Author Michael Lewis led off Moneyball (compare prices), this remarkable book, with these words:
I wrote this book because I fell in love with a story. The story concerned a small group of undervalued professional baseball players and executives, many of whom had been rejected as unfit for the big leagues, who had turned themselves into one of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball. But the idea for the book came well before I had good reason to write itbefore I had a story to fall in love with. It began, really, with an innocent question: how did one of the poorest teams in baseball, the Oakland Athletics, win so many games?
I'm reviewing this book because I fell in love with the story, the writing, and the thrill of the hunt (and its methodology) for the players who would drive this unusual team's success.
Michael Lewis discovered that Billy Beane found ways to identify hidden ballplayer talents. Beane followed in the footsteps of a vast cadre of amateur statisticians, people who loved collecting data, documenting every nuance of the game of baseball, in an effort to understand and make the game of baseball and its players more comprehensible. Can organizations emulate this success? I think, yes.
Billy Beane also used statistics to identify the talents that really made the difference in winning. He favored abilities such as getting on base over players who "looked" like ballplayers, batting average, and the traditional statistics that draw scouting staff to follow a ballplayer.
He selected players based on hidden talents and their talent "fit" within the ballplayer's roster, because Billy Beane, had almost no money to attract players. He lacked the money necessary for attracting the "A" players, the players who would sign with other teams for millions of dollars. So, instead, he relied on statistics, the analysis and opinion of MBAs, and his ability to outsmart the competition in the search for his best players. Maybe they only played for him for a short time before their value was appreciated and paid for by rival teams, but, oh how their glory was appreciated, while they played for the Oakland A's. Looking for talent management in action?
Moneyball's Implications for Managers
Managers who seek to fill their bench with talent need to first understand the talents of their current staff. Next, they need to evaluate what talent they need to do the job and accomplish the goals. Then, they should look at the difference between the talent and skills they have and the talent they need.
They can also assess, through measurement where possible, as Billy Beane did, what talents, skills, and other characteristics helped employees work effectively in the roles in the past. Then, they need to find the players who fill their gaps.
This is the secret to hiring a superior workforce. It is not always the individual player who must shine on your staff. The individual player must bring your organization the skills and characteristics that are keeping you from hitting your home run. There is much that we can learn from emulating Billy Beane.