I mentioned a while back that I was reading this book and expected to review it soon. Well life intervened and it got lost in a pile until this past weekend. I’ve gotten back to the book and finally finished it off.
What an interesting book! First, you’ve got to know that I’m not a baseball fan. It’s not that I don’t like baseball–I’ve got no beef with baseball, I just don’t follow the game. Actually, I don’t follow any organized sports, so a lot of those metaphors fall kinda flat with me. Because of this, I had a bit of a tough time getting through Angus’ book, which was doubly frustrating. First it was frustrating to have to expend such mental energy trying to understand some of the nuances of baseball in order to understand the point that Angus was making. Second, it was frustrating because Angus is such a dang good writer that I really wanted to understand the stuff! Honestly, if it weren’t for that second frustration, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book. It was one of the more challenging reads I’ve had in a while–in part because of the baseball thing, and in part because of the depth of the content (which, for me, was a bit difficult to acccess because of the baseball thing). I’m certain this won’t be the case for anyone who has even a passing understanding of baseball, however.
I’ll be re-reading this book. Not something I do with every book I read, but this one deserves it. Like I mentioned earlier, this book has depth. Angus is a very talented and engaging writer and that makes the book fun to read, but don’t be fooled by either the title or the writing style into thinking that this is a lightweight book. I had more than a few serious aha! moments while reading, and I also had a several instances where I had to put the book down and really think about whether I agreed with what I just read.
At the simplest level, this is a book that extends the metaphor of the mechanics of managing baseball teams into the realm of business management. At the deepest level, it’s a a bit of a love story written by a guy who is a very sharp business mind, and has an astounding understanding of the game. I can’t say this more strongly: if you work in business, or are a manager of people or processes in any domain and you “get” baseball, this is a must-read. I don’t say “must-read” very often, but this one is justified. If you are a total baseball knucklehead, like me, then you’ll probably get value from the book, but likely not without greater-than-usual mental effort. Which isn’t a bad thing, either.
The book is organized into four parts…
Part I: Getting To First Base–Mastering Management Mechanics. This includes three chapters about the basics, including time, decisions, and people. Nothing groundbreaking here but, as with the rest of the book, the parallels between business management and baseball management are fascinating (even to me).
Part II: Stealing Second Base–The Players Are The Product. This part includes four chapters that cover the broad sweep of hiring people, optimizing their performance, reprimanding, demoting and firing.
Part III: Advancing to Third Base–Managing Yourself. Two chapters here which include stuff about self-awareness, both emotional and intellectual.
Part IV: Crossing Home Plate–Managing Change. Three chapters here, all of which take an angle on understanding change, responding to it and initiating it.
There’s also a lead-in chapter and a very fun epilogue which includes many interesting rabbit holes to explore. I love that kind of thing…
Even after reading this thing, I’m still in awe of the case that Angus makes for using baseball management philosophies and techniques in business. You’d think it’s just a clever metaphorical spin, but in truth there’s a great deal of serious substance to the idea. Not being a sports guy, I have no idea if this is unique to baseball, or if it’s the case across professional sports. I assume the latter, since all teams must be managed. Sports fans feel free to right my wrong assumption.
I wish this review could do justice to the book. I’ll say it again: Angus’ writing skills alone are worth the price of the book. The ideas and content are gravy! If you want to check out more, be sure to browse the companion site for the book (don’t all books have companion sites now?): Management By Baseball, or go directly to the blog. The blog is good for bloggy stuff, and getting to know the author a bit. Also, check out the many book reviews listed on the left side of the blog–other people are more articulate than I am. The website has a free login section (but you’ve got to answer a question about the book in order to get into that part of the site), which includes additional info and tools mentioned in the book. As of this writing, it looks like that part of the website is still being assembled.