Monday, February 18, 2013

Part II - Baker's Docent: Dusty
Out-Manages 99.97% of World's CEOs  

As I wrote in a previous entry, Cincinnati Reds' Manager Dusty Baker, generally seen as a medium-skilled practitioner of his trade, showed the world last Fall in the first game of his team's playoff series that he can out think and out-manage over 99% of corporate C-Level suits.

I rattled off four Management Moves to Model yourself and have reserved for this entry the single most important one for the success of those other four. Because if Baker didn't practice this standard Baseball practice that too few managers Beyond Baseball do well, and far too many don't do at all, the other four bits of management genius probably wouldn't have happened at all. So whatever limited actions you plan on taking to try to be as effective a manager as Dusty, puh-leeze study and act on...

As I explained in that earlier entry, the Reds lost their top starting pitcher to an unforeseen injury in the 2nd inning of their first playoff game, a game they had a really strong incentive to win. To re-hash the situation here (skip this sidebar if you remember it):

In the first game of one of 2012's National League Division Series between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants, Reds skipper Dusty Baker got a jolt that would have brought 490 of the Fortune 500s to the sponsored wet bar for some high-proof therapy. On the cusp of an all-or-nothing for survival moment, his lead dog for his biggest asset started the game and had to leave after a single batter, out for the series.

Reds starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, on a pitch following the television announcer intoning the hurler was a likely candidate for his league's Cy Young (most successful pitcher of the season) award, executed the pitching windup a legendary sportswriter called "Call the Chiropractor" and hunched over in pain and with a shot oblique muscle.

In that moment, half of the thousands of micro-tasks in the complex compound winner take all playoff changed, hundreds of them radically. Dusty Baker, unremarkable as a baseball manager according to pundits, proceeded to remake his team's strategic and tactical plans in 67 seconds, and deliver solid, high-performance results. In 67 seconds.

SIXTY-SEVEN SECONDS. No scheduled meetings. Event...1.1 minutes later, a super-important decision, well-thought out delivered.

┬┐Does Dusty Baker have 60x the IQ of that horde of C-Level suits? No, he just does what, to be a manager in Baseball, and to be good at management in any field, you need to be able to do, is constantly use some ergs on "What would I do if..." dialogue. The fact is, Baker was able to process that decision (from catastrophe to catharsis to delivery) in 67 seconds because he'd already played out in his head in previous days and the hours before the game started what he would do if his Game 1 starter got shelled in the first couple of innings or got drilled between the eyes with a line drive. Or was injured. (And Baker had almost certainly played out what he'd do if he needed to replace a starter early in Games 2 and 3, too, taking into consideration the context of wins and losses and all the particularities of his staff on hand).

And it wasn't just starting pitching he'd played this out with in his own head and with his coaching staff. While that would have been the most high-impact set of what-if chains he would have needed to think about, he would have been thinking through the set of parallel what-ifs for every starting player on his team through multiple games and contexts. Baseball management (the front office people, in their own parallel way, do this as default) all does this. It's a once every two decades event that someone makes it to a Major League team manager position who's not able to do this for this-game-and-next. I doubt 20% of C-Level suits in corporate, government and the military could handle all these decision chains in advance without self-medication(though it's been my experience that about 55% of small business owners *can* and do).

Unlike a Goldman Sachs stockbroker (and Dusty and his entire coaching staff take home less $$$ every year than the average Goldman Sachs stockbroker gets as a bonus at the end of a middling performance year), they have no computers doing two-thirds of their work for them. While they have computers and data and printouts, they have to make and act on all the decisions themselves, without programmed trades & other decision automation. The Reds' coaching staff's decisions are far too complex and deal with far too many human factors to achieve anything as adequate as mediocrity in electronic decision-automation systems.

I urge you to model Dusty Baker and his staff. Set aside serious management time to plan on what-ifs that are likely to happen, and lesser but actual time on the less-likely-but-still-possible situations that arise. That doesn't mean take your staff on a week retreat to cover all the vengeful-Old-Testament-God set of biblical plagues. But proportionally invest in what-if scenarios in the context of their (likelihood + consequences). If your own supervisors push back, call it "Risk Management", which it is.

IF you do that pre-planning, then when events arise, you won't be starting from scratch. You may not have the skill to process the situation to a delivered decision in 67 seconds like Dusty Baker, but you don't need to be as effective as a manager in Baseball. You just need to work at it.

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