Thursday, July 28, 2011

Umpires Go Lean; Deming Does Baseball  

I'm not the smartest batter in the blogosphere, but I'm blessed by having the smartest readers. My perpetual high-performing cloud teammate Joe Ely, an implementer of Lean Manufacturing practices and other management & process refinements, is a noteworthy example. I already know he's a student and a renderer and a teacher of the genius of W. Edwards Deming who also blends in a panoply of other lessons he's absorbed and knitted together to create his own toolbox.

What I didn't know until this week is he's an umpire, as well

I knew that he and I both use continuous improvement techniques along with staff knowledge and morale-building processes to try to simultaneously increase productivity through quality and employee-customer-employer satisfaction. And we are both deeply into Baseball as a process and as an entertainment. 

But a note from him this week about the umpiring win-now-while-setting-yourself-up-to-win-later-too process I wrote about in the previous entry has set me to thinking more about our parallel interests. Perhaps a large part of the reason both Baseball and Lean/Deming appeal to us is that Deming is really a lot about Baseball or that Baseball is really a lot about Lean, or both. ¿What if there's a continuous refinement loop that Baseball embodies that approaches the ideal form that each of us, in somewhat different configurations, is trying to embody in our management implementation practices?

A wild-axed thought. Perhaps errant, but if so, only as errant as the long liner that just wraps itself on the wrong side of the fair pole.

As you may remember from the Genius of Umpire Process entry, the Umps have worked out a most-elegant process of assigning talent to provide arbiters for the Playoffs and World Series, blending senior, other veteran, and relatively-young umps, and then rotating them so the youngest are guaranteed the opportunities to get experience at the most important spots on the field, but when the stakes are relatively the lowest. And this reserves the most likely to be pressure-filled, intense spots on the field for the games that are most likely to be the most pressure-filled and intense.

Joe Ely at work knows how to do this, but it turns out that Joe Ely the Umpire does this Lean-like process on the baseball field, as well. Here's a lightly abridged version of his note:

The insight on World Series umpire rotation is huge...it all makes sense if you think about it.  Get the most experienced guys progressively behind the plate as the pressure builds.  Game 2 just isn't that tough, relatively speaking.

And a further example, from Little League.

Last Wednesday, I was assigned to work the plate for our District finals for the 11-year old division.  I had three other guys assigned to do bases but the assignor did not tell me who to put where.  So, when I got to the field, an hour ahead of time, I made my decision and put the least experienced guy at first base and two equally veteran guys at 2nd and 3rd.

When the guy working 2nd, a good friend of mine for many years now, arrived and learned who was working first, he pulled me aside and said "Joe, do you know what this guy will do at 1st??  That's crazy!"  I explained I felt it was key he get some good experience and we had to do this sometime to develop new umpires.  We stayed with the assignments.

Well, the game progressed.  The guy did make one out and out blown call at first, calling an out on an obvious safe situation.  But he got everything else right.  He was in the frying pan on one check swing I had to go to him for but got it right (though not for the right reason).  He also made two less-than perfect movements on balls to the outfield.  No one noticed but the other three of us, though and we discussed it during and after the game.  And his one blown call ended up not being a factor.

Following the game, he thanked us for the assignment, having learned a lot. He'll do better next time.   Both coaches thanked us, as a team, for a good game.  It all ended well.

Gotta do this to build a future.  Weber was right.  And it works in a hidden corner of Indiana Little League as well as the bright lights of the World Series.

You have to respect the vitality of Joe Ely's thinking, incorporating with variation his work improvement methods to this avocation. This requires understanding the context and incorporating without a rigid copy process.

But Ely's process -- overwhelmingly harmonic with Deming, is pure baseball, as well. I wonder how much Deming consciously borrowed from the National Pastime.

PS: A few of my own favorite Joe Ely insights, always actionable, insightful and stuff that has hard, measurable value:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Baseball Umpires' Staff Development Genius:
Balancing Winning Today With Winning Tomorrow  

Baseball is sharper about managing in competitive environments than corporate or military or government arenas are. It's zero-sum (for every win there has to be a loss) & transparent, both of which mean failure can neither be hidden, denied, or without consequences. So if you manage Beyond Baseball, learn this lesson about one of the hardest things to do in Baseball and Beyond.

You need to balance your resources and staff time/energy not only to win today but in all the tomorrows coming up.

...managers do it, front offices do it, even the Umpires do it. The manager in the dugout needs to win this game unfolding today. You put up your best available rested pitcher, skipping anyone else even if it's their turn. You save your best pinch hitter for the most important situation you intuit may come up. You try to put out on the field your best line-up of today's available talent, and craft the line-up for the best possible immediate results. At the same time, in the same game day, you need to give your other players chances, because if you don't, you're going to end up late in the season with rusty skills and when some key player gets injured or tired or slumping, not only are you slotting in a lesser talent, but one who's not tuned to succeed at even her own level. Further, by not using your subs, you're losing valuable chances to see what they are best at, where they succeed and fail, and the chance to refine their game through coaching informed by observation.

Front office management has to assemble winning rosters right now and for the future but they will not be in their jobs long if they trade too much of their future for some immediate this-season advantage. And the irony of it is, if they do the reverse, build a sensible plan for an elevated long-term success without winning enough right now, they may be cooked before the planned schedule for improvement gets to the intended results (case in point, Seattle Mariners GM Jack Jack Zduriencik's attempt to turn around a team that unwise ownership has undermined now for close to a decade, an effort that looked on the surface like a four- or five-year plan that's now in year 2.5, is in a hazardous position because the team on the field today has a truly sorry present and at the 2.5 year mark, unsurprisingly, hasn't gotten to Year 5 of the Five Year plan yet).

And, I just found out Umpires do it, too. I've been reading Bruce Weber's fantastic book on Umpires, As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires (Scribner, 2009). On the surface, it sounds like a marginal topic, but the New York Times' Weber is not just a good writer and insightful observer, he went through one of the two official schools for pro umpires, so he understands the work as an insider. I'll write a review of the book in a later entry (if you are already convinced, his Fresh Air interview was cool, too), but the joy of it is the same frisson a management person gets on an industrial plant tour (like the Rainier Brewery tour or the Tillamook Cheese factory tour or the -- now decommissioned -- IBM PC factory tour). It gives you a ton of insight and knowledge about an everyday "object" or endeavour you think you understand, but from such a different -- and intimate -- perspective, that it opens up your eyes to a big world you thought you pretty much understood.

One of the great moments of this book is a Management By Baseball one: How the Umps balance putting their best product on the field today without strip-mining their future.

Playoff and World Series umpiring crews are balanced with more-experienced individuals and promising younger professionals. Okay, well that's normal throughout Baseball and one of the reasons Baseball is the most effective endeavor in North America at professional development. But the mechanics of how the umpires deploy the talent is worth thinking about and a wonderful example for anyone who manages staff and wishes to deliver best effort today while not undermining best effort tomorrow.

Weber explains how they do it with the six umps in a World Series crew (one at each base and two added umps for the outfield lines), all top notch talent in a field that has been hyper-winnowed already, so they are Seven-Sigma, at the very top of the top notch of a top notch.

Generally, the crew chief...works the opening game, dealing with the initial spectacle; then the crew rotates in order of reverse seniority, so the younger umps get their experience, and the older ones take their turns as the stakes get higher. In a seven-game series, the crew chief returns to the plate for the ultimate game.

Sounds reasonable as a way to balance opportunity, but for the minority of managers who read this blog who haven't already noticed it, it's a perfectly crafted staff development scheme.

Game One...everyone has butterflies (yes, even the umps), so the crew chief handles the most calls by being behind home plate. You don't know where the toughest calls are going to be (Weber explains why), but you do know the home plate arbiter will have the highest quantity and the most eyeballs for the most time, so they go with the chief talent. Then, the rotation puts the least senior ump there and as the games progress (and are more apparently consequential) the experience level gets higher until, if it does get to the ultimate zero-sum crucible, a seventh game of the World Series, the most experienced talent, the crew chief, is at home plate to take the pressure and deliver the needed work.

I'll know I'll get mail (I always do when I write on balancing winning today with tomorrow) pushing back (usually it's from finance people or sales managers) that try to convince me I'm wrong & that corporate management is wiser and that this balancing thing is over-rated.

Not close, IMNSHO. Most people who work inside publicly-owned corporations labor in shops that almost never preserve their resources for some later date and overlook testing/training opportunities for the less-experienced talent to get their cuts at what they haven't mastered while observing, measuring and analysing their performance so the manager can deliver targeted coaching. So the best stay the best, even if their skills decline, because the prospects don't get built up as a matter of course. They may develop on their own, but can you imagine what would happen in Baseball if management never provided targeted coaching and opportunities for prospects? Exactly, they'd be the 1981-86 Pittsburgh Pirates or the 2004-2008 Seattle Mariners, dreadful teams dominated by older talent simultaneously getting neither younger for the future nor better for immediate wins.

Upper management can make line management act this way even when line management knows it's counter-productive. If every project/effort is sold as the Most Important Thing Ever, if every Pet Rock is sold to employees and stockholders as The Pyramids at Giza, no one ever gets a test or a rest. The trend, therefore, is Gene Mauch 1964...your best get worn out, becoming less good, but it becomes (realistically) scarier to take a chance on the other talent because they are untested. So the best may still be the best, but they are not as good, and the others are not as good because they haven't been studiously developed, so (and I'll get push-back on this conclusion because, amazingly I always do, especially from the innumerate people who dominate both finance and sales management) the composite average performance of the workgroup goes down. And simultaneously, the options for the future are diminished, too, because of the lack of development.

It's a corporate habit that's lose-lose: In trying to be stronger right now and ignoring the future, they undermine their present so they can be weaker in the future (hey, maybe it'll be someone else's problem).

Learn from the umpires, a much more difficult and transparent craft than your own. Be meticulous with staff development to be great fright now and be great for the future.

This play-for-today-only ethic is a form of strip-mining, to heck with the future. It's bad business for Baseball, and it's bad practice for your own organization

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Michael Humphreys' Wizardry:
Imperfect But Critical Analytics  

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all. -- Charles "The Dudmaston Devastator" Babbage

Social systems are determined by technological systems -- Leslie A. White

In business as in Baseball, technology triggers innovation which affects comparative advantage. The spread of relatively inexpensive business analytics tools in the late 1990s proliferated an immense cadre of people with various combined levels of skill, of insight, and of training to attack the kinds of large-dataset problems that have much to yield to such technology. Business, as always, lagged behind Baseball (Government did too, but, as usual, not quite as much), because Contemporary Corporate governance is almost always following financial aspirations, while Baseball's aspiration portfolio is broader.

Because Baseball is intrinsically far more accountable than the corporate workplace, it has embraced more advanced accountability engines, such as the only-recently capable of deployment video capture technologies that can identify events such as true balls and strikes, the exact trajectory, speed and rotation of a pitched or batted ball, the distance and vector paths a fielder takes to get to a batted ball.

The majority of the data loaded and analysed from these systems has decoded pitching for umpires, coaches and pitchers themselves. But the most important data loaded and analysed from these systems has been that aimed at decoding fielding. That's because judging fielding has been Baseball's most gaping knowledge lag. There are good data to have a glimpse at the value of batters and, to a lesser degree, pitchers, but all pre-contemporary high-tech analysis to judge fielding has been interesting but under-infused with hard facts.

So the arrival of that technology has been good. But there's a sad background to that, an Internet-inspired trend in the background that dulls the innovative advantage of this magnificent innovation. It needs to be proprietary, because the Internet has enabled people who don't respect intellectual property (the idea that inventors deserve compensation for their inventions, creators deserve compensation for their creations) to expropriate public instances of others' private property for their own private profit.

"Content wants to be free" is the mantra of the non-creative free-market types who want to reap the creations of creative people at their own whim for their own profit. It's a perfectly parasitical paradigm, perniciously peddled by pseudo-intellectual free-market rent-boys like Laurence Lessig. In a society that values money > creativity, creativity will gravitate towards serving the purpose of money so people with money but no creativity will buy creation while people with creativity will tend to constrain their focus to serve uncreative people with money.

This twin-killing has made it very difficult to achieve much with the Business Analytics tools our technological innovators have made possible, in part because the ubiquity of the Internet intellectual-property-theft tools our technological innovators have made possible. Beyond Baseball, probably in your own organization, innovation and mission advancement is stunted by the same trends.

If the companies that invested in the high-tech creations that have brought so much actionable information to baseball were not very protective of their data, they would be rich in insight and poor in money, with no chance of earning back their investment. So all this wonderful "batted ball" data that decodes fielding skill and enables baseball teams to make better, more informed decisions is kept proprietary, not shared with the vast cadre of analysts I described earlier. And so fewer informed ideas get tested, vetted, argued for and against -- that is, refined with the scientific method.

HUMPHREYS HATCHES A HARBINGER Into this scientific gap plunged Michael Humphreys, with an attempt to see what could be synthesised using only publicly-available data, and using what fragments of the proprietary data had been publicly-shared to "test" it.

The result was a few years of peer-review and dialogue that culminated in a book, Wizardry: Baseball's All-Time Great Fielders Revealed, (Oxford University Press, 2011, New York). In it, Humphreys devises a system that approximates the knowledge that could be uncovered using proprietary systems.

It's a most noble effort, one I found flawed in some ways, but one that I believe achieves its very useful mission: putting ideas that benefit from the scientific and analytic method into a public dialogue. The book, therefore is not an end in itself, but a means towards that end, and end that's very difficult to achieve in our finance-led society which gravitates in the other direction.

Wizardry has two parts. Part I is a detailed, open-book description of Humphreys' analytic methods (which I like much for its insight and openness). Part II is a position-by-position and "era"-by-"era" application of the methods to name names and built stacked lists of bests and worsts (which I didn't like much).

On the eccentric side, he proposes pitchers' fielding be credited with infield pop-outs and shallow outfield flies with long hang time, rather than any individual fielders' numbers, as he views them as automatic outs and not really something with which you should credit an individual fielder or the rest of the team. Unless I mis-read his intent, I suspect this should be credited to the pitcher's pitching instead (like a strikeout is credited to his pitching and not to the catcher's or the pitcher's fielding). But it's an interesting and thought-provoking assertion.

And in tribute to the now-widely accepted but laughably wrong "Wisdom of Crowds" cult, he proposes at one point that the only way to posit one aspect of outfield defense is to take two existing obviously-flawed systems and make a simple average between the two. Yikes...that's like suggesting that averaging the coordinates of two pitches called balls are the best way to determine what a strike is.

Disputes like this aside, he's made his analysis something others can build on by making it an open systems effort and bases it on publicly-available data. It doesn't need to be perfect; it needs to be sufficient and something good enough that others can build on it, and Humphreys' work is both.

BEYOND HUMPHREYS & BASEBALL I want to encourage you, if you are an analyst or have any management affect on analysis departments to grab a copy of Wizardry and read it for ideas for your own efforts.

First, absorb how he spread his ideas around to different people with very different points of view and used their critiques to synthesise refinements to his own system. In your own shop, that could mean circulating the answers and questions they engender to other departments with very different kinds of insights or could mean combining with other organizations that are not direct competitors to synthesise your mutual wisdom. It's not fully open source (though going fully open source is a strategy that was at least as effective as secured analysis for the Oakland A's Moneyball strategy), but pushes the energy in that direction and the comparative gains that has to offer.

Second, see how you can use available non-proprietary data to blend in with your own, the way Humphreys has. Analysts, I've found, too often restrict their span to their own perimeters of collected data.

Third, try posing naïve questions, Paul DePodesta style. Play around with your questions in eccentric (not out of this universe) ways, parallel to Humphreys' crediting pitchers' fielding with pop-up outs.

BALANCING SCIENCE & CREATIVITY In Baseball, at least, there are solutions to finding a workable balance. Don Malcolm has some ideas, hinted at here & to be described in full at some later date, I hope.

Beyond Baseball, as long as as a society we find money more worthy than anything else, the Internet and skilled lobbyists for Red China's industrial plutocrats ("we mustn't offend them, and free markets demand we respect their needs, and it makes everything so cheap to buy, so it feels good") make it seem inevitable that innovation and creativity must serve as the midwife to the uncreativity of finance. I'm pretty sure it's not inevitable, but it does require people working and thinking and acting like Humphreys, as well as being willing to pay innovators and creators instead of cheap idea cloners and purveyors of cheap toxic crap.

It just takes will and enforcing accountability, something Baseball does every minute.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Parlaying Pee-Pee Passes into Pennants:
Florida Marlins' Master of Change Jack McKeon  

Jack Aloysius McKeon came out of retirement in June to take over the Fish Tank, the cellar-dwelling, on-an-eleven-game-losing-streak Florida Marlins. McKeon is a self-important martinet, old enough at 80 to not give a hoot about what his employees think of him, but amazingly, he knows exactly how much pressure to apply and where. His ability to attend to every detail, learn from his mistakes, and fearlessly act on both his instincts and learned lessons make him one of the rare managers in any field who has gotten all around the bases and to Home Plate in the MBB Management Model.

While I last wrote about him eight seasons ago when he took this same team to an upset World Series victory, the front office chose him for this 2011 task for the exact same reason: changing the existing culture and exerting discipline over a very young discount-budget team. And McKeon chose to take the job for the same reason; because he was finding life away from the most challenging, complex, compound managerial job on the face of the planet too un-stimulating for his 80-years-old lifestyle.

The Marlins this year were actually above .500, 32-30, before this single swoon. But the front office believed that his resigned predecessor Edwin Rodríguez was not going to be the manager to take this recipe, still a ways from being fully-baked, into the playoffs, and believed McKeon's relentless discipline is what the youngest roster in the league needs now.

As I've written about before, McKeon has mastered change, maybe as much as any manager in the league not named Joe Maddon. He learned from his predecessors, and remarkably, learned from his own mistakes, and did not view his past mistakes as approaches-to-be-universally-rejected, as I explained in that piece linked-to two paragraphs previous (in brief, he started his management career by burning out young pitchers; he learned to stop overusing young pitchers, but instead of never riding a successful starter hard, found spots where he could occasionally optimize his team's chances by stretching out a young starter. This is a very rare ability...the ability to reject what you thought you knew, but not demonize it to the degree that what useful elements it contained are unusable).

One critical element of change for any incoming manager is to shock your employees enough for them to get out of ruts they may not even understand they are in. Maddon does this more completely and more entertainingly by making it clear every protocol that's optional (batting order, kangaroo court fines, dress codes) will be changed, that seemingly everything is changing -- a lesson that's impossible to miss. McKeon addresses the small range of things that are most symptomatic of what he's trying to change.

As is the norm for Bob Dole Generation managers, McKeon not only wants to be fully in control of anyone he's not convinced is fully-self-disciplined, he wants each employee to know he's in charge. No subtlety. Again, though, in trying to institute a change initiative, it's critical to shock the employees into understanding change is happening and expected. I prefer defter, more enlisting means, but McKeon's can work in this environment -- a young outfit under-performing in part because of lack of diligence.

According to an insightful story by the Miami Herald's Clark Spencer,

When McKeon took over as manager in ’03, one of his first priorities was to break (Josh) Beckett and (Brad) Penny — two pitchers with high ceilings but poor work ethics — of their lackadaisical habits. “I just hammered,” he said. “I just stayed on them.”

McKeon demands that starting pitchers sit in the dugout on days they’re not pitching to study and learn. When he discovered that Penny and Beckett weren’t on the bench one game in ’03, he stormed into the clubhouse between innings and tore into them. He ended up having the clubhouse door locked so players couldn’t go in during games.

He said Mark Redman had fun with that and made index cards into restroom passes for players during the game.

There was “a poo-poo and a pee-pee card, so if you wanted to go poo-poo or pee-pee, you had to get a card,” McKeon said, adding that players had to come to him to get one of the passes.

There is some technique in here to go along with the risible aspects of it. Mark Redman, one of the oldest guys on that team, made a bit of a joke about it, but McKeon leveraged that. He didn't punish Redman, he took it, aikido-style, and sideswiped it into his system. And by having something as ridiculous as hall passes (further coded by #1 and #2), what might have been pure conflict became amusing, and made the absolutely serious disciplinary needs (pitchers sitting in the dugout on non-start days so as to study and learn), seem more reasonable.

In your own change initiatives, I don't recommend hall passes (unless you're a middle school teacher or an investment banker). But the McKeon Ploy...to find the key ability shortfall, then identify the cause, then institute a surprisingly non-obvious but noticeable method to short-circuit it...is worth your consideration.

This Marlin team is unlikely to pull off the 2003 surprise. But McKeon is building a platform for his successor, a learning organisation that can take the next step when the time comes, ownership permitting. The ~47% of males and ~61% of females lucky enough to live to be 80 should aspire that if we do, we could still be achieving positive Change initiatives if we get there.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dick Williams' Lesson in Establishing a Reputation
(A Memorial Reprise)  

When Dick Williams life ended earlier this month, he left behind a legacy of management excellence -- and several different reputations. In the previous entry, I took a quick your of his useful methods, but left out one at Second Base of the Management by Baseball Model: Managing People, forgoing that topic for a full entry on it. The following essay, focused specifically on a Second Base method -- establishing a reputation to improve effectiveness --  is a reprise from January 2004.

When you start a management position in a new company or in a group that doesn’t know you well, there will be many staffers who don’t want it to be too easy for you. One or two of them might have been angling for your job themselves.

There are many males who compete by a zero-sum equation; like frat boys’ hazing rituals, they believe you have to earn their compliance. There are many females who manage their environment by manipulation, testing your resolve and determination.

You’re going to have to learn to establish a reputation that has a full spectrum of possibilities, because different people are best managed with different incentives and approaches. If you’re a natural hard-ass, you’re going to need to learn to establish a reputation as a cooperator. If you’re a nice guy, you’ll need to show your assertiveness. And once established, you’ll need to reinforce your reputation with consistent “marketing”, that is, presenting yourself a certain way, but you equally may need to alter your reputation in response to group needs or events.

Dick Williams was hired by Charlie O. Finley to take the Oakland A’s to a new level. The team had built a roster very wisely in the late 1960s and had two second place finishes in a row, In 1969 and 1970 with aloof, businesslike managers Hank Bauer and John McNamara. Finley understood that a different style can frequently bring out new strengths while holding on to strengths already internalized.

Williams was more a one-of-the-guys manager, but when he got to the A’s, they were already swaggering, feeling like champs, and, according to Williams, he had three clubhouse leaders. There was Reggie Jackson, the vocal one, Sal Bando, the quiet clubhouse emissary, and Catfish Hunter, the ace pitcher and campus clown who kept everyone loose. As Williams said in his book No More Mr. Nice Guy:

“I’ll let players lead themselves, particularly veterans like Catfish, as long as they recognize and respect the ultimate authority. Me.

“…We had opened that first A’s season by losing four of our first six games…I was a little worried about a pitching staff that had allowed 40 runs in those games. Then I became more worried after Charlie called me and pitching coach Bill Posedel to his apartment and asked what the hell I was going to do about it .

“By the time the plane landed in Milwaukee to begin the trip, I had advanced from worried to angry.”

His players were loose, but in a bad, unproductive way, and not listening to their manager. Williams knew he needed to change the established shape of the manager-player relationship in a way that asserted his dominance, but not in some hysterical Captain Queeg out-of-context rant. Fate handed him an opportunity right that minute in Milwaukee.

The players got off the plane an boarded their bus. A flight attendant from the plane came running out to the bus, jumped on it and explained that someone had stolen a megaphone from the plane at they had to return it. “I sucked in my breath,” Williams said, “It was time to stop staring in awe at my Athletics and start shoving them.”

He stood up in the aisle and announced he was going to stand there until they coughed up megaphone. Silence, jostling and nudging, snickers. He turned red.

“I don’t know if you guys know this, but we aren’t exactly burning up the damn league”. More silence, more snickers.

“I know some of you think you can be assholes…well I can be the biggest asshole of them all. And if you have a problem with that, just call Charlie…but he ain’t her now and I am, and you’d better learn to live with-”

Clunk. The megaphone had been returned.

It turned out it was ace pitcher Catfish Hunter who’d stolen the megaphone. “I knew and the team knew but I never did anything about it. As it turned out, I should have given him a bonus for feeding me the slow curve that enabled this team to feel my swing.”

“I was never told how they reacted to it, but then I didn’t need to be told, I saw. We won 12 of our next 13 games. Six days after my meltdown we went into first place and were never caught.”


Beyond baseball sometimes (rarely) a tantrum is just what’s needed for a relatively-new manager to cement his authority. Usually it’s something else. But you have to wait for the right opportunity, because if it’s too out of context or feels staged, it will actually degrade your authority.

My wife works in an organization that has an affirmative action program for hiring older people who had been career military. A few men who came in this way got into positions of hiring power and started hiring a lot more retired military men until the organization had a strong strain of this particular style of management. It's a style that doesn't work well in most non-military settings.

The ones that succeeded in the new role were the ones who established early on that their management style was different. They did this by demonstrating an almost over-the-top "warm fuzziness", very explicitly differentiating themselves from the expected pattern. The ones who failed to set a tone early were likely to waste time struggling against the reputation of the retired military archetype.

Set a tone, establish who you are early & clearly. Maybe you'll be a legendary success like Dick Williams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Remembering Dick Williams, a
Management by Baseball All-Time Great  

Dick Williams (1929 - 2011) is all over the Management by Baseball book, because he was one of the greatest management and life teachers I've ever had. He advanced through all four bases of the MBB Model, and if you never saw him manage or hear him talk about the game, the quick stop at each base I'll put farther down the page will give you some insights into what made him so special.

I can't say he was a personal friend...we had a thin, professional relationship, first when he managed in Seattle towards the end of his manager career and I was doing some work for the A.P. covering the team, and later when I was lucky enough to be assigned the work of writing his biography for the Society for American Baseball Research's Baseball Biography Project.

Reporters were usually scared of him or hated him or both. And he was a notorious "red ass"; he could deliver devastatingly acerbic responses to what he considered dumb questions. A lot of Bob Dole-generation managers (for example, Ralph Houk, John McNamara, Billy Martin) were that way. 

I noticed, though, he was different from those other red asses in two major respects: he was skeptical and he was fair. He didn't automatically presume a question was stupid, he waited for the question, listened and then judged  whether it was dumb or not (while those other three for example, didn't bother to listen because they were so convinced the reporters were dumb that they would not get asked any interesting or smart questions). "Skip", which is what a lot of his coaches and players called him at that time, as much stress as he was under, seemed to always listen and then judge the question itself, and even if a reporter had asked him a bunch of dumb questions every night for most of a homestand, Skip would listen and only diss the reporter if the immediate question was dumb. He didn't hold a grudge that way -- which is one of the reasons, btw, he was such a great manager -- he presumed improvement was possible and that reinforcement (in this particular case, the negative reinforcement of calling into question a reporter's acuity) made improvement more possible. He certainly didn't hold it against one of the most ignorant baseball reporters around, Bill Plaschke who covered the M's at that time, and if Williams had held a grudge for the accumulation of a scary number of very ignorant questions presented arrogantly by a know-it-all without a shred of useful knowledge, he would never have chosen Plaschke to be the as-told-to for his autobiography (No More Mr. Nice Guy).

If Dick Williams didn't believe in the perfectibility of humans, he did believe that improvement was possible and always a good thing worth expending energy on.

So my trick back then was to let everyone else ask the vanilla, predictable questions you could win money betting on would be asked (e.g., What did you think of <insert starting pitcher's name>'s performance tonight?, or How costly was Yeager's error tonight, or the immensely vapid, pointless and hollow How did you feel when <such-and-such> happened?, or the always good for a big cringe Why didn't you pinch-hit with <so-and-so> instead of letting <whatshisname> ground into that double-play?). I had an advantage over most of the press guys in this...for one thing, I worked for the wire service, which only wanted colorless predictable words; with rare exceptions, anything extraordinary or insightful got snipped out (and the New York sports desk held against you the extra work it took them to homogenize and sterilize your prose). So I could just take dictation and pass the most appreciated part of the responses back as part of the story. The trick part was staying after everyone had left (or coming back later) and asking the kinds of questions an aspiring manager would ask. What was his insight on this or that, had he changed his views of constructing a line-up over the years, and if so, how...essay questions. And even though I was no smarter than any of those other writers, I asked questions that were unexpected and it was obvious I wanted to learn.

Skip loved to teach and see the learning acquired and used. I can say that in the couple of dozen conversations I had with him, he never once ridiculed my ignorance or quest for understanding; more often than not, he acted enthusiastic about sharing his insights. And he was never once rude to me.

I used his lessons in my management practice for over a decade before the SABR Baseball Biography Project started up, but when it did, I asked Mark Armour and his editorial team if I could write Williams' bio, and they were kind enough to let me do it. It enabled me to have about a half-dozen more life & baseball conversations with him, and much of that found its way into the biography. I still called him Skip and he still was willing to teach if I was willing to ask meaningful questions and learn. And this round, the interaction still wasn't as "friends" (can't do that as a biographer), it was closer, less guarded and more like the "relationship" I imagine his coaches had with him.

He was a great interview, a great baseball person, and one of Baseball's five or six best managers of the 20th Century.

Well, too much to scribe here. But I'll give you a single choice piece at each of the four bases.

Most of what professionals call management is here at First. What people mostly remembered about him until he died this month was that if an employee didn't try to improve, he was a red ass and that was true. But Skip excelled at giving people (with extra patience for the younger ones) a chance to prove what they could do and for using people for what they had proven themselves good at. He wasn't a glass-half-empty person, he didn't pretend they could do what they didn't/couldn't, and he didn't resent people for not being able to turn full effort into the high results he always hoped for and drove people for.

The next essay I post will be a reprise from January of 2004, where I discussed his approach to establishing a reputation, and that's all about 2nd base. But here I'll tersify it: Williams knew that if you had a diverse roster/staff, you would need to work with different egos and personalities and that there was no one right way to do that, because those personalities would be different, need different inspiration and motivations to succeed. Very very few managers Beyond Baseball work as though they know this, and Williams was expert.

Too many managers bring their childhood or family issues into their management style. This is a severe mistake only 100% of the time. The most common tack managers who have not been professionally trained as managers (that is, most managers in the U.S.) take is to use as a foundation for their managerial style either their dominant parent or the exact opposite.

Williams was an abused child, physically beaten by his dominant parent -- his father -- and driven to achieve the maximum in every way. Since he was most adept at athletics, he pushed himself to please his dad there: he lettered in baseball, football, basketball, track, tennis, and swimming. In handball, he didn't just letter, he was city champ. But his father withheld full approval -- almost as though he believed that if Dick thought he was good, he would stop trying.

When he became manager, he neither used his father as the model, nor embraced the opposite. Instead of totally rejecting his father's "management by disappointment" approach or using it wholesale, he found he could use a piece of it with modifications. By demanding high effort and rewarding high effort, by letting physical errors pass by without tormenting the perp but at the same time pointing out all the mental errors & their consequences in blunt, sharp language, he was able to use his father's ghost without either worshipping it or avenging himself on it. Very very few managers Beyond Baseball ever master third base, understand how their own ego and personal experiences color their management style -- and Williams not only understood his own demons, but channeled them to improve himself and his work.

Dick Williams was one of two great turnaround artists in Baseball between Joe McCarthy and Lou Piniella. There's probably 1,000 words on what and how he did this, in both leagues and with very different kinds of teams and I won't elaborate that deeply here.

What Skip knew about Change was that to succeed in turning around what had been mediocrity or worse, you couldn't just address talent issues and you couldn't just address attitude -- you needed to deploy the full panoply, not let anyone stand in your way even if they were using reasonable sounding reasons for hesitancy, and you needed to be completely aware of the realities of the resources and people at hand, and let everyone know they were welcomed along for the ride but if they weren't working at helping, they were off the bus.

Beyond Baseball, managers rarely have the courage to try and the sensitivity to carry this off.

Williams, well, he was just an extraordinary manager, an all-time great practitioner of management skill rarely found in Baseball, and present in under 1% of the managers Beyond Baseball. I wish I'd have had a few more interviews, a few more lessons.

Friday, July 08, 2011

It's Claire as Day:
Why in a "Free Market", Corporate Initiatives Tend to Degrade Quality  

In many posts including the previous entry, I touched on the set of issues in Baseball that gets exacerbated when there's an imbalance between the Baseball bottom line (game wins) and the Business bottom line (dollars won). And while it's true that a great, winning team on the field can have persistent business issues, the imbalance is generally in the other direction: the team's ownership or front office values some business consideration more than wins to a degree that the product itself becomes degraded and then the business side tries to figure out a way to diminish the baseball part of the product (in favor of mallpark or other distractions) to cover that up.

I'm about to tell you about an example that beautifully illustrates an almost universal feature of what passes outside of Baseball as management in this "Free Market" era. It is a beautiful illustration because it simultaneously:

  • Exposes the intrinsic inability of conglomerated corporations to deliver quality,
  • Illustrates the contemporary hubris of corporate management in believing decision-makers don't need domain knowledge, because "we're management, we can do anything we want", and
  • Provides an additional nail in the coffin of the idea that a publicly-owned corporation can act as a vessel for real capitalism.

I recently lucked into a bit of dialog with Fred Claire, one of the longest-tenured general managers of contemporary times, and one of the more successful ones. He was kind enough to send me his book, My 30 Years in Dodger Blue (Sports Publishing, 2004), and it was a great read that covered some only-in-this-book MBB  topics (proper book review in a later post). But the insider commentary most striking to me is what I'll cover in this post: the breaking of a multi-decade covenant between the Dodgers and their fans and staff that just about inevitably followed the team's ownership transfer from family ownership (the O'Malleys) to a contemporary conglomerate (a set of entities ultimately owned by News Corp.)

To reiterate what I've discussed previously, Baseball differs from Beyond Baseball business in that Baseball is almost perfectly accountable. The wins and losses (individual, team, league) are fully measurable, visible to any who take an interest. And competitive capitalism is at its finest when the accountability is most knitted into the institution. There's no Enron in Baseball, no ability to cook the books and fool the observers into thinking a 37-51 team is a great team, or that a batter putting up 180/250/205 should be batting as DH in the heart of the order of a team that intends to win games. Pretty much no-one will accept that in an accountable system like baseball.

And true Baseball ownership learns that over time, and the relentless nature of Baseball sharpens that awareness, so (as stated by Angus' First Law of Organizational Dynamics: All human institutions tend to be self-amplifying) over time, owners that hate accountability flee to other, less accountable organizations, like Business or Non-Profits, and owners who either actively like or can live with high-accountability environments stay or recruit others like them.

Family or single-endeavor owners like the O'Malleys' can be ruthless and make sub-optimal or even dumb decisions, but the accountability they choose to operate within guarantees some balance, some respect for the covenant between the team as business-entity and the fans, players, community. The owners that rely on the team itself for their livelihood and self-image can't escape accountability for all their decisions. And they have many tough ones (Fred's book is a gem of a tour through a single team's everyday challenges).

Balancing the Baseball factors with the Business ones is extremely hard. But when the O'Malleys sold the Dodgers to Fox Entertainment Corp., a conglomerate owned by the conglomerate of conglomerates, News Corp., that balance was ignored. 

Actually that's not exactly correct; in reality, the Baseball disappeared into a set of News Corp.'s existing balancing schemes that were designed to maximize the returns on various forms of assets through "synergy", the wild, more-often failing idea that if you sell both cotton candy and nuclear reactors you can cross-market to your customers, sell you cotton candy to your power plant as insulation material and ship your nuclear waste to your cotton candy manufacturing plant as an additive that makes the confection glow in the dark.

So in 1998, the Fox executives who took authority for the Dodgers' corporate decisions immediately evaluated the team and its individual "properties" (in Hollywood, a performer under contract, a script, a set, a sound studio, an owned film, et.al.), and realized they could strive to increase the value of another piece of the conglomerate, a regional sports-broadcasting network in Florida, if they sent Mike Piazza, already then the most prolific slugging Catcher in the game's entire history, and a very popular fan symbol for the team, to the Florida Marlins, where he would presumably increase the lustre of Marlins broadcasts, ergo the value of this other piece of Fox Entertainment Group. "Property" then, becomes commodity, and commodities are not given deep consideration (any more than one ton of Powder River Basin 8,800 Btu, 0.8 SO2 Coal is treated differently from any other particular ton of it, or one vanilla teen sitcom is treated differently from another).

BTW: They didn't consult Fred Claire or any of the Dodger baseball or Dodger business people about the trade. With zero knowledge and experience of Baseball or baseball business, they executed a restructuring, just like they would if they had taken over a small chain of radio stations or cotton-candy plants. With the kind of grandiose domain-ignorance corporate heroes almost invariably have, they act out deus-ex-machina movements of people, craft, buildings, debt, credit, customer service and product quality without little to no consideration of employees or customers in the name of shareholder. And the irony of it is, this usually bits the shareholders in the pocket, though with the sub-Baseball accountability enforced in the corporate world, this usually doesn't have consequences for the Barons of Botch.

Not amazingly, given their total lack of domain knowledge -- combined with a religious faith that domain knowledge is not a necessity -- Fox's executive, Chase Carey, arranged for the Marlins to send a player in the trade who had a no trade clause in his contract. The Marlins' front office, of course, had reason to know that the Dodger "negotiator" knew this public bit of information, so presumed that this was something for the Dodgers to negotiate with the player. Well, Hollywood properties don't have no-trade clauses in their contracts, so Carey didn't realize the implication, and then, when it blew up, shifted the responsibility to the Dodgers' real front office. 

The trade served the Dodgers neither from a Baseball perspective, nor further, given the importance of Piazza to the franchise's image, the business side of the Dodgers. And ironically, it did not pan out in service of  the conglomerate's interests either, because the Marlins knew they couldn't force Piazza to sign a contract with them they could afford, so they very quickly flipped him to the New York Mets for the kind of acquisitions they like better, promising young (cheap) players whose asset value might go up. So it was a total lose-lose-lose from every angle, even some aspects we haven't discussed. Not a shred of the plan worked for Fox or the Dodgers in any way whatsoever....a total write-down-to-zero.

The bigger and more diverse the conglomerate, the less true to any piece of it tends to drift, the less likely any piece of it can achieve quality (because quality becomes ever-more-tenuously understood and control of quality ever more removed from people who value it and because the equation of what "works for" the amalgamated behemoth becomes ever more disconnected from the core of the quality of any one operation inside it.

In Baseball, someone who behaved like such an outrageous chump like Carey and his cadre did, would be purged like so many aging back-up catchers or relievers who can no longer get anyone out. Beyond Baseball, for example the world of publicly-owned companies  where accountability is something to be sluffed, hidden from or even ridiculed, people like Carey and his cadre can escape. Carey, for example, is now President at News Corp. and has a C-level title to go along with it.

Fred Claire's Dodger career was inevitably affected...the trade was not good on the baseball side, perhaps worse on the business side. So he took some of the blame for the trade he opposed but (accountability) worked hard at to make functional. More painfully for the book's reader, it's clear that not only is he accountable, but he's a person who makes a thoughtful and serious effort to be ethical. Because Claire  was not a jolly cheerleader for their buffoonery, it made it more likely he would be sacrificed for show, and so that came to pass -- Claire was let go along with manager Bill Russell in an effort to fool the rubes that management was going to make changes to the team for the better.

The Dodgers' lustre eroded, the asset became less strategically valuable, so Fox dumped "the property" (the Dodgers). This eventually resulted in the team passing into the feeble hands of the McCourts, unleashing another wave of eccentric and un-accountable non-Baseball foolishness.

There are good lessons here, even if your own endeavor is not about to be taken over by a conglomerate. 

If you are, I think you already know that you are about to be a commodity and that, far more often than not, the people taking over strategic (and even tactical) decisions will more often than not be unaware of the fine points of your line of work, and unconcerned about making critical decisions about it even from ignorance.

But the lack of accountability and the willingness to make decisions without regard to social contracts or, for that matter, regard for a foundation of domain knowledge, is an affliction that transcends the conglomerate. 

There two viable paths, and the most commonly-taken one, which isn't viable...that is, being a jolly co-conspirator, generally hiding and hoping the madness doesn't touch down in your own little world. It doesn't work because that lack of accountability is self-amplifying, so you either stoke the anti-accountability decay, or get devoured by it regardless of your apparent fellow-traveling. Remember that within the organization run by people who got to be decisionmakers by shifting blame away from themselves, your own blamelessness will become ever-more irrelevant.

The two viable paths are to work, conspire, collaborate with those who find this model unappealing or realize how ineffective it makes the organization or start working on your exit strategy. The latter is easier, though the present Permafrost economy makes that a less clear choice. The first viable path, conspiring to glue accountability by being responsible oneself while also making sure people who try to weasel out of their own responsibility are always called on it, every time, is a long, challenging path to follow.

If you're taking a middle-class or better paycheck from an organization, you owe it to them to try the challenging path. The alternative is a world dominated by Fox Entertainment Group-type buffoons.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Rigglemania: Knowing When to Walk as a Win-Win  

"Why am I wasting so much dedication on
 such a mediocre career?" -- Ron Swoboda.

As I've repeatedly explained, major league baseball managers have more diverse and challenging responsibilities than 95% of CEOs of billion-dollar corporations and have to make more decisions on a day a game is played than most such corporate executives make in a fortnight. Even the most unremarkable-seeming dugout strategist is a stunningly capable management practitioner, able to successfully take 2nd base (at least) in the MBB model in almost every instance, able to work in a position where accountability is almost absolute. It takes decades of concentrated learning in a broad spectrum of skills, constant attention in thinking about winning in both the present and future -- it's a breathtaking investment in achieving excellence.

So when Washington Nationals' manager Jim Riggleman walked away late last month from one of the only 30 positions (zero-sum) in the world to which he could apply that vast investment, many bloggers and other naive folk chose to call him "a quitter".

They're wrong. And further, Riggleman's process and execution is something every manager Beyond Baseball should master, or at least understand well enough to know how to plan their own exit someday.

Jim Riggleman has been a major league manager for four franchises, all relatively weak ones when he started working with them, all populated largely with young players with a lot to prove or roster-filler veterans considered cost-effective (that is, not great but good values for their price). He non-charismatic (intentionally, as well as by nature), and I can tell you from small personal experience, he's a thoughtful man who intentionally gives dull interviews.

His focus beyond the mechanics of the game, has been on maximum organizational- and personal loyalty (a strong thread within baseball management), making the most of what he has at hand and stewarding the organization's resources. This style Beyond Baseball is known as "Good Soldier" or "Organization Man", and the Baseball management pipeline is always replete with this model. Most importantly to executive management, he doesn't bad-mouth his budget or his roster, takes orders from people who know far less than he does about the content and consequences of those orders, and doesn't make himself a story if he can avoid it.

Unlike more charismatic models (for example, Bobby Valentine, Chuck Dressen, Dick Williams), the Good Soldier doesn't make his or herself the story, doesn't attract attention except to deflect attention away from someone the organization needs protected. 

The insightful Doug Glanville, who played for Riggleperson in Chicago describes this loyalty thusly:

That story for me began in my rookie year as a midseason call-up. I wasn't slated to walk in and take anyone's job. The Cubs had Brian McRae holding down center field, and he was on his way to a multiyear contract. Since I wasn't a power hitter, I would never be able to lay full claim on a corner outfield position without naysayers talking about how I didn't hit enough home runs.

So I was stuck. I would get sporadic starts and eventually get sent down to Triple-A. But along the way I learned how Riggleman ran his team. He was always positive, only having harsh words when he didn't like the effort. Sometimes this approach didn't click with veteran old-school players who thought it was not hard-core enough, but he seemed to do well with developing players, getting them to achieve their potential.

{snip}It wasn't until my first full season in 1997 that I attained a deeper understanding of Jim Riggleman. The Cubs were struggling and McRae was also having a tough season. I began the year as the platoon left fielder against left-handed pitchers. To top it off, we started the year 0-14, and during that run Chicago radio personality Dave Kaplan vowed to eat, sleep and shower at McDonald's until the team won. He was stuck there for nine days. But Riggleman was gracious throughout -- he even went over to check in on Kaplan.

Meanwhile, my platoon partners had the difficult assignment of trying to hit against the Marlins and the Braves that year, when those two rotations were full of Cy Young-capable starting pitching. Pitchers like Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Alex Fernandez, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, etc. Our young outfield got its head handed to it, first with Brant Brown, then with Brooks Kieschnick, and so on. {snip}The Cubs tried everyone under the sun, yet quietly I was hitting .300 all along. They seemed set on a scouting report that said I couldn't hit right-handed pitching, but Riggleman started to get frustrated that he had to play who he was supposed to play and where they were supposed to play.

So he would pull me aside every couple of weeks and say to me, "Hey, you're doing a good job, you will be an everyday center fielder one day, just keep doing what you are doing." As a young player, that really helped me stay focused on the prize of playing every day. No matter what may have been dictated to him from the powers that be, he made sure he told you what he thought when he really believed you had something more to add.

Before the trade deadline, there were rumors that McRae was about to be traded. We lost our hitting coach, Tony Muser, to a managerial job in Kansas City, so we were just waiting to see what would be next. McRae was ultimately traded, but they brought in another center fielder, the Mets' Lance Johnson, so I would still have to make do by playing in left field. By then, left field was my job to lose and Riggleman made sure he said to me, "You are the best defensive outfielder in this organization, for now, with this move, you can most help us by continuing to do what you have done in left field, your time will come."

He certainly didn't have to tell me anything at all. I have played for managers that would just do what they had to do and not say a word, or they would endorse every decision that came from above. But when Riggleman had your back, he had your back. He felt obligated to let you know that he believed that you had more to offer than the role you were in. Then he would quietly and steadily fight for you, while talking to you directly.

This is successful "managing down" (players/staff) and "managing up" (owners/executives). He's taking orders, not bad-mouthing his frustration to the players, not bad-mouthing his players to ownership. And he understands and works within the key awareness of Sandy Alderson...that every decision the front office and manager make have to balance the baseball factors and the business factors...that as field marshal, he will have to deploy many sub-optimal solutions to fulfill the business desires of ownership or front office (think Ken Griffey Junior's dreadful lack of production in his final stint with the Seattle Mariners coinciding with the need to keep rolling him out not only almost every day, but in the middle of the batting order where he could relentlessly implode potential rallies, undermining his team's offense by ~12 runs in a single month)

As a rule, the person who plays their career hand as an Organization Man, while never being overtly ostracized because she or he is a safe bet, will almost always be passed over by someone charismatic, someone fans can create legends around, someone who can help sell tickets to non-baseball fans...a celebrity. The Organization Man needs to get as much loyalty as she gives, or the system gets gummed up, freezes. The players realize, in spite of the manager's solid appearance, he doesn't really have the ear of the front office, and, sooner or later, starts to lose their professional (not usually their personal) respect, and Baseball, like some other lines of work, has so little slack for slack, that this can be fatal. 

So Riggleman has, since his taking the Chicago Cubs to the playoffs in the mid-1990s, been seen as a placeholder, an interim solution for the Seattle Mariners, when John McLaren got dumped, and an interim solution at Washington when they dumped Manny Acta in 2009. Riggleman's professional skills and particular attributes make him a useful rook on a chessboard, a relatively inexpensive utility that will never embarrass owners off or on the field.

But after in the pair of decades since he was a 39-year old playing that role, he wanted evidence of the same level of loyalty back from the front office and/or ownership. Everyone, even in Baseball, needs to know their limit.

So when Riggleman piloted the Nationals, a team with ignorant ownership much more interested in the business side of the decisions than the Baseball side (much more interested in the bottom line of dollars than the bottom line of winning percentage), he asked for the loyalty he'd been giving. He was looking at this stage of his life (yes, not just "career") to be treated as the talent he is.

After piloting the sad-sack Nationals to an above .500 record after 75 games, and the second-best winning streak of his career (16-6, behind only a 19-7 stretch for the '98 playoff-bound Cubs), Riggleman asked for a contract extension. He realized that this team, with its budget lower than 22 other teams (lower, btw, than the Oakland As') would not sustain this pace this year, and to go to the playoffs again, he'd need at least another year after this one of seasoning young talent to get there, and the odds of winning a trophy slim. Without a contract extension, he was going to be merely a midwife to others' glory. 

The front office declined to return the loyalty he'd given them (perhaps a good business decision for them, though if they had shown him loyalty, at worst it would have been a cheap business 'loss'), probably expecting him to suck it up again. He walked away from a lose-win situation, his head held high in his own mind. It was one he had probably put up with, though playing with smaller stakes, numerous times over his professional Baseball management career.

¿Did he trash his team's chances for this year and/or beyond, as some bloggers and fans believe? 

Not close. Undoubtedly, some players who felt Riggleman had their back are disappointed. But management used fellow-Good Soldier and consummate professional John McLaren as an interim (un-ironically, the very manager Riggleman had been the interim for previously), and put the celebrity manager, the proven-success Davey Johnson at the helm after a few games. Both McLaren and D Johnson on their worst days are significantly better managers than 90% of the CEOs of billion-dollar corporations or any U.S. President since Lyndon Johnson.

¿Did he overestimate his leverage as some writers and fans believe?

No. He just knew it was extremely unlikely that he would ever have as much leverage ever again. If he was 39 years old (or maybe even 44), he might again get a chance, get another team on a building cycle into a shadow of a dream of a wild card race, but frankly, this was Jim Riggleman's likely sole moment to see if he could alter the trajectory his career was on.

¿Will he never manage again as some bloggers and fans believe?

Perhaps. But I suspect that's no loss to Riggleman. He knows what outcome he's been able to achieve right here and right now. His loyalty will be paid back, at least in small ways, by most of the Baseball people he's shown loyalty to. He hasn't lost the respect of many, if any, of the baseball lifers he's worked with and against over the years.

One of the best survival techniques in the corporate or governmental or non-profit arenas has been being a competent Good Soldier. It's less optimal in the globalised economy where most non-executive positions are viewed as commodity and readily sacrificed for quality in exchange for a few temporary yuan or even jiao. 

If you take on this rôle (it can be quite comfortable, especially for those who grew up comfortably as middle children), you should have a contingency plan in place, at least in your mind, for what level of disloyalty you will trade for temporary apparent job security. As a rule, Organization Men are not risk-takers, but this must not be an absolute avoidance. At some point, you need to be loyal to yourself if you have any talent at all.

Riggleman had such a plan. He knew, in advance, just what kind of accomplishment it would take for toxic executive management to return the investment. He delivered the outcome making the decision relatively easy. If he got his extension, it was a win, and if he didn't, the act of not returning it was all he needed to know about the utility of soldiering on.

Can you figure out what level of loyalty you need to get from an employer for you to soldier on? Don't ever put yourself in the position of having to decide how much it is in the heat of a moment. If you can be as good at thinking it through as Riggleman has, you'll benefit

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