On the Red Sox and Strategy
Last night my wife and I were in a skybox owned by the Boston NBC affiliate watching the Red Sox play Tampa Bay. These boxes are stocked with food throughout the game, air conditioned with a wide-screen TV and leather furniture inside, and have 20 tiered seats outside, where you can take your food and watch things al fresco. We had a great view on the third base line midway to home plate.
The stadium was packed, as was the suite, and my wife’s comments (example: she found the players looked sloppy and unprofessional with their pants hanging over their shoes, and that David Ortiz looked out of shape and fat) drew astonished stares from the suite’s usual habitués.
In any case, the game was a scoreless tie in the fifth, when Boston managed to get runners on second and third with two out, and who walks to the plate but Ortiz, who’s the designated hitter (my wife is not inaccurate) and batting about .250. The crowd goes wild and Tampa Bay does what opposing teams do in trouble—they call time out, at which point the manager and every infielder converge on the mound. There are seven people there, which are six more than it takes to write Hamlet, compose music for The Lady Is A Tramp, or fly a billion dollar jet fighter.
Everyone in the ballpark knows the strategy being discussed: First base is open with two out. Throw Ortiz four awful pitches. If he swings, which he’s been known to do, fine. If he walks, who cares, because then you have a force at any base and Ortiz isn’t going to hurt you hunched over first base.
The umpire finally breaks up the convention, everyone returns to their places, and the pitcher winds up and throws the baseball. Ortiz promptly hits it 400 feet into the right field stands. The right fielder is lucky he wasn’t able to catch it, because it probably would have killed him, it was hit that hard. Red Sox 3, Tampa Bay 0 (the Sox would go on to win 8-5).
Strategy is useless without proper implementation. You can talk all day, draw fancy charts, create color-coded, 3-ring binders, invent funny acronyms, cite “vision” and “mission” and “goals” and “objectives” until the cows come home.
Nothing helps unless the people who didn’t set the strategy are able and willing to implement what the strategy requires.
That’s why consultants are even MORE valuable in assisting with implementation post-strategy, why so many strategies fail, and why anything looking out more than two years might as well be a horoscope. Make sure you include these arguments—and value—in your options and your fees.
Because no matter how good the right fielder is, he can’t catch anything screaming ten feet over his head at 100 miles an hour.
© Alan Weiss 2010. All rights reserved.