Getting on Base

In the 1990's, the Oakland Athletics had one of the worst records in baseball.  Their poor fan turnout created extreme financial difficulties, making it impossible for the organization to pay for expensive star players or any improvements to an already deteriorating stadium.  In the face of this challenge, General Manager Sandy Alderson set a "Wildly Important Goal" of saving the team.  With no money to spend, he asked himself what would it actually take to get fans back into the stadium.  He determined that "winning more games" would be the best way to fill the stands.  

Now that he knew what they had to do, he and assistant manager Billy Beane brought together the best thinkers they could find on the subject and asked them "What produces wins?"  The answer of course was the highest numbers of runs.  Then they asked "What were the leading contributors to creating more runs?"

With that question the statisticians and computer scientists made an interesting discovery.  They discovered that the mighty sluggers who hit the most home runs were often not that productive when it comes to scoring runs.  The most productive players were the ones who could simply get on base.  With that, they went on a binge of recruiting absolute nobodies that had high on base percentages.  

They became the laughing stock of the league.  But then something magical happened, and they started winning games. So many games that even as the poorest team in the league, they won the division title.  The next year they won it again.  Over the next ten year period, they had the 5th best record in baseball while ranking 24th in players salaries. 

The lesson is this, they discovered the most impactful lead measures or KPI (key performance Indicator) that no one had noticed before.  Once they found the right lead measure, they put a disproportionate amount of energy and focus on it until it started to drive the results that they wanted.  No matter what it is we are trying to accomplish, making the time to find the right lead measures, and then putting a disproportionate amount of energy and focus on those measures is what it takes to drive results.  

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