Saturday, May 28, 2016

A transition to Baseball.

Having seen a few slow and stalled business transitions in my day I thought I might describe some patterns in the absurd.  Imagine if you will a business that several years ago decided to transition to becoming a professional baseball team.

If they follow the transition patterns of many companies who attempt to make fundamental changes to how they work this is what it might look like today:

Knowing the rules
The company still doesn't know the rules of baseball.  While that might surprise you it shouldn't. After all, children play the game and we've all heard about baseball so there was no need.  Besides, a few people read them several years ago and said they were simple.  Maybe they didn’t study them well enough to understand the purpose and underlying principles.  However, that doesn't matter because the company operates in the real world, not some theoretical rule book land. They wrote their own rules based on how things were already done and what they could glean from observing other baseball teams.

Practice and learning
Because baseball is big business they decided that batting practice isn’t important. It was noted to all that the company just can't afford practice at this time.  Sure, people pointed out that the largest and most successful baseball teams practice even more than they play. But those teams have the money to do so.  Once the company is successful they agree to set some time apart for practice. But for today, instead of practicing they just schedule more games.

Focusing on fundamentals
Everyone at the company is fixated on hitting home runs. However, no one is looking at improving the basics that make home runs more likely; stance, grip, breathing, focus, power generation, swing, accuracy.  It's clear that they have a complex home run problem and those things are simple basics that everyone should know anyway.

Gathering data
No one actually gathers data on games won/lost, batting averages, etc., instead they trust their gut. Alternatively, some try to derive such things from ticket sales which are much easier to track and measure on a simple dashboard.

Providing value
Finally, the 25 people on a “team” are each continuously worried that they don’t have the ball.  To deal with this they all run to wherever the ball might be.  While this is exhausting, and they have a tendency to get in each others way, at least they don't look idle.

Expected outcomes
Having spent much money, time, and effort the projected deadline for completion of the transition is here.  Publicly there is pressure to say it's been a huge success. People are often heard saying that baseball is "in the companies DNA."

Looking back people now question why they tried to transition the business to baseball. Sure, there are stories of several other major businesses having success as baseball teams. There are plenty of books, magazine articles, and even stories of parents who played baseball with their children. However, having gone through the process and seeing how little positive benefit the company received from this transition they have come to the conclusion that baseball is a sham.
Clearly, no one could ever build a viable business this way.


  1. I just watched the Warrior-OKC game 7 last night and your blog post brought all that to mind. When you're down 3-1 and facing elimination, you can't just swing for the fences. You have to go back to "your game" and keep improving on it. Fundamentals, practice and learning, gathering data - that's what it takes. Nice post. Jim A.

  2. Really enjoyed your post Matthew. Thank you for offering an analogy that I am sure many can relate to. It should certainly make us question our choices, decisions and expectations related to business transformations.