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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace
SO WHO'S IN CHARGE, ANYWAY?
A LESSON FROM RED SOX NATION

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President, Discovery Surveys, Inc.

Only 1 out 2 employees believe management makes good decisions.

Part 1 - THE PROBLEM:

It was the biggest decision of his career and the biggest decision that had been made by his organization in more than a decade -- and he blew it.

Grady Little, manager of the 2003 Boston Red Sox, was at the helm in New York during the seventh and deciding game of the American League Championship Series against their nemesis for more than 80 years, "the Evil Empire" -- the New York Yankees. The Red Sox got off to an early lead against their former superstar-turned-arch-enemy, Roger Clemens. Pedro Martinez, former Cy Young award winner, and the Sox's best pitcher, was on the mound. He held the Yanks to just two runs in the first 7 innings on two solo homers by the previously unproductive Jason Giambi.

The Sox were leading 5 to 2 and the fans back in New England were cautiously optimistic that this might finally be the year to overcome the famed "curse of the Bambino." Pedro had pitched brilliantly up to this point, but his pitch count was over the magical number 100 and Grady rarely kept him in after that. The Red Sox bullpen had been performing very well in the post season. Should he bring in relief or let Pedro come back to the mound to pitch the 8th? He stayed with Pedro.

Pedro got into trouble quickly by letting up two hits in the eighth inning. With only one out, Grady came to the mound and asked his tired-armed superstar whether he wanted to stay in the game. Of course, the brave battler Martinez said," keep me in." As he usually did when his superstar spoke, Grady complied.

Little was barely back to his seat in the dugout when Pedro let up a run-scoring hit making the score 5 to 3. But, did Grady take him out then? No. Instead of revisiting the mound immediately and bringing in some relief, he stayed seated and let Pedro resume the battle.

The rest is history. Pedro let up his fourth hit of the inning, a two-run bloop single to center field by the Yankee catcher, Jorge Posada, which tied the game. The Red Sox later lost in the bottom of the 11th inning on a crushing Bucky Dent-like home run by weak-hitting Aaron Boone. The Red Sox Nation was devastated -- yet again.

Why did Grady Little cow-tow to his subordinate Pedro Martinez? Because he listened to his staff member rather than himself or his business advisors -- a big mistake.

Senior managers in organizations need to know when to gather information from employees and when to make the hard decisions despite their sentiments.

Part 2 - WHAT CAN BE DONE:

  1. Understand that the Goals of the Organization and the Goals of Your Staff Members are Not Always the Same

    Pedro did not want his pride to be hurt. He wanted to show that he could continue to mow down the Yankee hitters. He wanted to silence his critics after his earlier loss in the series. He probably also wanted to make sure that his salary would stay astronomically high during his upcoming salary negotiations. These, of course, were not the goals of Grady Little or the Red Sox. Their goal was to get five more outs and win the game. The primary input used to make this decision came from the wrong person.

  2. Know Where to Draw the Line

    Some day-to-day decisions can, and should, be made by workers. Other, more strategic decisions, should be made by management alone. In this case, the decision should have been made without even consulting the worker. Did Grady really expect Pedro to say, "Yes, please take me out."?

  3. Consult with Senior Advisors

    The decision was Grady Little's to make, but, he needed to gather more input from the other coaches on the team. Apparently, he did not. The pitching coach and the catcher should have been consulted.

  4. Base Decisions on Logic Rather than Emotion

    Logic definitely dictated that it was time for Pedro to leave the game, especially after he had given up two hits following a long 7th inning stretch delay. Grady let his emotions and the emotions of his superstar determine the decision. This is not a wise business strategy. Leonard McCoy of Star Trek fame, the emotional doctor of the 23rd century, would have let Pedro stay in; the logic-oriented Vulcan Spock would have taken him out.

In conclusion:

Management needs to make the hard decisions even if those decisions fly in the face of the wishes of their valued employees.

I am very much interested in your views on this topic.
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