Delivery Effectiveness & Baseball

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

Baseball is drama with an endless run and an ever-changing cast
Joe Garagiola, MLB Catcher and TV announcer

The effective delivery of projects is also an endless drama with an equally tumultuous turnover in players. This is my second blog comparing baseball and the world of delivery. In my first blog on this topic, I compared consultants to coaches. In this entry, I’m comparing the growth and development of project managers to that of baseball players. Specifically, I’m looking at the parallels between PM’s and young ball players in their development.

Little League
When children start out playing baseball, we coaches work to ensure that everyone gets equal playing time. We also are focused on teaching the game and therefore try to have all the kids play in each position in the field. When the players have very little experience, this strategy of equality sometimes backfires. Little Johnny really has no clue how to pitch, and putting him in the game will hurt the team’s chances of winning. However, to offset that down side, we must remember that in their early baseball career, skills are being developed, rules are being learned, and teamwork is being learned.  It’s not about the Win.

As players get older, coaches become a bit less altruistic in their assignment of defensive positions. Players begin to specialize. The games become more competitive. Betsy is clearly the best short stop, but that doesn’t mean the coach can place her at first base (nor would that help the team!). She doesn’t know that position as well. Even with the best intentions of the coaches, inequity creeps in. Coaches start to recognize how their players are developing and they begin to give the toughest assignments to those that are most capable. However, there is still room for the learner. Since some positions see less action, a less capable fielder can still be ‘hidden’ in a position that potentially may cause less damage. Read more of this post

Consultants as Coaches

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is a Solution Lead for Program & Project Management based in Chicago who enjoys exploring how to tightly couple the art and science of project delivery with business operations.

“A baseball manager is a necessary evil.”
–Sparky Anderson, Major League Baseball Manager

For almost a decade I’ve been coaching baseball for my town’s park district leagues. Even though my son Jacob and his friends are in high school now (and some, including Jacob, are playing on the high school team), there is still a need for coaching at their level. The kids are little less open to it at this age, but the coaching is still needed. That coaching opportunity is the same one I see at some of the companies Slalom has the fortune to consult for: while they may not believe they need it, support is still needed.

My favorite part of coaching is being the first base coach. I enjoy working with kids on the fundamentals (i.e., stopping a grounder or improving their pitching mechanics). But I especially like being on the field. From my vantage point–someone removed from the play (I’m not the one running the bases after all)–I am able to help the runner do better. Whether it is by providing another set of eyes looking for the pick-off move at first base, or whether it’s helping the batter gauge the risk of trying to take an extra base off his hit, I can provide the support to help make the players more successful. Coaching isn’t just standing there looking pretty (though some coaches in our league think that’s all it takes).

As much as the players are certain that they know the game, they always need encouragement (for a hitting slump or a bad day on the mound) and reminders on what to do (get a secondary lead on the pitch). For as long as these kids have been playing ball, they are still developing and learning. One of the great managers I had the opportunity to work with used to say “I can always accept a physical error on the field. A mental mistake is simply not acceptable.” As coaches we are there to help players avoid the mental mistakes. Read more of this post


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