May 5, 2006
News & Opinion: Review: Management by Baseball
Management By Baseball: The Official Rules for Winning Management in Any Field by Jeff Angus, HarperCollins Jeff Angus Blog: Management By Baseball Jeff Angus Website: ManagementByBaseball.com Business owners and executives who ignore baseball are missing a management education from some of the best and shrewdest managers in any business. The management concepts honed by baseball management, both on field and in the front office for over a century, provide a practical and proven guide for every type of company. Baseball is the guide to management says management consultant and blogger Jeff Angus in his book titled Management By Baseball The Official Rules for Winning Management in Any Field.
As a professional sports writer and management consultant, Jeff Angus (pictured on the left) made the creative leap in understanding that two seemingly different endeavors, in business management and baseball, were connected in very intimate ways. The realization, as Angus points out in his book, struck him like an epiphany. Baseball had experienced and found solutions, both good and bad, for almost every business related problem. Management By Baseball offers a guide to business through the knowledge of successful organizations like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, and from the failures of sad sack teams like the now defunct St. Louis Browns.
The book is written in the logical structure of a hitter advancing around the bases. First the batter must reach first base, move to second base, go on to third base, and then finally return to home plate completing the journey of success. In the same way, a business owner or executive must also reach every base on the way to becoming a successful business person. Each section of the book covers a different base, with increasing difficulty with every additional base being reached. After all, its much more difficult to hit a triple or a home run than to scratch out a bloop single. Like the batter, the business person must reach and touch every base, to score a run for the team or the company.
Getting To First Base: Mastering Management Mechanics
Reaching first base is about mastering the technical aspects of the job, from planning to everyday operations to sales. Most executives have talents in this area, and are technically sound at their jobs. With the lessons and experience of proven masters like legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, a business person can become even better at running their company. Jeff Angus blasts away accepted business myths in the same way that St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols dispenses with fastballs, driving them deep into the seats for home runs.
Stealing Second Base: The Players Are The Product
Second base is much harder to reach, and stretching that hit between the fielders into a double, or stealing the bag outright requires speed, daring and some finesse. Jeff Angus applies these concepts to managing people. Often some very good production, sales, and operational people lack the ability to manage personnel. This aspect of business is crucial. In baseball, the talent on the field is the product. The same analogy applies to your own staff. They are the product whether they meet with customers or clients, or manufacture products on the assembly line. Better quality people, provided with proper training and incentives, will make your company a winner as they do for a baseball team.
Advancing To Third Base: Managing Yourself
Third base is not often reached as the triple is a rarely occurring hit. As such, Jeff Angus considers third base to be for the unusual business person who can manage herself, understanding both her strengths and weaknesses. In baseball, we have examples of many managers who had serious character flaws to overcome. Some overcame their weaknesses and went on to greatness for their teams. Others failed to understand their shortcomings, and moved from the game to obscurity. Self knowledge is essential for any successful business person. The lessons from baseball managers, past and present, will help in reaching that critical third base.
Crossing Home Plate: Managing Change
Getting home with the run results in a change in the game score. As with any business, baseball has experienced changes that often seemed minor at first, but later altered entirely the way the game was played and managed on the field. In the early Twentieth Century, the game was low scoring, the ball was dead and didnt travel very far when hit. As a result, pitching and speedy singles hitters were dominant. The arrival of the home run hitting Babe Ruth changed the game style forever. Not every baseball manager was ready for the new paradigm. As with massive changes in the economy, or governmental regulations, a company must adapt to the new reality or join the ranks of the last place teams. As always, the successful baseball people are there to guide your business through changing times.
Jeff Angus has written a brilliant book that I recommend very highly. I say that without hesitation, to both baseball fans and casual observers of the game alike. For me, the most powerful aspect of the book is the creative union of two seemingly different arenas. Baseball games and companies dont look alike at first glance. Like the great pitcher Greg Maddux, the look is often deceiving; hiding a master at work. The key to understanding is people. Baseball is about the people. The players are the product. Most important to Jeff Angus is selecting, training, and motivating the right people. Without the right staff, managed and guided properly, the company is doomed to failure. Learn from New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and employ your people in ways they can succeed. Their positive results are the companys profits.
The game of baseball is played out in the open, and the results are wide open for everyone to see. Success and failure can be seen in the boxscores every day, and with the pennant and World Series winners every autumn. Trades are made, players are drafted, free agents are signed for all to see and analyze. For a business, the success and failure are measured in stock prices, balance sheets, and liquidation sales. Baseball has experienced almost every possible situation that any other business can face. There have been huge successes as underdog teams have won the World Series and failures of teams expected to win it all.
Let baseball and its greatest managers be your guide, and your company can win the pennant and World Series in your industry too. Read Management By Baseball, and youll never watch a baseball game or look at business, in the same way again.
Reviewed by Wayne Hurlbert who can be found over at Blog Business World or at Wayne's Derby World.