Why are the Minnesota Twins playing so well this year (so far) after having the worst record in baseball three years ago? They went from being one of the worst teams in history to busting one record after another, and are one of baseball’s best stories this year.
Did the fields get shorter? Did the baseballs get easier to hit? Did the gloves make it easier to catch?
I recently asked my team: “What do you think makes the Twins so good?” The answers make as much sense in business as they do for baseball. Here are some of the key moves that turned around the Twins that we all can learn from:
- Start at the top with leadership.
The Twins let go of Minnesota native and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and brought in Rocco Baldelli as the new manager. At age 37, Rocco is the youngest manager in Major League Baseball. He came in with a new vision, sharing that he doesn’t do anything by the book. He had a fresh approach and was ready to win. Turning around a team – in sports or business – starts at the top with the right leader.
- Tap “coaches” that will build skills.
High performing teams – in sports and business – also need a strong slate of coaches who can raise up the skills of their team members. The Twins hired four new coaches this past season, all with areas of specialization that together is helping the team win games, lots of games. When they hired analytic-minded Wes Johnson, he became the first pitching coach in history to go straight from college to the majors. Over half way through the season, the Twins already have one of the highest scoring and highest slugging offenses and an improved pitching staff.
- Bring in new players.
The Twins brought in a series of new players while saying good-bye to some big names like Joe Mauer. And they’ve done it for less – their payroll is reportedly about $121 million, which is $100 million less than the Boston Red Sox. They recruited power hitters, improved pitching and elevated almost every position. Winning teams are not limited to a few good players or even big names. Turning around a team requires improving the performance of all the players. A key defining characteristic of the Twins is they have few marginal players. Can you say the same about your team? Leaders have to be willing to let go of underperformers, even if they’ve been around a long time, to free up space on the roster for better performers.
- Take a metrics-driven approach.
The Twins moved from an “old school” method to a metrics-based approach to their coaching and team management. Trackman technology has been credited for enabling the coaches to help pitchers find a consistent release point and gain greater velocity in their pitches. Technology and analytics also helped them identify a series of efficiencies. With data driving actions, the Twins have been able to refine skills and set all sorts of records. It’s changing how they win games. We’ve seen the same in business.
- Set a new rhythm.
We all get in slumps. The Twins are showing us how to turn it around and develop a winning attitude. Not long ago, Twins fans would be disappointed as the team seemed to figure out how to lose. Today, even when the Twins get behind, there is a belief that they can pull it off. (Fans recently sat through 17- and 18-inning games to cheer them on!) They’re never out of the game. An attitude of winning is a key component of high-performing teams.
As leaders, we can be reluctant to make the hard decisions. The Twins did it and it has catapulted them to the top in less than one year. It’s a testament to what any organization can do when it is willing to make some big moves. Whether it’s baseball or in business, it’s way more fun to be in the playoffs than watching others on TV in October.