Change Can be Beneficial

I watched the movie Moneyball last night.  If you don’t know the story it’s about a general manager, Billy Beane, for the Oakland Athletics who just lost in the playoffs and in the off-season lost their three best players.  He needed to replace these players but was not given the money to find comparable talent.  Beane ran into a kid who was working for another team that showed him a new, albeit unconventional, way to evaluate the worth of a player. Basically, he statistically figured out what wins ball games.  Beane applied his assumptions against available players and was able to compute an economic value on every player evaluated.  Then he purchased the players whose value far exceeded the asking price for that player.  Beane rebuilt the team on this model.

Point: Emotion was taken out of the decision-making process. What remained was a purely economic model.

Although this concept was brilliant, what I found equally as interesting was the “change management” aspect.  The scouting group did not understand or agree with the approach. Beane’s own manager was completely against this new approach and fought it until he was left with no other option but to put in the players based on the statistical assumptions.  As one would imagine, the players and media were not readily behind this new concept either. But last, and most importantly, Beane, himself, was not 100% sold on his own idea.  As a manager, we all know “waffling” doesn’t get you anywhere. Steadfast commitment does.

Needless to say, nothing good was happening.  Beane finally changed his own mindset and therefore the mindset of others by winning them over to embrace the power of his vision.  He also started working literally one-on-one with his players, explaining what the numbers were saying and what they needed to do to win.  Everyone in the organization finally came together behind the change and the team won 20 games in a row-a new record in the American league, and an against-all-odds feat considering the original great players lost.  Beane began to be courted by the top teams in the United States, opening wide doors to heighten his career choices.

Change management is often overlooked when an organization goes through a dramatic change.  Prosci, a top change management training company, says that are 5 basic steps when going through a change.  These are:

  1. Awareness of the change
  2. Desire to change – what is in it for me
  3. Knowledge to change
  4. Ability to change
  5. Reinforcement of the change made

In Moneyball, a different way to look at how the game should be managed was presented and the various individuals involved did not see what was in it for them to change.  Once they started winning, the benefit became crystal clear, but winning wouldn’t have been part of their story if they hadn’t gotten on board with the change. Naysayers always emerge even after the fact, but the people who matter realized that baseball management may have been changed forever.

So what does this mean to the everyday manager?  It means when you a trying to adopt any kind of change (small or dramatic), you should go through each of the 5 steps above and make sure you have addressed each area to ensure you increase your odds of success. The waste and cost not to do this can be staggering. Realize as well that if the change is not working, you may not be being honest with yourself. One or more of these areas has not been addressed effectively.

In my experience, #1 and #2 are areas that people don’t focus on.  We believe that people are aware of the change.  Haven’t we told them in multiple ways? However, in most cases they are aware of the change but they don’t really understand why it is changing.  If they don’t understand the “why,” their level of awareness is low.

Next is desire.  We want to believe that everyone has the desire to be better.   Unfortunately, most people don’t see change –  any change – as beneficial, but frightening, and therefore they undermine its success—sometimes without even realizing it.  The only way to truly solve this is to locate the root cause and address it.  Sit down with that person to help him/her understand why the change will ultimately be good for them specifically.  In the end, if this does not move them in the right direction you will most likely need to change that person by replacing them.

Remember, any change takes time and a lot of energy.  Sometimes it is very frustrating but “it is what it is”, so work with your people, have some patience and, most importantly, become 100% committed yourself.

Greg Thiesen, CEO, Red Book Solutions and B2A


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