is needed. And like building a massive project to prevent defeat in the previous (completed) war, it's guaranteed to be expensive and out of date before the first bag of concrete is requisitioned.

Baseball is a perfect test lab for theories of change and coping with it. Not all teams handle it well, so you can observe the good and the bad and both see and measure the results of different strategies.

The Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane was quoted in an article I found on Baseball Primer this week as saying about his team that was in terrible trouble (17-32 in late May):

If you look out on the field one day and say, ‘Hey, we need to rebuild this thing,' you've probably waited too long. We could see the erosion of personnel on the club. We couldn't keep it status quo.

That's the good approach -- you don't wait for a problem to become obvious to design a solution, you design solutions for problems that will happen and design possible solutions for challenges that haven't happened yet but might. Most importantly, you design structures that prevent problems in the first place. Most managers won't do this because they don't think that way -- they react much like a telephone complaint line staffer: when the call comes in, they listen patiently and see what can be done.

And let me make a point clear for those who aren't good at managing change: it's not all or nothing, a binary choice to invest 100% in contingencies or none. The optimal model is stochastic, neither random (investing an equal amount in any eventuality no matter how likely or unlikely) or deterministic (invest in the likeliest n options only until there is no more to invest), because evolution is stochastic. The optimal model is also updated frequently (frequent being defined specifically in context with the line of work and situation).

One Oakland team was successful because of the Moneyball model (and consistent development of good pitchers). But the next year, the team was working to rebalanced factors, neither totally different from before nor quite the same. Unlike a Soviet five-year plan, feedback and the tracking of trends tune the plan constantly.

As most baseball fans know, Oakland doesn't have the luxury richer teams do of making mistakes, of being in the pack; they have to be ahead to succeed. In that sense, motivation to invest in what most fiance types consider speculative efforts without guaranteed returns (strategic planning, knowledge management, change management) goes up, because even though they have thinner resources, their need to succeed is greater.

In contrast, take the New York Yankees (56-43, .533, in 2nd place 5 games back, projecting out to an 86-win campaign). Not terrible at all, but not guaranteed to finish ranked as high in results as they are in resources committed.

Steven Goldman of YES Network makes them the poster dude for the Maginot Line Franchise in his most recent Pinstriped Bible column. There are two sections worth noting on this topic:


Earlier this week, Joe Torre was discussing the politics of dealing Robinson Cano at the deadline. "As an organization," he said, "young kids don't usually get an opportunity to stay around because the future is right now." Torre was parroting the organizational line, but this is one of the dumbest things a manager who is interested in winning can say. Why rule out a whole class of people based on age or experience if the decision commits you to mediocrity? Why keep giving Wayne Franklin chances when there are younger pitchers who can do better? Why pretend that one two-hit game is a bigger indicator of things to come than Tony Womack's entire career? The answer is that the Yankees suffer from a kind of intellectual limitation that functions similarly to bigotry. That's what we call it when a person is judged on the basis of some aspect of his being rather than on ability. The Yankees are no meritocracy.

If Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves had the same attitude, they'd still be playing Raul Mondesi and Brian Jordan. They wouldn't be in first place in their division.

On Tuesday, the Yankees wisely elected to turn down Bernie Williams' club option for next year. He can now be signed to a much cheaper deal if they should desire to bring him back. They shouldn't.

As a fourth outfielder/designated hitter, Williams is of almost no value. He can no longer hit with his old authority; the only thing left of his peak skills is his willingness to draw walks. What Williams has done this year is consistent with what he's done the past two. It's time to concede that the old Williams passed on with the end of the 2002 season and was replaced by this:


    2003 .263 .367 .411

    2004 .262 .360 .435

    2005 .245 .333 .371

Actually, 2005 may be third-stage Williams. This is the one rehearsing for retirement. Designated hitters don't swing the bat so weakly. This year designated hitters are hitting .260/.340/.439. Last year they hit .263/.344/.445. Williams is unlikely to slug .439 again. A lot of home runs go missing when a team plays an inoffensive DH out of — what? — sentimentality or incompetence.

Williams is useless if he's considered a potential fourth outfielder. His inability to play center field for more than a day at a time is well-established. His arm is so weak as to prevent him from playing left or right field. How, then, does one justify Williams' 2006 presence on a Yankees bench that will have, at most, three spots on it? Leadership? Williams is the team's quiet man. Sinecure? Make him a coach. Pinch-hitter? A luxury when the bench is so short and more versatile players are likely to be available. Just because the Yankees have been unable or unwilling to find them doesn't mean they are nonexistent.

Bernie Williams is one of the most beloved Yankees of all time, and correctly so. A five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner, owner of four seasons over .320, including the 1998 batting title, 22 home runs in the postseason, four championship rings, Williams should go into the Hall of Fame someday (though he probably won't due to chronic obtuseness on the part of the voters). He is one of the great center fielders, but his time is done. The Yankees run a baseball team, not a museum. Unless a case can be made that Williams can contribute to the winning effort next year, his time with the Yankees should come to an end this October.

Love cannot turn back the hands of time.

And recreating a perfect strategy to win the last war cannot withstand the corrosion of time.

The Yankees need, for fan reasons, to treat Williams with respect, but if they intended to dominate this year, and that was the owner's declared intent, they needed to get ahead of Williams' 2005 probable production decline with a contingency plan. Try a trade for or signing of a positive contributor who could play center field, that key defensive position. Try an early, even premature, promotion of a young player who might only contribute on defense or only contribute on offense.

At the least, initiate the classic change management strategy of talking about his retirement.

The classic losers' argument that you are committed to paying Williams $12 MM in salary this year is a loser itself: you pay him to degrade your competitiveness or you pay him not to degrade your competitiveness.

The Yankees are a little (not totally) lazy about addressing limiting factors before they become that because they have enough resources to buy their way out of most of the resulting consequences. But this one is a real emergency flare -- it was so obvious and so costly to their overall performance, that it's hard to believe anything but MBWT (Management by Wishful Thinking) talked them into thinking Williams would reach adequacy he hadn't reached in three consecutive seasons.

Bernie Williamsmorphedd at some point from being this elegant classy All-Star contributor into an unquestioned answer.

Another enemy of successful change is what Goldman calls The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations. In the 2005 Yankees' case that means holding your Platonic ideals above measurable reality. The Yanks are not the only organization that have this problem, most do (like the lesson of the Piazza story I was explaining in my last essay). And myriad people, including a handful of sabermetricians have to fight with themselves to respect real outcomes as much as these beautiful, almost Keplerian, simulated models.

TIP #226
This leads us to one of the easiest things to point out to fellow managers and executives, and a great practical tool for making some people partially ready for change. Question, in a polite or even pointed way, every case where the presumed ideal the organization has internalized without questioning, has failed to deliver real results or where a competitor is using a different model that succeeds better consistently.

That's not to say the modelyou'ree questioning has to be inferior - it may be adequate. But questioning the implicit is always a useful technique for stimulating the energy that eventually can lead to change.

Why did no Yankee executive question the unquestioned answer? Why does Beane channel Paul DePodesta and keep asking the unquestioned answer? There are a lot of reasons, many of them operating in your own organization, and when you see them, you can start the struggle to overcome them.

The Maginot Line wasn't built in a day, but it was functionally removed in under a week.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Turning Human Stress
into Productivity, Baseball Style  

They say I have to get to know my ballplayers. That arithmetic is bad.
Isn't it simpler for the twenty-five of them to get to know me?
-- Birdie Tebbetts, Manager of Reds, Braves & Indians

Managers trying to get the most out of people sometimes forget their interactions are human & personal as well as boss-to-report. When achievement is most important, they are both likely to be under the most stress, but that's when setting the staffer up to succeed is the most important. But in those key situations, managers too often allow their own stress to pour over the staffer, & that undermines performance.

Baseball has great lessons for managers in getting the most out of employees in stressful situations, part of the Second Base skill set in the MBB Model. No place on the field is more the center of attention during stressful times than the pitcher's mound and the interaction between pitcher (the inevitable initiator of action) and those who are trying to get a grip on the situation. Sometimes you have to keep people loose, and sometimes you have to shock them out of the dream state the stress has put them in with a sharp tongue-lashing or teasing gesture.

The Seattle Times' Larry Stone delivered a wonderful feature yesterday about on-field chat and also a sidebar with Ten Great Moments in Chat.

Here are a few of the better mound interactions (neither was just about the conversations on the mound, so you'll need to read it to catch all the good content).


Manager using humor as pointed but emotion-free reprimand

Casey Stengel was a purveyor of memorable mound quotes. One time, Tug McGraw begged Stengel to let him stay in a Mets game.

"Let me pitch to one more man," McGraw said. "I struck him out the last time I faced him."

Replied Stengel: "Yeah, but the last time you faced him was this same inning."

It will always be necessary for a supervisor to be willing to reprimand a staffer for his work, but in many cases, especially the most stressful, it helps to be able to use humor or other tactics to soften the blow while also keeping the content clear. It's not always possible, but Stengel's model is a perfect example -- it's humor, but it doesn't let McGraw off the hook. At the same time, he hasn't eroded their ability to communicate. I wish I was that fast.

Supervisor waking up an unconscious report

Mariners pitching coach Bryan Price tried a unique form of motivation as a Class AA pitching coach, when a talented-but-erratic M's prospect named Ivan Montane was struggling in a game — not an unfamiliar occurrence.

"I remember going out and asking him how he was doing," Price said. "He said he was fine. I said, 'Well, you know what, Ivan? I'm not fine. You're two more bad outings from me being back in A ball. You're pitching me back to A ball.' "

Here's a supervisor using strong language and strong concepts about real consequences. There's a pinch of humor in it, but this pitcher has no excuse to miss the tart intent. You need to have this in your toolbox, though it works unevenly with different personalities. Some, not many, just don't receive anything but the most simple, straightforward, "you stink and I need you to change in the following ways..." And some people are hypersensitive -- I knew a man and two women who would burst into tears if I had said to them what Price said to Montane, and that does neither side any good.

Co-worker keeping staff loose even while presenting serious information

Perhaps the richest source of baseball conversation, however, takes place on the mound {snip}Any number of folks, from the catcher to the infielders to the manager to the pitching coach, can choose at any time to trot on over for a chat, like two neighbors hanging over the fence.

Of course, it's usually far more businesslike than that, with important mechanical and strategic information being exchanged in dignified fashion. Or not. Dodgers pitcher Tom Candiotti was amazed once when Mike Piazza went to the mound and conducted the entire discussion using his Beavis voice from "Beavis and Butt-head."

Big organizations usually hate contributors who act like Piazza. What they fail to understand is that that part of his personality is inseparable from the part they like -- as with any very successful hitter, he's going to make an out over 60% of the time, and so he chooses to make a joke out of adversity to maintain an even keel for himself. Here's he's trying to do the same for Candiotti. I've attended evaluation sessions with clients where the supervisor said something like, "Mike, we really like the way you contribute here, but you have to stop being such a clown". In four out of five cases, the day their employee stopped being a clown would be the day his contribution would go down.

Co-workers who both perform and try to help are people perform better are assets.

Supervisor breaking the tension of the key contributor

Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck is a proponent of using the light touch with pitchers, who are often struggling at the time of interaction. {snip}

During a stint with Houston, Cluck racked his brains for the right thing to say to former Astros pitcher Mark Portugal after he gave up three home runs on three successive pitches against the Reds — each one setting off a pyrotechnics display at Riverfront Stadium. Houston manager Art Howe directed Cluck to go to the mound, so he came up with this mood lightener:

"Hey, Porchie, the guy with the cannon called. He said, 'Slow down, I can't reload that fast.' "

Concluded Cluck: "He laughed. It loosened him up, and he went on to win the game. Sometimes, one of the big things a pitching coach does is slow somebody down."

and this one

When (Bryan) Price got in a jam while pitching in the minors, his pitching coach, Dave Schuler, strolled out and told him, "You ever try to count the number of light towers? It's hard, because you spin all the way around, and you're never sure where you started."

"Then he walked off the mound," Price recalled. "That was it. There was no baseball. I'm guessing it was an effort to get my mind off the peril I got myself into, and break the tension. And it worked."

Here are two valuable techniques. In the Cluck example, he has a contributor who's struggling but who he basically trusts. He just turns a meltdown into a joke in the hope that his charge can take a deep breath and go back to performing at his "normal" level. I love doing that with natural high-performers in a jam, though I don't always have the necessary fast comeback at hand.

The Schuler model is just trying to reboot the staffer's concentration so instead of falling below the event horizon, the staffer can get a little perspective and re-eastablish his mindset. Absurdity, or a brain teaser or riddle are all techniques that can work with a staffer who ends up hyper-focused or is obsessing on something.

Not one of these techniques (except perhaps the Schuler) works for every staffer. But you should keep all of them in your toolbox. The straight-ahead "you are failing & I need you to change in the following ways" is necessary, too, though not as often as it actually gets used.

Put these in your perople-management repertoire. Experiment with your staff. Get more like baseball. And you'll get better.at what you do.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

free website counter