So tomorrow I have to go to an officer professional development session and lead discussion on the book Moneyball  by Micheal Lewis.  Great book, I actually read most of it in order to write my final paper in econometrics my senior year at West Point.  For those of you that don’t know the plot, the Oakland A’s were a struggling team during the early 2000’s…they had the lowest budget of any baseball team in the United States and their best three players just got drafted for bigger paychecks to high rollers like the Yankees and the Red Sox.  Billy Beane, then General Manager of the A’s felt that he needed to “adapt or die” and find another way to score big on no name players, bring them into the league with little money, and find a way to put them in the right positions to promote the overall victory of the team.

Beane decided to look to statistics, specifically sabremetrics the art of using baseball statistics and econometrics to determine a player’s value on the field using specific formulas.  Beane’s stat guru found that a team is not made up of “Home Run Hitters” or “All Star Players” where one person on the team carriers the rest with their star status, instead the on base percentage was the most important statistic to determine a player’s worth.  In short, it didn’t matter how much of an all around superstar the athlete was, but could they get on base….stats showed that if you found more than one player with that potential, and you eventually had every one of your hitters find a way on base, you would score runs.  In the end, the A’s had a $38mil budget, and broke the baseball record for most consecutive wins in baseball history.  Amazing huh?  But how did this all work.

My actual homework assignment for OPD was to find ways in which the lessons from Moneyball could be applied to the military.  So here goes…(and you can judge for yourself whether I’ll sound impressive in front of the other officers or not tomorrow!)

What I took out of Moneyball is finding an a way to succeed in an imperfect environment with many varying factors.  Specifically finding a way to utilize the personnel you have by playing to their strengths.  We all know that not every ball player is the “best of the best” especially not on the A’s, but what Beane did was introspective: he did his research and studied each of his personnel, and by doing that he found each of their strengths.  Instead of using them as all around players, he honed in on their strengths and forced them to play of their strong side in order to better the team.

To compare this to our Army, I knew specifically that not every one of the soldiers in my Platoon, was perfect and disciplined, knowledgable and well rounded.  In turn, I also knew that some of my leaders were not the best and the brightest either.  But I found ways to communicate with them and put them in positions where they would play off their strengths and therefore better the team.  I knew each of my soldiers very well; though they did not notice, I took note of their daily actions and found their strengths and their weaknesses.  I used this to my advantage.

For example, when I had arrived at my Platoon, I recognized that it was slightly disorganized.  When we moved Forward Operating Bases and acquired new equipment, I used the opportunity, as Billy Beane did with a new season and obstacles in his way (ie: budget cuts), to reorganize my Platoon to ensure that every person was playing their strength in order to lead the team to victory.  I found that the team leader that was in the middle of the patrol knew the routes in Afghanistan better than any other one of our non-commissioned officers in the Platoon.  Meanwhile, our lead truck with our first squad leader had a cool little gyrocam camera on his truck that he often used without my knowledge and reported up information regularly.  With this in mind, I took my squad leader, who was in the lead truck and moved him to the middle of my patrol, and took my team leader and moved him to the front.  Result, we never got lost or off track on route every again while on patrol, and we consistently has a 360* view of our surroundings with timely reports from my squad leader.  The squad leader was able to focus on his strong point, my team leader on his.

There is no one person that is perfectly well rounded.  It is the leader’s job to find his or her’s subordinate’s strengths and weaknesses and use them to the team’s advantage.  Every single person is good at something, whether it may be a ball player who gets on base by consistently getting walked every at bat or a soldier who can’t drive for his life, but shoots expert on the range.  First and foremost, you must know and learn the personalities of your team, and then assess their potential.  Reorganization is a process, and most people are opposed to change, but with a little introspection, the team will overall become better off.

Go read Moneyball, or if short on time, watch the movie!  Love Brad Pitt!  Go GIRLS IN GREEN!

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