Back To Basics

Durham Bulls Athletic ParkThe other night, we took our team, customers and prospects to see the Durham bulls play the Toledo Mudhens – everyone had a blast. I highly recommend a visit to the ballpark.

Listening to the MLB channel on XM on the drive home (I know, probably way too much baseball) something Harold Reynolds (former major leaguer and current commentator) said struck me: “We don’t play for the double plays, we play to make the outs we should make.”

Ironically, I has just witness the exact scenario play out during the game –a tailor-made double play botched on the front side. Man on first, ball hit to the shortstop, fielded properly, great throw, hits the second baseman in the freaking glove but the ball is dropped, why?

First some baseball rules: rule 10.12(d) specifically directs a scorer not to charge an error to “…any fielder who makes a wild throw in attempting to complete a double play or triple play…” unless the throw results in the runner(s) advancing additional base(s).

The baseball rule-makers have essentially said, we will give you credit for getting the second out but we won’t hold it against you if you don’t. In other words “make the out you SHOULD make!” Mind you, this is the Toledo Mud Hens in the field and I’m basically rooting for an error, but why was the easy out not made?

Why does this happen so often? Probably because the players assume the first out is easier and focus on getting the second, exactly opposite of what the scorekeepers, rule-makes and coaches, consider successful. So, a play is rushed, assuming the first out and focusing on the backside of a double play but, OUCH, the ball is dropped and not only did we lose the second out, we didn’t get the first out – anyone that follows baseball will know intuitively that this turned into a rally with the Bulls scoring several runs.

Taking this into a business context, forget about the extraordinary play and focus on executing the basics flawlessly. Remember, “we don’t play for the double plays, we play to make the outs we should make” (thanks Harold!). Execute the ‘plays’ you are expected to make, the routine plays, the first out.

In our world this is:

  • Communication with the customer – letting them know what is going on at each step and what to expect.
  • Sticking to the written procedures – so the ‘routine plays’ are delivered consistently – like setting us a workstation;
  • Keeping documentation and procedures completed and up to date – so customer support team knows what they are dealing with and “knows” the customer’s environment; and
  • Applying our best practices – ensuring that the environment is optimized to prevent issues from coming up in the first place.

If you turn the double – going overboard and impress a customer with service delivery – then great, pat yourself on the back, but make sure you get the first out. The typical fan won’t notice the lack of ‘turning 2’ just like a customer won’t be disappointed if you don’t go overboard in service delivery but the scout in the stands (who was sitting right in front of me last night) and your customers will CERTAINLY notice you dropping the ball.