Monday, May 29, 2006

Part I: Everything Stanford Business School Knows It Learned From Doug Melvin  

As I've written about before, baseball excels at balancing the need to optimize tactics at this very moment to achieve in the present, while concurrently testing the people and processes it will need to be competitive and achieving in the future. There are routine experiments all the time -- for example a youngish left-handed hitter who's only been used against right-handed pitchers being left in a blowout game against a left-handed pitcher. The young lefty struggles against portsider pitchers, and is less likely to succeed than some of the right-handed peers on the bench, but if management never uses the kid against lefties, how will the kid ever get better?

The forces that argue against letting the young batter swing in baseball ("he may never get good, so this is a waste of outs", "but what if we need more insurance runs", "Rubble really needs the appearances") are all real and legitimate. Which is why in business and government, there's paralysis around experimentation. Which leads us to Angus' Fourteenth Law of Organizational Dynamics:

In an unhealthy organization, if there's a good excuse not to do something, that something won't get done.

Which is not to say there has to be a good excuse, but the good excuse almost seals the non-deal. Passivity/the comfort of doing nothing different will almost always trump the needs of the future. The Redbird in the hand will always seem worth more than the nine in the bush. The neuralgia of nostalgia, like a t.v. station that shows nothing but Brady Bunch & Green Acres reruns, it's Organisational Entropy, the end of possible progress until the comfort of doing nothing is so outweighed by the discomfort of the status quo that radical action, untested, becomes imperative and without any serious data or organizational chill.

But baseball management totally rules in this balance. And one of its most adept practitioners is Doug Melvin, now general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. He's so good at it, a couple of Stanford professors, having sat at his feet, have produced a remarkably useful book that parallels Melvin's fluid ability to execute on this balance.

One of the challenges major league teams face is the need for starters who are good enough, even in this lively-ball era, to last long enough into games that the manager has to only use the best reliever or two or three because the bottom of most bullpens is crammed with marginal performers you'd rather not have on the mound. Because it's been found that controlling young starters' pitch counts is essential to preserving most of their careers, minor league starters don't get the experience of pitching into many final innings to close out a game, a very useful (not mandatory) skill. If a player can't prepare to finish a game mentally or emotionally, it's less likely the player will be able to do it, and the less a player actually does close out a game, the less likely it it the player can get mentally and emotionally prepared. Further, minor league pitchers tracked as relievers tend not to know the useful analytical routines starters do about preparing for a game and starting it off (again, not essential if it turns out they aren't moved to the starter track).

Standard operating procedure in baseball has been to use minor league starters as starters. But Melvin imagined a way after the 2003 season to achieve the training without burning up young pitchers trying to get them into game-closing situations. According to a February, 2004 New York Times story by Murray Chass,

Pitching Experiment Debated

Now if you're really looking to reinvent the game, or at least conduct an intriguing pitching experiment, consider a plan percolating in the mind of the Milwaukee Brewers' general manager, Doug Melvin. He is in the early stages of a plan to have relief pitchers start some minor league games, then have starters come in beginning in the third inning.

"We want our starters to pitch important innings, the eighth and ninth, and not look for the bullpen," Melvin, a former minor league pitcher, said. "We want them to know it's their game. This is what we're developing them for. Some guys never see the ninth inning."

{SNIP}Melvin said he didn't see the disappearance of a closer under his plan, but the starter would at least have a better chance of pitching at the end of a game. "Even if the relievers give up runs early," Melvin said, "you have more time to come back than if a reliever gives up runs in the eighth and ninth."

A 1999 playoff game influenced Melvin's thinking. Pedro Martínez relieved for Boston in the fourth inning, with Cleveland ahead, 8-7, and held the Indians hitless for the final six innings in what became a 12-8 series-clinching Red Sox victory. "We might consider it for one of our teams at a lower level, for the fourth or fifth starters," Melvin said.

"The minors is the place to experiment," Melvin said. "It's just a matter of having enough nerve to do it."

Nerve. What baseball has in spades and business and government and academia, in limited supply. Notice how deft Melvin's attack is. It's not a sweeping Überplan that is meant to be mandated across the organization. One team, lower level minors, fourth and fifth starters. A controlled experiment, controlled by scope. If it works, you might (or might not) expand it, depending on the results and your analysis of how it might fit other contexts or not. And notice, too, Melvin understands that the minors are the best place to try experiment, not the big club in the heat of a pennant race. It's not binary, of course (experiment only in minors, never in majors), but this is very low risk.

But what are the sweet spots for experimentation and testing your non-baseball organization?

BEYOND BASEBALL Ideally, you should be moving your organization to a state of being able to experiment at almost anything almost all the time. That's the argument made by Melvin followers at Stanford, Jeffrey Pfeffer & Robert Sutton in their new book, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management. Pfeffer (this one, not that one), was recently interviewed at TomPeters.Com as a "Cool Friend". These interviews are always well done because at least one of the interviewers, Tom Peters' hidden star Erik Hansen, is just a throttle-out great interviewer. He could eke an interview worth reading out of Don Frelling Zimmer. I believe you should make a habit of nosing around over at TomPeters.Com; it doesn't al apply to anything you might need to think about, but there's more lively management content there in any given week than anyplace else on the web and I get a few useful tidbits every time I visit.

The Pfeffer Cool Friends interview includes these Melvinized views (the bold text is the interviewer, and JP is Pfeffer).

You make a case for running a lot of little experiments. You give examples of a few internet companies doing it, which is easy at some level, because of all the metrics they can run. But I think some people think, "God, run experiments in my company? I didn't do so well in science in high school. Scientific method is beyond me." Do you think there's any possibility that that's what prevents people from really looking at evidence for why they're doing something?

JP: I think it could be one reason. But I also think there's a tendency in companies to believe that if it's worth doing, we ought to do it for everybody everywhere, all the time, and roll it out in a big Program with a capital "P." The mentality is, "If we're not convinced it's going to work, we might as well not do it anywhere." So you can see in these companies the endless debate, "Should we do A, or should we do B, or should we do C?" When the obvious thing to do is try A, B, and C in different places or at different times, and see which one works best.

Think about it, if medicine was practiced this way, you'd have people sitting around, having endless debates about whether some drug in theory ought to work or not, as opposed to doing trials. Look at the way airplanes are designed. You obviously start with theory and evidence about physics and engineering, but you also design, you build prototypes, or you now build prototypes on the computer. You put them through various exercises and you try different things. This is how architects now design buildings.

There's this idea of prototyping, which IDEO is famous for in the product development world. But I think the genius of IDEO is that they've actually carried it over into how they manage their company, too. It's something that everybody can do. You don't have to have a degree in statistics to try different stuff and see what stuff seems to work better.

One of your concluding items in the last chapter is the suggestion to think of your organization as basically an ongoing prototype. What does that mean?

JP: That means that you should never think that you're finished. It means that you should always be interested in continuous improvement, just like Toyota is. It means that you should always be trying out different things. I think Tom has talked about this for years, about not being content and set in your ways. Be willing to learn by trying different things as opposed to making organizational change some rare, earthquake-like event that occurs very infrequently with huge and oftentimes horrendous consequences; you ought to be trying different little things all the time to see what works, and how you can continuously get better.

I think of it as the equivalent of what a lot of human beings do with their self-help regimen, trying different things to supposedly lead a better life.

JP: That's exactly correct. It's certainly consistent with medical practice's idea of acting today on the basis of the best information you have. But you also presume that that information, although it is the best that you can do today, is not the best that you're going to be able to do tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. So you do the best you can at the moment, while keeping yourself open to learning.

One of the things that I think we see is that companies and their leaders are oftentimes extremely defensive. They're unwilling to admit that they've made mistakes. They're unwilling to admit that they have problems. If you're unwilling to admit that anything is wrong, or that anything is less than perfect, it's almost impossible to be into this mode of continually making things better.

Why is this negative reaction to making a mistake so ingrained in corporate America? God bless you if you should ever make a mistake and let anybody else know about it!

JP: Your statement is so important. People make mistakes all the time. So the question is not, "Do people make mistakes?" Human beings are fallible. You're obviously going to make mistakes. The only way to avoid making a mistake is to do nothing. The question becomes, "How fast are you going to recognize and learn from your mistakes?" In order to learn from your mistakes, you have to admit that you're fallible. In order to do that, you have to go back to the basic principle that W. Edwards Deming talked about a long time ago: You have to drive fear out of the organization.

People are afraid to tell the truth. People are afraid to admit mistakes, because they're afraid they're going to have career-ending or career-limiting consequences as a result.

I think you mention in the book that the best way to get a quick glimpse into an organization's dynamics is to look at what happens when people fail.

JP: That's exactly right. Going back to IDEO, which is an example, but it's not the only example, David Kelley [also a Cool Friend] has this model, "We like our people to fail early and fail often." Which he thinks is way better than failing once, failing at the end, and failing big. I mean, you do not want to be flying in an airplane and learn that it's been mis-designed for a certain level of turbulence.

I still remember years ago with Genentech, a wonderful company, the CEO said, "We're not having enough failures." Everybody looked at him like he was crazy. And he said, "Look, if you're doing advanced, state-of-the-art biotechnology stuff, and all your projects are working, you're not pushing the boundaries of your knowledge."

The whole interview is worthwhile, I think.

But in this excerpt Pfeffer does a perfect job of explaining the general case and theory behind Melvin's practice, as well as some of the reasons business is not as good at this as baseball. In baseball, even ordinary management talent has internalized the idea that the team is an on-going prototype, and in the hands of someone like Melvin its processes and people can evolve with reduced friction.

If only the rest of MBA-land was as enlightened as Melvin, Pfeffer and Sutton.

In the next part, I'll make some suggestions on how and where you might implement some experiments, Melvin-Pfeffer style

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rick Peterson's Masterful, Mets-erful Makeover of Tom Glavine: A Model for Low-Margin Addict Businesses  

The longer an organization has success with the same methods and processes, the harder it is for that organization to change once the context that enabled the success changes. The more the details of that success have passed into folk wisdom, the harder it is for the organization to change, because they have to change the mechanics of what they do and they have to change their emotional state about what it is they do. Those factors are just as true for individuals as they are for organizations.

So when the New York Mets signed Tom Glavine after the 2002 season, they were putting into their rotation a 36 year old pitcher who had assembled a 242-143 won-loss record, cruising on methods & processes of his own and of pitching coach/genius Leo Mazzone. The Mazzone method is to keep it simple. Work low and outside, and having established your reputation with the umpires, explore early in games stretching the home plate ump's perception of the strike zone, seeing if you can get strike calls on pitches ever farther from the rulebook strike zone.

This had worked magnificently for Glavine in his career. (table from MLB.com)

1987     Atlanta 2 4 5.54 50.1 55 34 5 3 33 20
1988     Atlanta 7 17 4.56 195.1 201 111 12 8 63 84
1989     Atlanta 14 8 3.68 186.0 172 88 20 2 40 90
1990     Atlanta 10 12 4.28 214.1 232 111 18 1 78 129
1991     Atlanta 20 11 2.55 246.2 201 83 17 2 69 192
1992     Atlanta 20 8 2.76 225.0 197 81 6 2 70 129
1993     Atlanta 22 6 3.20 239.1 236 91 16 2 90 120
1994     Atlanta 13 9 3.97 165.1 173 76 10 1 70 140
1995     Atlanta 16 7 3.08 198.2 182 76 9 5 66 127
1996     Atlanta 15 10 2.98 235.1 222 91 14 0 85 181
1997     Atlanta 14 7 2.96 240.0 197 86 20 4 79 152
1998     Atlanta 20 6 2.47 229.1 202 67 13 2 74 157
1999     Atlanta 14 11 4.12 234.0 259 115 18 4 83 138
2000     Atlanta 21 9 3.40 241.0 222 101 24 4 65 152
2001     Atlanta 16 7 3.57 219.1 213 92 24 2 97 116
2002     Atlanta 18 11 2.96 224.2 210 85 21 8 78 127
Career Totals 242 143 3.37 4017.0 3862 1684 304 59 1359 2401

Then came QuesTec, MLB's technology that was installed in a bunch of stadia to reinforce umpires' adherence to the rulebook definition of what constitutes a strike. Questec made Glavine's strategy  non-viable. According to this morning's New York Times story:

Glavine, Peterson explained, had made his living inducing batters to swing at pitches off the plate because umpires were calling those pitches strikes.

"If you're getting five, six inches off the plate, no hitter in baseball could cover that," Peterson said. "There was no need to pitch to both sides of the plate." But a few years ago, Major League Baseball installed QuesTec, a computerized system of tracking balls and strikes. Those wide strikes disappeared, and with them went Glavine's dominance.

Rick told me last year his approach to Glavine, a star with a strong ego, could not be the same as it would have been to a young pitcher struggling to learn success. The ego that all major league pitchers need to have to be successful, combined with the once-successful patterns etched into Glavine's memory meant that Glavine would not be able to "hear" Peterson's advice until he was ready. Glavine's career as a Met until the moment he was ready looked like this:

SEASON          TEAM      W  L ERA     IP   H   R  ER HR  BB  SO
2003            New York  9 14 4.52 183.3 205  94  92 21  66  82
2004            New York 11 14 3.60 212.3 204  94  85 20  70 109
2005 to 6/19              4  7 4.70  59.4  79  33  31  4  18  25
TOTAL                    24 35 4.12 455   488 221 208 45 154 216

The coup de grace for the old Glavine was the June 19 outing in Seattle, a bloodbath for Glavine against a below-average offense in a pitcher's park (2.1 innings, 8 hits, 2 walks, 1 HR, 6 runs). The team immediately got on the airplane to fly to Philly. Rick, who'd been watching Glavine for signs he was ready looked in his eyes and believed he was ready. He approached him on the plane and started both directly & indirectly addressing the issue. Since Glavine is an avid golfer,  Rick used golf as a foundation for the conversation, insulating Glavine's ego while still delivering the observations he'd made about the pitcher's struggles. 

Peterson said, "{SNIP} He's actually played a round of golf with Tiger Woods. One of the things I brought up to Tommy was how Tiger Woods won the Masters by 12 strokes and immediately afterward recognized that he needed a new swing.

"I said: 'You've pitched like you've had two clubs in your bag. You've got a bunch of clubs that are great clubs that you know how to use and you just haven't used.' Tommy had a curveball, he could cut his fastball, he could throw a slider, he had two different fastballs, he had two effective changeups, he could change speeds on his changeups." {SNIP}

"Tommy," Peterson said he told him, "now is the time to commit yourself to this change. I know it's tough for you to change. Let's give it four or five games. Let's see what happens. I know what's going to happen."

In his next start, against the Yankees, Peterson said, "he made the transition and beat them. From that game on," Peterson added, "it was a total commitment."

 Since that initial conversation, Glavine's record as a Met looks like this.

                          W  L ERA     IP   H   R  ER HR  BB  SO
TOTAL                    16  8 2.91    217 200 75  70 12  65 131

Peterson gives all the credit to Glavine:

Glavine's transformation involves two aspects: preparation and pitching.

"He never prepared for opposing hitters," Peterson said, "because he threw fastballs and changeups down and away. It didn't matter who the hitter was. That's what he was going to do. Now he studies film and looks at about 45 minutes to an hour of the opposing lineup before he faces them. His preparation has been tremendous."

In the pitching part of it, Glavine throws to both sides of the plate, whether the batter is left-handed or right-handed. "When he made that transition in his game," Peterson said, "you could see hitters going back to the dugout talking to their people, almost like, 'I thought this was going to be away and his pitches are inside.' Now the preparation for the other team had to totally flip because this is not the same game."

Glavine's makeover has produced an ancillary benefit. He is striking out more batters. Before this season he averaged 5.35 strikeouts per nine innings. This season he has 51 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings, or 7.03 per nine. "By pitching to both sides of the plate," Peterson explained, "he's getting a lot of swings and misses where maybe the hitter is looking on the outside corner and he throws a fastball or changeup or cutter inside."

The midseason makeover has injected a new enthusiasm into Glavine's career. "He looks forward to going in and looking at film and preparing for a game," Peterson said. "He looks forward to talking about the game plan. That's why I have the utmost respect for Tommy. He's not only a Hall of Fame pitcher; he's a Hall of Fame person."

Glavine, having become successful and resting on the one great technique in his kit, never prepared for opposing hitters. He didn't have to. 

But he did make the changes when he was ready. Which is mroe than we can say about most people and organizations that achieve competitive goodness and then stagnate by not responding until it's too late.

Many of the star pitchers of America's economy over second half of the 20th century, most obviously automobile manufacturing and passenger airlines, rested in the business model & techniques that made them multi-billion dollar giants and rode 'em right into the ground. Whether it was imagining fuel prices would remain low forever or not listening to the customers' needs, the lead players in both industries are like big-ego starters getting whacked around.

The next wave of  battered lines of work will be those that are resting too heavily on low-margin commoditization, thinking what they lose on each unit they can make up for in volume. The hope for most of these businesses that succeed through dominating a market through lowest-cost of production and high-volume and thin margins is that few of them are really enjoying flush times themselves. Once the dominos start falling on this model, without a Glavine-like appreciation for their own handiwork some, perhaps many, will be able to switch to a more viable model that involves a reasonable margin, a reasonable investment in Q.C. and customer service.

That low-and-away, out-of-the-definition "strike" won't cut it forever. I hope for their sake there's a Rick Peterson lurking in their organizations, too.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Washington Nationals' Eye on the Ball...The Wrong Ball  

As Peter Drucker frequently observed, big organizations sometimes forget exactly what business they're in...they mistake means with ends. Pony League batting coaches always told kids "Keep yer eye on the ball," but that advice usually doesn't work when there are multiple balls comin' at you. Baseball has a current-events example that really informs this challenge beyond baseball itself.

When Major League Baseball chose the buyer for the sale of their league-owned Washington Nationals earlier this month, the Theodore Lerner family, the official line on why they were chosen from among the many suitors were: (1) they were local, (2) the owners were a family, and (3) they had as part of their offer Stan Kasten, one of the authors of the Atlanta Braves total dominance during his 1991-2003 tenure [75 more wins than any other franchise] as that franchise's president. Reasons (1) and (3) are great reasons, (2) is random, neither good nor bad...choosing a group because they have family management -- like the Unspeakably Frelled ownership group of the Kansas City Royals or the Roller Derby of the Mind owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers -- neither lends a baseball franchise to operate more or less successfully. I think the implicit, not usually-mentioned (4) is Federal Government ties and back-scratching. A few of the buyers' groups had better ties with the Federal influencers, and these were the ones that made it late into discussion, along with a couple of beards to convince the rubes that being inside the Feds' circle wasn't mandatory.

I think, however, there's a prime mover in the decision, and one not covered in the general reporting.

I think the Lerners were chosen because baseball viewed this as not so much being a baseball decision or a baseball-business decision as it it a real estate development & Federal politics decision. Because in the end, the physical stadium ($611 MM if there are no overruns) is worth a lot more than the team itself (team was just sold for $450 MM, so we can presume that as a rough valuation). And the physical stadium is an essential piece, what I call an "anchor", for a grandiose billion-dollar real estate development project (eminent domain alone was ~$100 MM). I believe it was the Lerners' Fed connections, local political connections, experience working with the contractors and general knowledge of how to work with/within/over a billion-dollar development project, a very specialized skill. If the project goes well and the Lerners' acumen lubricates the process and correct interested parties' interests, MLB as a whole, and its political fortunes, will benefit greatly.

This not-so-hidden agenda, though is neither a benefit to the team itself nor a cost. The downside potential is attention divided. Yes, Kasten is a total winner, probably rivalled among his team president peers only by the Padres' Sandy Alderson, I suspect. But unless he has full authority to execute or delegate on everything baseball, everything customer service, everything operational, it looks to me like MLB's eye and the Lerners' eye will be on the wrong ball...that is, not the core mission, but the delicious, profitable, glittery sideline.

And when glittery sidelines capture the imagination, the core mission, more often than not, suffers.

This happens so often it's hard to pick out a single "best" example. Manufacturers of hard goods that have financing divisions find they get through inflationary hard times more easily with financing operations for their equipment. They then start to count on the financing (not the product) to make money. Banks that edge into the black on service charges & arcane penalties instead of interest on loans at reported rates.

My favorite example is the Current Passion of Collapsing Business: customer rebates. It starts as a marketing expense, someone clever realizes that if the sellers applies some practices most people would consider unethical, it turns into free advertising.

The poster child for this is SanDisk, Inc., whose main product is flash memory, hardware that stores data in a compact manner.

Yes, all vendors who use rebates know that there's fallout all along the program. While ~90% of the people who see the ad showing the price-with-rebate-deducted and intend to buy the product as a result fully intend to get the rebate, some will forget soon after the purchase. Others will never try to collect because they lose some essential piece of paperwork they needed (or didn't get it from the retailer in the first place). Others will never try to collect because once they get a rebate check, they lose it before they cash it or let it sit on a pile too long before they remember to.

So just because a vendor is applying a rebate doesn't mean the customers who buy the product as a result will all collect it. That's a given in the trade. But if you can believe the tidal wave of woe-filled responses reported to the leading information-sharing tool for technology-related scams, SanDisk, Inc. seems to be unsatisfied with the usual fallout rate, but is working full-tilt to accelerate the dropout rate.

The leading information-sharing tool for technology-related scams is Ed Foster's Gripe Line, and the SanDisk scam-a-ganza allegations are reported here. Go read the whole thing (and if you ever buy any tech gear, you should bookmark Ed "The Medium Train" Foster's site); the follow-up comments to this post alone are worth more than all the flash memory in the world. Some of the better bits buyers reported:

  • SanDisk rejects a form because they say it was outside the offer dates even though it was within the offer dates.
  • You finally get tSanDisk on the phone because they've had your paperwork so long and they apologize and say they'll get to it but don't.
  • SanDisk advertises a $40 rebate that's really a $20 rebate and don't stand by their ad.
  • SanDisk apparently lets requests idle and doesn't move the process along unless their customer (now really a creditor) checks up on-line for it.
  • They apparently "monetize" complaints by putting the creditor's contact info into a marketing database so they can pitch them special offers (is that just the ginchiest?).

At all stages of the process, slowing a step will lead people to forget or to run a quick benefit/cost analysis of rebate amount/additional-time-to-invest and drop out of the engagement. SanDisk and the many others that make a craft out of managing rebates this way have very solid research that indicates which of their behaviors will thin out returns and to roughly what degree. They also know that unless the average buyer hears that others have been scammed the same way, that buyer will usually fall for the rebate scam again. Unless the tsunami of complaints reach a PatRobertson-ian force (doesn't it take a lot of courage to predict big storms when all the meteorologists have predicted them for a year?), it doesn't matter much, but if it does, and in this case it has, the benefit/cost of this kind of behavior stays high enough to pursue. But this is an affliction that can be fatal -- if it goes past a certain Flipping Point, there's no benefit so high it can outweigh the cost, and the perpetrators don't know it until its too late because they've fallen in love with the glittery sideline and forgotten the core mission.

Within a few months, it's likely SanDisk won't be remembered as a supplier of creative memory solutions, it won't be remembered as the outfield-wall advertiser for the Oakland A's. They'll be remembered like the last decade's fall-in-love-with-the-sideline-ignore-the-mission company, Enron is, as a company that so fell in love with the finance angle, it only paid enough attention to the actual energy business to continue to do the financial ledger-de-main.

Like a team that wins a couple of games a year with a delayed double steal thinking it can ride delayed double steals to a pennant and stops taking batting practice, the SanDisks of the world get Shanghai-ed by their sidelines until the sideline becomes the mission.

It will be interesting to see if Stan Kasten can keep ownership focused "enough" on the team's core mission to get the resources and attention he'll need from them to make this red-capped foster child a winner. I wish him luck. And I'd love to see the hard numbers the business analysts at SanDisk have collected on which scam-like behaviors knock out what percent of their remaining creditors.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The New Management by Baseball Book Gets Its Own Site  

Because Harper Collins shipped Management by Baseball: The Official Rules to Winning Management in Any Field earlier this month, I now have a separate site called Management by Baseball to support the book and my speaking. I was lucky enough to have great site-building talent working on it, and I think they did a great job.

Some of the features are accessible only through a free registration. To register you have to have a copy of the new book in your hands.

Registrants (not to be confused with replicants, as Phillip K. Dick would have called us) can access some management tools mentioned in the book, and participate in a community forum. The community forum is not meant to be a discussion of my writing; it's designed to be a Symposium of managers collaborating to help each other with creative solutions to management challenges they have at work, a place where we can learn from each other.

This weblog is not going away anytime soon. Visitors will notice a menu item called "Blog", which isn't a separate blog but a link back to here.

The book/speaking site is still a work in progress -- like most good projects, it may always be in progress -- let's hope more like the Cleveland Indians well-managed ongoing efforts rather than the Pittsburgh Pirates sisyphusian labors.

Hope to keep seeing you here, and at the new site, too.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hearken Hargrove: Tweaking the Team Meeting for Better Results  

Baseball management's openness is one of its great virtues as an instruction tool for managers outside the National Pastime. Occasionally, small process changes made in response to a set of circumstances make a difference. Outside observers wouldn't get to pick up on these by watching most organizations, so picking up good ideas from others' moves becomes more difficult. Baseball is different, "transparent", so we can get the benefit of Mike Hargrove's tweak of the classic team meeting approach.

The Seattle Mariner manager earlier this week was facing a grim situation with his offense. His two marquee middle-of-the-order batters are having a power outage worthy of an Iraqi electric utility. Richie Sexson (clean-up hitter) is hitting .195 with a home run every 41 at-bats and striking out in about 30% of his plate appearances (25% is really over-the-top; 30% is barely precendented). The team's most expensive player, 2004 NL homer champ Adrian Beltré, has one tater for 122 at bats this season, and while his batting average was at .221 (up from a nadir of .119), he's been hitting .286 since that nadir at the expense of hitting the ball for power -- with consistency, that could return later after they've built up his ability to hit the ball squarely.

So the M's offense, to succeed at all, desperately needs to execute, use the count to mine for better pitches, work pitchers harder by being discerning at the plate, pay attention to the game situations. They weren't. Hargrove & his batting coach had called a typical team meeting (everybody in one place at one time) and explained the objectives. Pick pitches, modify your hitting approach based on the situation, take pitches and go deeper in the count when it helps the team. Understandable overarching objectives. Not highly prescribed specifics -- you can't really do that in a team meeting because there are too many variants and possibilities even in just a single game (project). Everybody nodded. And then didn't do any of it. As Seattle Times' Bob Finnegan reported:

After Sunday's 2-0 loss to Cleveland, designated hitter Carl Everett spoke of the need for setup hitters to do more to get on, and for the mid-lineup hitters to get them in. He suggested that the Mariners should have taken more pitches from Indians starter C.C. Sabathia, and maybe bunted since that approach had been discussed before the game.

Hargrove indicated he appreciated Everett's sentiments, then said, "This isn't spring training where you can tell a hitter, 'I want you to bunt three times in a row.' Maybe you can get that specific in basketball or football. But in baseball you use more general terms — 'You can lay down a bunt on this guy.'

"Did we talk on the bench about bunting more? Yes. But the hitter has to be committed to that or you won't get a good bunt, and a bad bunt is worse than a bad swing."

Overall, they'd scored 15 runs in the last six games, five of them losses. On base percentage .289 during that time, batting average .237. They weren't hitting for average or for power, they weren't getting walks, and they generally weren't going deep into the count. They weren't knocking in baserunners, stranding at least 10 of them every one of those games.

What Hargrove did at the start of the season is what a lot of good working managers do in a mass meeting -- lay out guidelines, ask if everyone understands, and let his talent work it. He delegated to the talent the exact tactical choices, giving them rein to act, the way all Talent is the Product shops should most of the time. It just didn't work. So five games later...I'll let the Seattle Times' Bob Finnegan tell you:

With the Mariners unable recently to produce enough runs for wins, it was quite a sight to see every position player filing into the manager's office before batting practice Monday, the door closing behind them.

While players declined to give any specifics, manager Mike Hargrove denied any link between the gathering and an offense that has generated just 15 runs in the last six games, five of which were losses.

"It was nothing out of the ordinary, just a third meeting we've had to go over roles and our whole offensive philosophy, making sure no one is getting away from that philosophy," Hargrove said. "We had one of these meetings in spring training and another the second week of the season."

Having said that, Hargrove allowed that with the team in the lower regions of the American League stats in hitting, home runs and scoring, "there obviously was a little more to it this time."

"We wanted to check up on the frustration level, make sure that no one is coming outside of their abilities and trying to do too much," he said. "We wanted to remind them it is a group effort."

Instead of yet another mass meeting, he had individual one-on-one meetings to make the same point over again.

Main benefits:

  • A team member can ask questions without anxiety over peer judgement.
  • Knowing they know -- the manager gets to look each individual in the eye and ask, "you understand what I'm saying, right?", which one can't do in the group meeting.
  • By meeting privately & dedicating a lot of time to the whole exercise, accentuating just how important the manager believes this communication to be.

I like it. It's not guaranteed to work, even short term, but Hargrove also chose his spocarefullyll, before a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a team without a dominating pitching staff. Early success in response to change is a good reinforcer for desired behaviors. In the first two games following the one-on-ones, the Mariners have scored 14 runs with an offense based primarily on singles and very aggressive baserunning, batted .363, and, as that kind of offense will do, stranded a lot of baserunners (29). They've won both, and that's good reinforcement for now.

For the Ms to have success over this season, the power outage has to end. Even a Beltré batting .313/.353/.438, as he has in May so far, won't give the power jolt they need from him specifically. And Sexson has to be a considered danger (to someone other than himself) so the batters around him can benefit.

Most big organizations outside baseball aren't as focused on results as an organization run by someone like Mike Hargrove. In fact, I'd say the majority of company/workgroup meetings have no clear agenda. This is my estimate of big organizations actual meetings to communicate key objectives, and what I think they should be doing

% Now Type Ideal %
55 Group meeting, no actionable take-aways. 5
15 Group meeting, actionable take-aways 70
5 One-on-one, no actionable agenda 15
25 One-on-one, actionable take-aways 10

As a general forst try, it pays to communicate actionable information in groups. Everyone gets to hear the same thing and a question that has a useful answer gets shared by the group so you get to delegate explanation and follow-up. Sometimes, that doesn't work, so you have to resort to the Hargrove fall-back method. I'm not suggesting you replace all group meetings with the Hargrove method -- my recommended ratio is pretty small for them. They're valuable, but in a context that shouldn't come up too often if the group meetings have actionable take-aways. The meetings that just need to die die die are the big 100s of people standing around for no apparent purpose while Men in Suits bloviate about their arcana. I actually worked at a place that had one for the editorial staff of a weekly trade magazine where the Publisher, head of sales and editor in chief briefed us on the new executive compensation plan that might make them all very wealthy -- a plan that none of the attendees could profit from. The plan was very exciting for the top echelon of execs in the house, and they just had to share their good fortune. It took them about 20 minutes to realize staff didn't share their thrill at it. They finally realized it only because a woman I'll call Priscilla raised her hand to interrupt the masturbatory self-congratulation with the question, "That's all well and good, but what's in it for me?". After thinking about it for a few seconds, the epiphany crept in. Wild pitch.

One-on-one, no actionable agenda meetings help a manager and report work on less obvious issues, and tend to let both fill in information -- the manager about the reprt's workday and issues that might seem too small to report if the agenda is too prescribed, and the report about the same kind of subtle intentions the manager might have.

Keep Hargrove's method in mind for what it can be massively effective for: focusing people on the specifics when routine methods have failed. Baseball, unforgiving of mediocre management, produces a lot of very skilled practitioners of the management craft, like Mike Hargrove.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Tom Peters.Com's Cool Friend -- An Honor  

I'm honored to be Tom Peters.Com's current Cool Friend. We had what I've been told by two people was the best conversation/interview I've had yet (available here); the back-patting went to the interviewer, not me.

If you don't already visit TomPeters.Com regularly, you may be missing out not only on his current thinking, but a vibrant cadre of editor/posters (Tom, Cathy, Steve, Erik and others) and a community of people who share their thoughts and feelings on the postings. There's a truckload of Tom Peters slide decks and other foundations for his current thinking which is dynamic, rapidly evolving and has elements that sparks creative ideas.

You can find the Cool Friend interview through tomorrow on the front page in the left-hand sidebar (or through this page) or join in the discussion on this topic's comment page.

See you over there. Soon, I hope

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Setbacks: Guardado & Zambrano -- Managing Failing Personnel Demands Context  

Over lunch this week with W, I heard from her why she turned down an offer for a first management position from a fun-sounding employer that matched most of her many, and well-thought out, criteria in a new employer. The prime reason they wanted a new manager was the group had a problem. The problem was a staffer they have already concluded needs purging. So the hiring organization had already decided the keystone for the new manager's agenda was getting rid of someone.

W is an ultra-competent IT pro with all the ingredients to be an excellent IT Director or Manager: hands-on chops (network installation, configuration and management; end-user computing), human skills (emotional intelligence, empathy for and ability to train and nurture users) and conceptual, strategic understanding. She recently earned her MBA, and has that set of knowledge, too. She was just nervous that she wouldn't be able to lay off, or perhaps lay off properly, someone she didn't know.

Knowing when, and how, to pull the plug on a team member is one of the biggest challenges many managers face. It requires a lot of knowledge from two of the four bases in the Management by Baseball model, and a little each from the other two. There is no single "correct" approach. More than anything, the how, and when to do it is a function of context.

The context didn't work well, and she's smart enough to realize even before her first big management gig, that it wasn't going to work for her. We'll get back to W in a little, after a detour through New York and Seattle, where we'll look over a Tale of Two Setbacks, two pitchers (with very different histories) for whom two teams (with very different contexts) had great hopes: "Everyday" Eddie Guardado and Victor Zambrano.

The New York Mets are the hottest team in the majors this year. By April 23, the standings looked like this:

EAST      W L  PCT GB 
NY Mets   12  6 .667 - 
Atlanta    9  9 .500 3 
Phila      7 10 .412 4.5 
Washington 7 11 .389 5 
Florida    5 11 .313 6 

How they got there was pitching. Their quite decent offense was 15th of 30 teams in on-base percentage, and 11th in slugging percentage, a better than average performance in the context of their home ballpark which suppresses offense. But they are 2nd of 30 in batters allowed per inning pitched (whip) behind only the Detroit Tigers.

So when Victor Zambrano, a controversial figure from his start with the team in late July 2004, got yet another bad start to a season, the fans were grumbling. Why Zambrano is controversial is part of the context you need to know to dissect the decision the Mets have made about his role on the team -- he was traded for at the late July "trade deadline" (not a real deadline, just an imaginary line) from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for the Mets' top pitching prospect -- for a stretch drive that never happened. Zambrano pitched 3 games, one good, one bad, one awful. So he's the punching bag for fans who wanted it all right-then and for fans who were looking to the future with the top young prospect. In 2005, he showed a ton of inconsistency. After a bad start, he ended up with 12 good starts, 7 medium starts and 9 bad starts, as measured by Bill James' Game Scores, a rough, easy-to-calculate stats for measuring the value starting pitchers' outings. But his bad starts we so bad, he ended up with an average game score below the middle point.

The Mets' pitching coach, Rick Peterson, is one of the giant achievers in the game, known both for building youngsters and repairing those who had great potential but middling or poor results. I've written about him before and if you don't know much about him, check them out -- I think he's got some of the most interesting and useful management tools in any field. But to date, he hasn't been able to execute a successful intervention with the up-and-down Zambrano, who kicked off the 2006 season with 3 ugly starts.

One fan, in an April 24 online chat with former Met pitcher, now team announcer Ron Darling, asked the following:

Why are Petersen and Zambrano given so much slack? Zambrano needs to be sent down to the minors like Trachsel was years ago, or just flat out dumped. Obviously, he needs more than Rick Petersen. He reminds me of Jeff Weaver. He just can't handle the pressure. Why won't Omar do something?

Darling's insightful answer shows why baseball practices much more effective management than any other lines of work (abridged here).

I also remember that Rick Peterson was very confident that he could help Victor become more consistent. That has not been the case so far but Victor has shown flashes of quality major league pitching. What is wrong? This is only my opinion because I am not working day in and day out to fix the problem, only observing from afar. There comes a time in anyone's baseball career that you have to get the job done. The problem is that by 30 years old some of the bad habits you might of (sic) acquired earlier in your career are so ingrained that "getting it" becomes at times almost impossible. Rick Peterson has been very successful with so many different styles of pitchers that obviously his philosophies are sound, so therefore the problem is that Victor has not been able to incorporate those into his work on the field.(i.e. Jorge Julio's good work lately) How do you fix the problem? I believe that the Mets and Victor will continue to try to work it. Willie can be patient because of the quick start but it will have to be addressed in the near future if the results don't change. {SNIP}

So Darling is citing two reasons to allow it to keep going with Zambrano, two parts of the context of this particular disappointing staffer.

  1. Peterson's track record of success, and
  2. The team's success to date which allows wiggle room, time for the failing staffer to work it out without it being a failure for the team's project/season.

Byt the wa, there's a third factor arguing for patience that he doesn't include -- it's not as virtuous as the previous two. The third factor is "saving face". Management, having been blistered by noisy New York fan heat about the Zambrano acquisition, has more incentive to try to see him succeed than if he was just another team member; letting him go will peel the scab off the issue, and cause them public discomfort. But the first Darling reasons argue for riding it out for a while. But then he goes on to balance that -- because like all good management decisions around a failing employee, you've got to do your best to make her a success and equally, know when to cut your losses. Back to the former pitcher's answer.

Playing in NY can be difficult, with that being said, I'll leave you with a story that might work for Victor...

In 1992, I began the season very slowly for the Oakland A's and as we were having batting practice, the manager Tony LaRussa came over to me and asked me if everything was alright. I said I was going through a "couple of things" but that I'd be fine. Well he looked me up and down and replied, " Well as a human being I really feel what you're going through but as a manager you need to win some *%#@*% games." I ended up winning 15 games that year and I wish the same for Victor.

That LaRussa quote, and his ability to execute on it is an essence of management practice. You have to be a human being and have enough empathy/sympathy to deliver human concern but at the same time, as a manager, you need to win some *#@$%! games. Finding that balance between nurturing a struggling employee and lowering the boom isn't easy and there's no turkey thermometer that pops out and gives you a visual cue as to when the employee is just cooked. For Darling, the cold fact presented by his manager, he believes, was enough to help him turn it around, and that might or might not be true for Zambrano.

In the New York Mets' context, though, they believed they could work further with Zambrano and have him continue in his role, although using him less frequently (pushing him back in the rotation when the schedule permitted).

But it's a Tale of Two Setbacks; the other leads one to a very different context. Instead of being a surging team's bottom of the rotation starter, it's a struggling team's marquee reliever.

After a truly craptastic 2004, the Seattle Mariners had some turn-around last year, improving by six games, but they started looking a little more competitive. Realistically, this could be a year the M's could hit .500, perhaps a little above with a little luck.

But 2006 hasn't been any better. The team, in a malodorous annealing of Major League and Groundhog Day , has for the third year in a row started the season 12-18. The difference between being a .500 team through 30 games and where they are is the 4 blown saves in 8 save situations for marquee reliever Eddie "The Stockton Creeper" Guardado. His performance has actually been worse. Here's his game log from ESPN.com

Regular Season games through May 5, 2006
Apr. 4  LAA  W 10-8 1.0  3 3  1  1 1   41  7   - -            27.00
Apr. 8  OAK  L 3-0  1.0  0 0  0  0 1   14  3   - -            13.50
Apr. 12 @CLE W 11-9 1.0  3 1  0  0 1   25  6   - Sv(1)        12.00
Apr. 15 @BOS W 3-0  1.0  0 0  0  1 0   21  4   - Sv(2)         9.00
Apr. 17 @BOS L 7-6  0.2  2 2  1  0 2   17  4   L(0-1) BlSv(2) 11.57
Apr. 20 TEX  L 4-3  1.0  0 1  0  4 2   38  7   L(0-2) -       11.12
Apr. 24 CWS  W 4-3  1.0  2 1  1  0 1   20  4   - BlSv(3)      10.80
Apr. 29 @BAL W 8-6  1.0  2 0  0  1 1   21  6   - Sv(3)         9.39
Apr. 30 @BAL W 4-3  1.0  1 0  0  0 1   14  4   - Sv(4)         8.31
May. 3  @CWS L 6-5  1.0  1 1  1  0 2   13  4   - BlSv(4)       8.38

After his ugly 2006 premiere, taking 7 batters and 41 pitches to get the three outs he needed, he had a clean outing -- 3 up,3 down -- his last of the season. The BF in the previous table is "batters faced" and PIT is pitches thrown. An average inning takes 15-16 pitches; that's not exact but a good working thumbnail number.

In his following games, he needs 25 pitches over 6 batters to get his three outs -- while yielding a run. He hasn't blown a save yet, but he's not pitching well. He starts walking opponents, then grooving pitches to avoid walks, putting the ball in the sweet spot and giving up homers. There's no aspect of his game, except perhaps fielding, he's executing properly.

The difference of the Seattle context is that they really need to be at .500 or better this season. Attendance is melting -- they've set some new lows for warm bodies since they moved to their expensive new stadium and while we're not in Florida Marlins territory for neutron-bomb depopulation, the trends are scary for a team ownership that values as its core mission finishing every season in the black.The other is Guardado's history. Unlike Zambrano, Guardado has built his career on unsurpassed reliability and consistency. When he was a Minnesota Twin, he was known as "Everyday Eddie" because he could pitch so often and with such consistent results. And in a role that is one of the hardest in sports to be consistent at, he ripped out 9 consecutive seasons of better- or much-better-than average accomplishment.

So while Zambrano is likely to either turn it around or get cut, the M's had shorter-term need for change and longer term need to ride it out. Manager Mike Hargrove announced earlier this week that Guardado wasn't going to be the 9th inning reliever in close games until he worked out his glitches. The right decision here: his receord of success should give management more faith in his ultimate resurrection, and getting him out of the situations where his consistent lack of quality is costing the team needed wins is essential. In 2005, it wouldn't have been mandatory. Now it is.

Back to the ultra-competent W, and her prospective employer looking to hire a new manager with the focus of their agenda getting rid of one or more probelm employees.

It's lousy when executive management make the new hire do the dirty deeds they & the existing management allowed to fester. Baseball is much smarter about that. When a pitcher has dug a hole for the team and the next sequence requires a new pitcher and an intentional walk, baseball tradition says the outgoing failure delivers the intentional walk before the new pitcher comes in. There are three reasons for this. First is accountability: the runner getting the free pass goes on the books for pitcher who dug the team a hole, and if the runner scores, it's on that pitcher's runs-allowed, not the (innocent) newcomer's. Second is the intentional walk is basically a freaky event -- it's intentionally committing an act you want to avoid (throwing consecutive pitches that are not strikes), so it tends to put the new pitcher in the wrong midset/groove right away. Third is wear and tear -- just about anyone, even Oliver "The Culiacan Tomato" Perez, has the wherewithal to issue an intentional walk, so why not use up the outgoing hole-digger rather than the newbie -- you might stretch the replacement's effectiveness a little.

There's no magic to deciding when a failing employee needs to be shown the door. Most organizations way too impatient and ready to pull the plug without giving a hire the training or job description tweaking or complementary staffing they need to succeed. A smaller number, but still too many, are way too tolerant of the mission-critical failures of people whose aptitudes don't allow them to succeed in a role, when, if like a the M's shift of Guardado, you might get a win-win for both team and team member.

The defining factor in what constitutes the "correct" approach is context. It can be as different as The New York Mets' or The Seattle Mariners', or 28 others. Baseball knows.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Part II: Enron Field Meets Dilbert:
Corporate Naming Rights for Management Flubs  

Last month I ran a few MBB items triggered by one of those inescapable e-mail humor messages, "Stupidity in Action," sent to me by my esteemed colleague Martin Marshall. These alleged recipients of top ten "Dilbert Quotes," stupid things managers said.

Since the boneheads' alleged corporate affiliations were made explicit, I think each of these sayings give the corporate owner naming rights over a classic baseball blunder.

So to continue the lessons, how about...


Dilbert award winner from an alleged 3M R& D Supe: No one will believe
you solved this problem in a day! We've been working on it for months. Now
go act busy for a few weeks & I'll let you know when it's time to tell them.

In the late 1920s, the New York Yankees had in their farm system a young outfielder named George "Twinkletoes" Selkirk. Selkirk was a professional hitter, left-handed, just made for the Yanks' home park The Yanks left him to fester, tearing up the minors, but never gave him a shot in the Majors.

Selkirk's problem was...well, it wasn't a problem with Selkirk. Because while he was tearing up the AAA International League, the Yankees had but one year where they didn't have Babe Ruth and two other All-Stars in the outfield. Hall of Famer Earle Combs (The Kentucky Colonel) patrolled CF and the other corner was patrolled first by Bob Meusel, later by Ben Chapman. A normal team, not needing an asset like Selkirk, would have traded him for an asset they did need. Except they didn't need anything else they could get in trade. So they kept in tucked away in case of an injury. His minor league longevity earned him a berth in the International League Hall of Fame (a bittersweet reminder of both how good he was and stuck he was).

Selkirk finally got a full season, getting the easy assignment of replacing Babe Ruth, assuring him the chance to shine (not). Selkirk squeezed a positive six-year Major League career out of what was left in him, getting in the top ten list for OPS+ (offensive production) four of those seven years. He probably would have been as important a player as Combs or Chapman if given the chance to play, not assuredly, but given his record, one can make a good argument for it.

Beyond baseball, you see people and processes stuck behind other agendas all the time. A friend of mine has a daughter who works at a mid-scale restaurant chain's location in Missouri. She works as a hostess (no serious money available no matter how hard you work). She's been trying to get promoted to waitress (where good customer service skills and diligence result in a legitimate lower-middle class income). But their model is not to promote if they can avoid it -- it's to use kids as long as they can and then dump them for new ones. As long as they train reasonably well, it's a viable form of parasitism, since the knowledge and abilities that go out the door can be replaced with a short term, low-cost investment in the next victim.

And the turnover conforms to Angus' First Law of Organizational Dynamics, "All human systems tend to be self-amplifying". Because the kids aren't treated very well or rewarded for loyalty, the ambitious are likely to move on, and the ones who remain will tend to be roster plaque, the unambitious who expect to give a half-hearted effort for a half-hearted income. And then management comes to believe there's not much talent out there so the existing environment (they've actually crafted) is "reality".

NOTE: Engineering organizations are notorious for slowing down quick solutions out of fear of being held accountable for speed in the future. Slowing things down is a means not only of lowering expectations (therefore easier to fulfill without having intrusive peoples' desires injected in their workshops), but of also being able to play around with the details that are the currency of the engineer. Engineers with the engineer personality type are intrinsically not managers (in fact tend to be anti-management, so even when they are appointed they tend to sabotage their own and others' efforts to manage). While there are engineers who can be very good engineering managers, in shops where good engineers are promoted to management without careful measuring of their ability to overcome their personal ways of being, you end up with an extraordinary concentration of managers like the alleged 3M manager quoted above.

In a competitive environment where survival is contingent on recognizing the Talent Is The Product, letting talent fester because it doesn't match one's pre-existing structures, biases or personality is Russian Roulette with five bullets. Put that on a Post-It Note.


Dilbert award winner from an alleged Lykes manager: What I need is
an exact list of specific unknown problems we might encounter.

This year's Seattle Mariners are having an extraordinarily bi-polar season, playing hot-clutch ball for streaks and then turning into pumpkins for longer stretches. When they are going well., it's partially on the innovative backs of a couple of players who come from outside "the system". Yuniesky Betancourt was the back-up shortstop for Cuba's Villa Clara team, defected, and quickly made his way to the Mariners' big club without spending a whole lot of time getting trained in the minors, so his fundamentals are much tighter, tuned by the fundamentals-obsessed Cuban system. Kenji Johjima was a veteran catcher for a decent career with the Japan Pacific League's Fukuoka Hawks, playing in a different, discipline-obsessed, fundamental environment.

Each has changed game outcomes. Betancourt has done it with his very aggressive but knowledgable, hawk-eyed baserunning (the announcers call it his speed...it's not. He's just average, but he's trained for many years to gauge defenders' quickness to the ball and arms). He's surprised opponents by going against the book and disrupting their assumptions by going for extra bases, or forcing really long run-down plays that stretch the abilities of even fundamentally well-tuned teams like the White Sox. Johjima has done it by going often to a play-at-the-plate choice that's rare. Three times in the first ten games on a throw home trying to nail a baserunner, he judged early the play was not close enough to bother with, ran forward to cut off the ball (ignoring the runner who was going to score regardless), and with the ball missing the cut-off man, nailing the batter who assumed the generic case, the catcher planted near home watching the runner score. He gunned out a pair of batters this way, batters who simply weren't looking for a specific unknown problem they might encounter.

Corporate and government strategic planning efforts almost always take on the alleged Lykes manager's point of view. They plan for the disasters, exceptions and unknown problems they have already experienced, and seek magic to provide the unknown ones.

The solution, as I've written about before is stochastic modeling, 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. Good strategic planning is like Betancourt's running, based on observation and experimentation, but never constrained to just the obvious. Bad strategic planning is executed like a Turn Back the Clock night, and there's a lot I dislykes about that.

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