Four things project managers can learn from base coaches

Good base coaches are animated, loud, ready to react, and encourage players to be aggressive.

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by Ty Kiisel, @task - In baseball, the base coach's job is very important. It begins the moment he enters the ballpark. During the opposing team's pre-game infield warm-up, his job includes:

  • Scouting the strength of the outfielders' and catcher's throwing arm and where the fielders position themselves in the outfield
  • Analyzing the pitcher's pick-off moves and determining whether or not there is a clue in his body movement before he thows to the base.
  • Is the pitcher's delivery predictable -- can you time it with a stopwatch? If the pitcher takes more than 1.5 seconds to deliver a pitch from the stretch position, a fast base runner might be able to take advantage of the delivery to steal second base.
  • Does the pitcher tip off his pitches or follow a pattern in his pitch selection?

Like the base coach, the project manager's job starts before the project begins, but the similarity doesn't stop there. I've noticed that project managers share some other common traits, here are the top four:

  1. Communicate Clearly: Good base coaches are effective communicators, even when it's in "code" or with a "sign." A project manager must be able to communicate objectives clearly to ensure the success of any project based work.
  2. Be Animated & Loud: A good base coach is easily seen and heard by runners and batters. An effective team leader can't hide in the office buried in reports all day -- successfully leading a project team requires that he or she be seen and available to give direction, advice, and remove impediments.
  3. Good Decision-Making Skills: A good base coach is ready to react to the unexpected -- good decision-making skills are vital to being a good base coach. Projects seldom seem to turn out exactly as planned. Project managers need to be great decision-makers.
  4. Encourage Aggressiveness: A good base coach sets the tone for the offense. When the coach shows confidence in the player's ability to execute, it boosts their confidence. Recognizing the individual talents of the project team, and leveraging them to the benefit of the project is a critical skill. Helping individual team members stretch and improve helps ensure consistent success.

It doesn't really matter what your work management methodology is or what project management tools you use, there's a lot a project manager could learn at the ball diamond.

With the baseball season just around the corner, maybe an afternoon with your favorite team could be a good team-building, training experience--or maybe I'm just craving some peanuts and Cracker Jack.

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