Theo Epstein, who helped to break the Curse of the Bambino as general manager of the Boston Red Sox, is now trying to break the Curse of the Billygoat as the vice president for baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs. To succeed, Epstein is codifying a new set of standards he calls the “Cubs Way.”
Over the years, Epstein figures, someone somewhere has figured out the optimal ways to perform all the tasks needed for a winning team and organization. There’s a right way to prepare for action — to warm up for a game, to study the opponent, to analyze statistics, and much more. There’s a right way to play the game — to cut the corner of a base, to toss a ball to second for a double play, to go into the stretch position, and much more. There’s a right way to run the organization — to scout and draft players, to teach minor leaguers, to assess possibilities for trades, and much more.
Epstein plans to codify the new Cubs Way in a document of hundreds of pages. Now everyone in the organization will work and play according to the “best practices” of the baseball business.
“If you can’t articulate for someone what it is you’re trying to accomplish, how can you reasonably expect them to get there?” Epstein explains. “If you can’t write down on paper what it is you’re teaching, how can you expect your players to pick it up? How can you expect your A-ball hitting coach to teach hitting the same way as your Triple-A hitting coach and the same way as your major league hitting coach.”
Give an assist for this smart idea to Theo’s father, Leslie, the head of the creative writing program at Boston University. Give a couple more assists to Epstein’s grandfather and great uncle, Philip and Julius, who co-wrote the script for Casablanca. When you grow up with these literary influences, you understand the power of words.
Other businesses might take note. What’s the Goodyear Way? The Stop & Shop or Whole Foods Way? The Amneal Way? The Home Depot Way? The Microsoft Way? The Apple Way? Aetna Way? The Merck or Pfizer Way?
This “Way” document is not a business plan, but it breathes life into the business plan. It does not chart out market segments and business expansion strategies. It helps everyone in the company understand how to do their jobs, every day, with focus and skill and creativity.
The “Way” document does not standardize everything. It simply offers an approach that, usually, works best. Then everyone in the organization can bring their own skills and passion — and, yes, creativity — to the job.
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Does your company have a “Way” document? Wouldn’t it make sense to have one?