By Emma Schilling & Darren He
As the 2023 MLB season comes to an end, teams will be reflecting and evaluating where they ended up in the marathon race for the World Series title. Some were real contenders, others came up just short of the playoffs, while others will need to make major changes to be competitive before it all starts again next spring.
At Sportsology Group, we typically support clients who are in one of the following three stages in their path to success.
The rebuild: Day 0 - Year 1 of new leadership or strategy
Good to great transition: Needing department level support to go from good to great
Winning after winning: Teams that have recently seen success and are trying to stay on top
Through our intimate collaboration with sporting operations departments in the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and European Football, we have seen first-hand how organizations can rise to the occasion and make meaningful change in these pivotal times of transformation.
For the teams sitting at or below .500, who are reflecting and noticing that change needs to be made, we evaluate a step-by-step model of decision making that happens when turning performance around. Following a low performing season, the ultimate goal is to turn team performance around to become competitive for the postseason next year.
When working with teams in the rebuild stage, the steps we’ve seen franchises take to reach this result are as follows -
Step 1: An acceptance that a culture and directional shift is required
Step 2: A review and reallocation of resources, assets, and opportunities to support this new direction
Step 3: Deliberate, slow, and steady rise towards being relevant and highly competitive
The trajectory leading to a rise in performance which many of our clients have successfully followed, is primarily consistent and can be more easily replicated through the initial steps, 1 and 2. In most cases, franchises effectively implement this playbook both intellectually and operationally within the organization. Conversations around culture, character, discipline, and mission play a significant role in fostering the right mentality for a rebuild. For teams that have underperformed, all roads of strategic change likely lead upwards. However, a deliberate and steady approach is what differentiates the teams who become great from the teams that just become good, so why rush the process to still end up short of the ultimate goal?
Let's delve into Step 3 in more detail. In our experience, this is the phase where behavioral changes truly become evident. Oftentimes, the teams that believe Steps 1 & 2 suffice, begin to fall short in their path to success by looking for quick wins rather than foundational transformation. Teams that previously prioritized the 'culture-first' approach from Step 1 often start adopting 'quick fixes' focused on one-off player acquisitions and leave the broader vision behind. This shift toward a speedy rise to success only takes a few weeks to derail the entire organization away from the slower and more effective solution.
The formula we share with our clients in Step 3 is around focusing on a few foundational priorities:
Set an inspiring vision for your desired outcomes
Develop your team, procedures, and organizational identity to align with and bolster this vision.
Commit with unwavering determination to the vision, while remaining adaptable to the necessary on-the-fly adjustments for achieving peak performance in real-time.
Step 3 is the most challenging to stay committed to. Keeping commitment from the top is the only way for the vision and culture to extend through each of the many partitioned departments of an MLB organization.
While adopting quick fixes may temporarily alleviate pressure, they can be the initial actions that lead to a possible failure in the pursuit of greatness. This represents a pivotal moment for club leadership where your commitment to your ultimate goal and vision must remain steadfast, yet your approach should remain nimble as you navigate the strategy that will lead you to your end goal. When committed to, this replicable process can lead to replicable success.