“You observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra


Fill in the blank on this recent Wall Street Journal article quote:

“The human element of ___________ is always going to be important, but so is all the science and technology”.

If you filled in the blank with “baseball”, you are correct! But it could have easily been “pharmaceutical industry”, “chemical engineering”, “space exploration”… pretty much any industry. The quote comes from Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel the day after winning the World Series (sorry Dodgers fans).

In the last few years, the Astros have become deeply involved in the analytics of baseball by grinding numbers and massaging their game based on the metrics. But it eventually became too analytical of an endeavor and the human aspect was seriously threatened as players began to feel like “a number instead of a person”.

Sound familiar?

At the beginning of the current season, the Astros took a slightly different tack as the leadership let down their guard and began connecting with the players in various ways. They began forsaking the ivory tower to walk the locker room and clubhouse to get to know the team on a more intimate level.

This did not mean that the Astros took the foot off the gas surrounding their collection of data, which was proving to be quite valuable. But it signaled to the team a desire to connect and it paid off with huge dividends. Jeff Luhnow, the team’s general manager stated that now, “We’re an open book with our players. We tell them WHY as opposed to how”. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know how strongly the “why” resonates due to the fact that this is precisely what drives good leadership and in turn, buy-in from those being led.

“Culture is a hard thing to really quantify, but when you see it you know it’s there” – Luhnow

The cultural change even began to break down racial barriers within the team (excluding Gurriel’s gesture) as players furthered themselves by learning other languages in order to better communicate with their mates. #culturehastheabilitytobreakdownbarriers

The Astros chemistry experience with culture has some obvious lessons for all industries. If the goal is big enough, in this case, the World Series, fostering the right team attitude is integral in reaching the loftiest of peaks. The alternative is mediocrity, which can be found in 2nd class dugouts across the globe.


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