To quote W.Edward Deming: It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

Change is never easy and it is not new. I recently watched a youth baseball game where the coach instituted an infield shift.  For those new to baseball, a shift is when you take players from their normal fielding positions and shift them to a new spot on the field as a defense set against the batter.

The infield shift is not new, in fact the famed sports caster Vin Scully found examples of the shift being utilized as far back as 1877. This change in baseball has grown exponentially in recent years. The use of the shift has doubled every year since 2011. But change is not always accepted and is not always easy.  In fact a rift over over how to handle and implement this change between a MLB head coach and a GM lead the GM to resign.

How is change communicated and handled in your organization? My team and I have observed that when coaching is at work – change, although not easy, is usually better accepted? Here is what we have observed.

  • Leadership answers the why. It is not merely an edict of business reasons stating that there needs to be a to change. They coach their teams with open communication. They answer the most critical question…Why…
  • Leadership involves the employees in the change process. Where do baseball coaches stand to watch the game? Where are they during practices. They are in the dugout or on the field, not behind closed doors. By being present a coach has the ability to sense the teams engagement and attitude, they can have open discussions and involve their teams.
  • Leadership coaches their teams through the change.
    • They provide an environment for open communication
    • They are engaged listeners
    • They set clear expectations
    • They remove obstacles
    • They remain positive
    • They set goals and accountability
    • and they celebrate successes large and small.

In the youth baseball game the batter hit the ball to the shortstop who was now positioned in between the second basemen and first basemen. He scooped up the ground ball and threw it directly over the first basemen’s head. Some of the players hung their heads, some just kicked the ground knowing that this was not going to work.  The coached not deterred,  yelled encouragement from the top of the dugout, “Nice stop Kyle.”  The coach knew they had more work to do on the execution of the change, but happy that they had attempted the change and knowing they would do more in the future. He choose to celebrate a small success.  Coaching does matter.