How to run your dairy the way a baseball manager would

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Editor's note: The following article appeared in the Nov. 30 edition of Dairy Exec e-newsletter published by Dairy Herd Management. 

Baseball season may be over, but the lifelong lessons inspired by America’s pastime remain: Excel as an individual but play as a team, remember that the pain you earn from attempting a daring play is second only to the glory of actually making it and it’s not over until the final out.

Applying the spirit of the game to dairying may seem a bit far-fetched at first. But as your dairy’s general manager, you make similar decisions to any Major League Baseball coach.

“While much rests on how the players perform, each team is guided by its manager, who is responsible for making decisions in key moments that ultimately affect how games are won,” Trevor Turnbull writes in Entrepreneur.

Turnbull lists three baseball GM tips dairy farmers can use on their farms:

1. Understand the numbers, but follow your gut
When New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bench star third baseman Alex Rodriguez in the 9th inning of a playoff game this season, he chose to replace one of the all-time greatest hitters in MLB history with Raul Ibanez, an aging pinch hitter. The result? Ibanez hit a home run and then another in the 12th inning to win the game for the Yankees. When asked about his decision, Girardi said, "I just kind of had a gut feeling." 

Lesson: In business, managers can conduct research to obtain information that will help them make decisions. But while understanding the numbers is important, at times managers need to put the numbers aside and follow their instincts.

2. Make difficult decisions and stand by them
Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona had a similar, difficult decision when his team was facing elimination against the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs. Despite the criticism his decision could have generated, Francona chose to keep center fielder Johnny Damon in the line-up even though he was struggling at the plate. Damon turned out to be a critical cog in the Red Sox offense for the remainder of the series, pushing the team to one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history.

Lesson: There is no way of knowing the outcome of a decision before it's made. But managers need to make hard decisions, learn from their mistakes and adjust to improve their results the next time.

3. Keep calm and carry on
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy faced adversity all season. His closing pitcher was sidelined by an injury, his two best starting pitchers struggled, and his all-star outfielder was suspended for failing a drug test.

But Bochy calmly went about making decisions on starting pitchers and lineup changes in an effort to give his team the best chance to win. Despite the challenges, his team overcame insurmountable odds during the playoffs and advanced to its second World Series in three years.

Lesson: In business, everything doesn't always go as planned. Leaders are responsible for instilling confidence in their employees — during good and difficult times.

So, while dairy farm CEOs should probably refrain from spitting sunflower seeds and yelling at regulators over a bad call on the Class I milk price, there’s still much to be learned from the game of hardball.



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