Baseball is life…

13 08 2009

A while back I wrote a blog about the similarities of a little league baseball team and how we conduct meetings.   In that blog I talked about meeting effectiveness and preparedness.  A similar story can be told about projects…

One of my favorite kids on my team loves to be involved.  In fact, too much so.  No matter where he is or what the situation, he will call for the ball.  If he is in left field, with nobody on base, he will call for the ball as soon as someone picks it up.  While at this age it invokes a smile from most (except the kid who responds, only to be embarrassed they made the wrong play).  It is impossible not to love the kid, he is always smiling and truly loves playing baseball.

This also is not unlike how we choose projects/initiatives, or who leads them.  We typically choose the most spirited person in the room, people we like, or people who will do what is in our personal best interest.

  • How often do we choose the best person for the role?
  • What happens to the dissenting opinion?
  • What happens to the person with the dissenting opinion?
  • How often do your projects provide concrete value within a desired timeframe?
  • Do you put differing opinions on the team specifically to see what happens?
  • How often do you throw a ball to left field because someone yelled for you?




Remember When…Google was the Anti-Microsoft

15 11 2010

Today, Facebook launched a new email service.  It has long been in the works as Project Titan.  While perhaps not a direct threat against Google, it is certainly an attack on Gmail.

Remember back to the good old days…when we walked uphill to school in the snow both ways, when children actually played baseball (and not the video game version), when information was delivered with ink and paper, when cell phones were the size of our heads…

…err I digress, remember when Google was the white knight against Microsoft.  We wanted to use Netscape just to make Microsoft mad, but IE was just better.  Ah, yes the good old days and the turn of the century.  Was it really just in 2000 when they signed the pact with Yahoo to make them the default search engine?  A mere decade it took them to go from White Knight to feared Big Brother.  It took Apple 26 years to go from 1984 to being mocked by Futurama with its Eyephone or from having their great anti-Microsoft ad campaign spoofed by TMobile in Piggyback.

Has Google really done this in less than 10 years?  We will soon see.  Earlier this month Google found itself in a little hot water over their StreetView cars that were driving around picking geographically based personal information.  I understand that personal privacy may be dead, but I would venture a bet that if there is a backlash it will be aimed squarely at Google (and ironically in this case Facebook).

Clearly not all markets move at breakneck speed, but it does tell a story of thinking about tomorrow in a more methodology approach.





Survival of Innovation

31 08 2009

In 1988 Pinnacle Brands broke into the baseball card market.  The market had long been dominated by a couple of players (Topps,  Donruss, and Fleer) and the market was doing fairly well.  It catapulted onto the scene by throwing in new features to the market, more colorful cards, full edge bleeds, more information, etc with their Score brand.  Over time they added in brand variations that were targeted at very specific markets:

  • Score:  Lower price point, more kid friendly
  • Select:  Mid price point, geared for the beginning collector
  • Pinnacle:  Higher price point for the more serious collector

If you followed the baseball card market at that time you will remember it as a rather unique time.  It was perfect example for economists.  The value of each card, pack, box was independently valued by third parties.  Card shops popped up in nearly every neighborhood to trade cards, and serious collectors were following the distribution trucks buying entire cases at a time before they even hit the shelves.  The catch was that you could not make all the cards you wanted.  The more you made the less you sold, and vice versa.

One of the main things that happened was the wrong sales mentality.  What made them successful, new  innovation, also hurt them.  They tried to stack the cards to the ceiling and create a consumer good mentality, not realizing the principal that the card would really only sell if they kept product very limited.

Hindsight being perfect (still a good lesson none the less) they should have kept production runs low, elevating the brand and looked for other ways to extend the brand.  As a last change, they started to get into other types of cards.  I think in the beginning they had the brains to come up with demand creation card games like today’s Pokeman genre.

Upper Deck came along in the same year and appears to be the leader in the field today.  Usually someone is going to survive, are you doing everything you can to make sure it is you?





Practice

10 06 2009

On of my favorite hobbies is coaching little league baseball.  During a game last year it hit me that many meetings are run in a similar manner.  Pardon me for the comparision, but the similarities can provide a little humor at a process that all too often needs improvement.

As I watched, I noticed I had three outfielders playing in the dirt, my third baseman had one foot in foul territory, and my second baseman was standing on second base.  I also had a few players that were ready, on their toes, and prepared.

  • How often at your meetings do you have the back of their room paying sporadic attention while most of their focus is either on their laptop or blackberry?
  • How many people do you have playing by their own rules?
  • What percent of the room is prepared and actively participating in the meeting?

As a coach, we know we need a game plan.  Yet often we “wing it” because of experience and love for the game.   Sometimes this works, and sometimes not-so-much.

During practice, we can move people into groups of like needs and work at different speeds to excel learning (or at least repetition).  We can redo things as many times as necessary.  We can freely move people into different positions.

We have the luxury of a practice schedule – organizations and managers do not.  They have to learn while doing.  They do not get trophies for participation.  We need our people to be prepared and active in a meeting or else we are not maximizing our use of time.

If the meeting is to understand a performance issue, then we need to have someone write up the issue and send a brief summary to the team.  We need the rest of the team to have read the brief, done their relevant research, and prepared a list of potential recommendations to discuss.  The meeting should not be about discussing what research needs to be done – it should be about looking at the research and agreeing upon a course of action.