Saturday, January 13, 2007

Management by Baseball, by Jeff Angus

Management by Baseball: The Official Rules for Winning in Any Field, by Jeff Angus

How are business management and baseball linked? “Baseball is the perfect simple lab to test management theories. If you can’t do more with less in baseball, you’d better have a perfecto [sic] explanation about why it works elsewhere.” I expected the baseball metaphor to be a gimmick, but I found the lessons here are surprisingly relevant. The book is organized into (surprise!) four parts, one for each base. First base is about the basics elements of management: time, decisions, and people. Second base discusses managing a staff, and third base is about managing yourself. Home plate is about understanding change, responding to it, and initiating it.

Notice that well over half the book is about the human element, which I find fitting. As the author says, “people are the irreplaceable ingredient in valuable work.” After all, the players are the product, both in baseball and the corporate world. Two quotes I want to share that I found compelling:

  • “Only 15 percent of people holding a job aren’t in need of significant improvement.”
  • “When talent that can’t contribute to winning a pennant clogs your limited roster, it’s critical to move people along. And while it’s less obvious, doing a good job of executing the cuts is critical for your competitiveness, morale, and the reputation of your organization.”

These held meaning for me not only for how I should work with my team, but how I should guide my self-improvement. Management is not only something you use to guide others, but yourself as well.

While I found this book very thought provoking, there are a couple of nits that really irritated me. One is the use of the word rôle instead of role. Being a book on management (especially one with a focus on personnel), that is a very common word and for some reason seeing the circumflex every few pages really bugged me. The other problem I have is with the accompanying website. Multiple times the reader is directed to with promises of further reading and tools. One in which I was especially interested is a template for regular one-on-one staff meetings. Unfortunately, when visiting the site (and after being forced to register) I find that the promised material doesn’t exist. Quite disappointing.

Update: Apparently this entry popped up in a search engine and the author noticed it. He emailed me and attached the doc I couldn’t find on the site. It looks fairly effective, too—I’m looking forward to taking a closer look. Taking the time to respond to a fairly random review like mine (my readership isn’t exactly making Digg take notice) gives a large credibility bump to the author. Angus also mentioned he is an Eric Johnson fan, which is another plus in the positive column!

The baseball anecdotes that pepper the book made it that much more fun to read for me. I’ve always liked hearing about the strategy behind the moves: why a pitching change is made, why a steal or bunt is called, why the outfield is shifted, that sort of thing. This book is full of such descriptions that cover the last 100+ years of the sport. While I don’t think you need to be a fan of the diamond to enjoy this book, if you are one it will take on a whole other level.

First Sentence:
Winning at managing in organizations is much like winning baseball games.

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