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Ob in the News - Baseball Managers

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OB in the News 2016.11.21

        For the second installment of OB in the News, I have chosen an article discussing the reasoning behind recent front office changes for the NHL club, The Florida Panthers. The article, posted on the reputable hockey news outlet Today’s SlapShot, discusses a surprising restructuring following the most successful regular season in the franchise’s history. The hook – all the motivating factors for the shakeup tie directly into improving the organization’s ability to get work done with and through others.  

If examined further, their decision is purely an organizational behavior one, and shouldn’t have shocked hockey pundits around the world despite coming on the heels of a successful season. Throughout the rest of this paper, I will be discussing the importance of placing individuals in roles where they’ll find success, the ability for varying perspectives to improve decision-making, as well as the relationship between team decision-making and success. All of which have come to the forefront during our class discussions.

        To summarize the article, the reporter, Wilke, interviewed the two recently promoted Assistant General Managers (AGMs) for the Florida Panthers to gain a better understanding of what so many people in the hockey world have been asking: why would a team, which finally found a great deal of success, go through such a makeover? According to Werier and Joyce, the AGMs, it all comes down to being structured for success. Joyce goes on to explain a main driver was employing the same approach they have towards their athletes to the front office – playing to individual strengths. As such, they felt it was necessary to move employees around so they would be working from a place of strength. Another motivating factor was the resultant increase in varying perspectives. Following the shakeup, the Florida Panthers will have one of the biggest front offices in the league. The reason? According to Joyce, “the more dedicated and smart people you put into a room to make those big decisions, the better those decisions are going to be” (Wilke). Lastly, the team felt with the new internal structure, million dollar decisions would have to go through a more extensive and, as a result, conclusive decision making process. Werier himself states, their “decision-making process is a holistic one, with everyone playing a crucial role”, with feedback starting at the bottom and working its way up (Wilke). While all this internal shifting stunned hockey fans, it got me thinking – if sports can be boiled down to a business, are these sound organizational behavior practices?

        In the previously examined book, How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give in, Jim Collins discusses companies’ tendencies to deviate from their success by violating what he has dubbed “Packard’s Law” during Stage 2 of decline. Here, the argument is “no company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth” (Collins 55). One defining characteristic of “right” people according to Collins is the need for responsibility and accountability rather than hiding behind lines of bureaucracy (57). While the article doesn’t mention terms such as responsibility or accountability, Joyce has the following to say about placing individuals in a position where they are likely to succeed: “we try to play players to their strengths, and with this restructuring, we’re trying to allow those in the front office to manage to their strengths as well” (Wilke). Personally, I think this sentiment is really easy to relate to, regardless of the professional field. I know from personal experience – whether it be taking specific roles in group projects or being assigned certain type of work during internships – aligning work with interest and capabilities produces the best results.

        That said, I didn’t just want to take my word for it so I created a Likert scale to question students on whether or not they share the same sentiment that I do. Through the use of a Likert scale I surveyed 25 students asking the following question: on a scale of 1-10, 10 being always 1 being never, how likely are you to ask a newly formed group on members’ strengths and preferences before dividing responsibilities? The question produced the following results:

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While there is a clear preference for determining strengths and interests in hopes of creating a more efficient outcome, my data is likely somewhat skewed. While the first 10 people I surveyed were phone calls to former classmates, where I marked down their responses on the chart, the remaining 15 responses were students I came across in the library where I let them track their own results. What I noticed was the first 10 results were more dispersed compared to the remaining 15.  

However, I still believe the overwhelming majority are more likely than not to ask the question prior to determining deliverables. This sentiment is echoed by many students stating that in the instances where they have refrained, they’ve ended up having to either redo someone else’s work due to incompetence, or take on more responsibility than planned due to students failing to fulfill their requirements.

        Not only has the Florida Panthers been determined to place the right people in the right seats, but these moves are also aimed at increasing the organization’s “bandwidth” and placing “more dedicated and smart people” at the decision table (Wilke). According to researcher Sidle, there is one important driver of good decision-making – debate. The paper discusses new research which shows “group dissent can help uncover a decision-making challenge known as hidden profiles”, which as the article explains are situations where team members may have varying, integral information to solve the same problem (Sidle 74). In order to test the hypothesis, a study was created to stimulate a hiring scenario where candidates answered different sets of questions in order to produce hiring profiles. The conclusion was three-pronged: disagreements during group discussions increased information sharing, increased the likelihood of discovering hidden profiles, and decreased bias – all of which yield better results (Sidle 74-75). This sentiment was echoed in the first few weeks of class when we discussed peripheral vision. Much like car accidents, where an overwhelming majority occur at the side of the vehicle, the lack of “peripheral vision” in a business context can be a great danger.  

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