Navigating the Challenges of Modern Sports Team

Introduction

The film in my view explores leadership techniques that can be utilized in an unstable and unfair market. This is more so important in the current global markets that are highly competitive and receptive to abrupt changes. It chronicles the events that take place at Oakland Athletics which has to operate on a tight budget in a competitive league. The film follows the story of Billy Beane as he embarks on a journey to make Oakland Athletics one of the best team in the league with the help of Paul DePodesta who he hires as his assistant. Harvard-educated DePodesta used to scout for the Cleveland Indians is a central figure in the movie who is supportive of Billy’s revolutionary approach to modern sports team management. Paul helps Billy acquire influential players by using sabermetrics to enhance his team competitiveness in a league where some teams have significant financial might over others. The input of the sub-characters such as Hudson, Mulder, and Zito is also influential since encourages in-depth analysis and evaluation of the manager’s approach to leadership although they are rarely mentioned or screened in the film. Peter Brand is also an essential character due to his disregard and rejection of Billy’s approach and a representation of a core group of the manager’s assistant composite that does not agree with his innovative leadership approach.

Innovation leadership

Innovation leadership is a combination of diverse strategies used by managers to influence workers to incorporate creative methods in operations to achieve a set number of objectives. In this leadership theory, the input of the manager is essential since success is dependent on the effectiveness and competency of the leader in implementing new ideas or strategies (Khan, Aslam & Riaz, 2012). This approach to leadership can be utilized to enhance organizational development, and combined with the use of emergent technologies it is a necessity for success in the current global business environment. Thinking innovatively helps organizations achieve success not only in the short-term but also in the long run by creating a better competitive edge even in situations when an organization's resource capabilities are limited. The implication of innovation leadership in modern organizational structure has been a shift from traditional methods that rely on following specific standards that have proved effective before to the reliance on the ideas or leaders who have proven to be adaptive to changes and influential in developing frameworks that suit specific situations. As such, in the absence of this leadership approach, the organization may struggle to cope with the ever-increasing competitiveness in an industry that has been amplified by technology and information growth in areas that did not have access to modern organizational approaches before (De Jong & Den Hartog, 2007).

Innovation is a key aspect that will be addressed in this paper as a strategy to overcome challenges and enhance success. Organizations face challenges every day, and this was the case at Oakland A’s which were undergoing financial constraints. This was highlighted when the New York Yankees, one of the most prestigious and successful teams bought three players from the team and the manager had to innovate strategies to cope with the loss of three influential players. This coupled with the financial might of other teams meant that radical ideas were needed and the innovation technique employed by the manager included an unknown method at the time of statistical analysis.

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There are three main elements of innovation leadership that the main character exhibits which then percolate down to sub characters in the film. These are the generation of ideas, evaluation of the employee (team) tactics and the final element which is effective implementation (Pieterse, 2010). The novel ideas of the main character, Billy Beane’s effectively lead to success although after overcoming numerous challenges in a dynamic and iterative baseball league. However, some might argue that the manager’s strategies border on exploratory innovation since the sabermetric ideas was a brand new idea at the time. This, in my view, is a value-addition of innovation leadership since it modified the use statistics to enhance team development and this is equal to improving on the idea of using statistics in the evaluation process which has been used in other industries in different sectors before. The leader-follower (member) axis is also one of the integral foundations of innovation leadership and this highlighted by the emphasis the manager puts on implementing and following his ideas to the letter by all followers from the players to the staff members. To manage multiple subordinates, the mangers protrudes unique leadership which also mold the behavior of players so that they can exude high qualities that earn success in the long-run.

Utilization of emergent technologies

The utilization of sabermetrics is one of the key themes recurrent in the film. It shows the willingness of management to utilize modern techniques in a bid to outmaneuver competitors. Managers in successful organizations often utilize emerging technologies to boost productivity and growth. As Oliveira & Martins (2011) noted, organizations that use emergent technologies can boost their competitive advantage by using technology to drive innovation. This is especially important for organizations that rely on information technology. Developments such as artificial intelligence (AI), data integration and predictive analytics help organization not only plan for the future but also boost promote current growth and development. Current innovative strategies are also employed in other areas such as in digital transformation, but the effectiveness of technology is dependent on the ability of executive management branches. Management and IT are two intertwined aspects and leaders need to drive and sponsor innovation for it to be effective. After this, teams or departments need to incorporate these innovations into their operations and make them sustainable to ensure their long-term use is guaranteed. It is also noteworthy that this is a gradual process and teams/managers need to be patient. As such, some of the challenges that organizations face, as highlighted in the film is limited time and resources. However, these obstacles are only problematic in the short-run and can be alleviated by utilizing real-time analytics in the decision-making process (Sharda, Delen & Turban, 2013).

Technology also drives business change in most industries. It influences primary operations and also how services and products are manufactured and delivered to the final consumer. In the film, this is portrayed by the pioneering of sabermetrics and the utilization of the player-evaluation process. These aspects were not widely used and accepted before the production of the film, but they are some of the techniques used for roster construction in most athletics teams today. Although this may be polarizing, it has now become necessary for managers to evaluate their players and select the best possible team in every match (Sarkar & Fletcher, 2014). However, most people think that such techniques will replace scouts, but this is a misconstrued opinion. Scouts deliver young talent that if trained and nurtured to maturity have the potential to become great players. In sports, teams may utilize scouting networks to stay competitive by signing players from areas that such evaluation or selection techniques are not applicable. Moreover, although the film depicts scouts as storm troopers, this is a leadership technique meant to ensure that they strive to bring on board players capable of delivering the expected results.

The importance of setting objectives

Business objectives determine the operational strategies by outlining the responsibilities of everyone in the organization. In sports, different teams have different objectives from winning major trophies to ensuring that they are not relegated to lower divisions. This is an important lesson for managers and leaders in any sports team or organization. Executive leaders need to first understand their roles and objectives so that they can structure a team based on what they intend to achieve. This is an important step since by setting goals managers also set a destination and can also use this to motivate teams and players to be more competitive to achieve the desired objectives. Managers that have not established attainable objectives often lag in business since they have no concrete means of measuring success or motivating their players (Lunenburg, 2011). Additionally, it is important to set achievable objectives to avoid distress within the team. The implication is that resources and the capabilities and expertise of the available workforce determine the objectives. For instance, in money, the objective becomes stated clearly as “My bar is to ensure that this team makes the championship.” Successful leaders understand what they want, the resources at his disposals and also sets specific standards to ensure these objectives are achieved. This is the true mark of great leaders, and Billy Beane’s main goal was to ensure that the Oakland A’s make the championship by building a winning team with a strong mentality.

Develop Strategies to Overcome Challenges

In the modern business and sports industry, there are superior and inferior teams and organizations in terms of monetary resources. This may seem unfair, but it is the nature of business and competition. To overcome such challenges, managers need to develop and implement challenges that enhance their chances of success against all the odds. For instance, Billy Beane had numerous obstacles to overcome. For one, the team was offered a tight budget by the owner to operate with and also had autonomy on the budget. Secondly, although the manager had control over how the team played, he did not have control over the behavioral cues of the players. Behavior is one of the key determiners of success. It determines the overall team morale and spirit and the nature of the relationship between the club, staff, players and other key stakeholders. The most important lesson from how the manager handles obstacles is that problems are part and parcel of life, but this does not mean that one cannot succeed (Ferkins & Shilbury, 2010). Successful managers find ways to eliminate or cope with these challenges and their effectiveness in the process determines whether they succeed or fail. It is also noteworthy that there are often negative people or entities that would like leaders to fail and this it is therefore essential to be ambitious and focused. Moreover, change is constant, and leaders need to take the initiative to change processes that are obsolete or players/works that underperform to maintain work ethic and enhance the chances of success.

This aspect is highlighted through Paul DePodesta, one of the team’s top assistant managers. Paul was focused on building an affordable team due to budget constraints but was not focused on success. Due to human emotions, the incorporation of technology was not his main objectives, and this made the decision-making on roster construction ineffective. Moreover, player performance, physicality, technique, and mentality were not considered on team organization, and the focus was on building an affordable team. This is highlighted when Paul notates during a phone conversation that human elements are some of the factors that go into the “development of players.” This shows his unwillingness to develop new ways to change how players behave; there work ethics during training which are all essential when building a winning team. Furthermore, these remarks somehow show his inability to accept that data was important and instead focused on the human elements which can be dangerous and misleading in sports. Billy Beane, on the other hand, is determined to utilize the emerging sabermetrics to enhance his chances of success by overcoming the threats posed by other wealthier clubs.

Identify challenges and develop specific strategies to overcome the challenge

A recurrent theme in the film in the challenges that the manager overcomes to deliver results, motivate the team and build a strong team capable of competing for top honors. Billy Beane identifies the underlying fundamental problem of budget constraints and consequently determines the emergent sabermetrics technology as an efficient innovation to eliminate this challenge. This highlights the theoretical perspective of planning for the future as opposed to short-term thinking which can distract one from more important tasks. By determining budget limitations as a major problem, the manager breaks down the team structure through analytics and finds a solution that proves successful in the long-run. However, the most entertaining and probably appoint of reference is the detracting attitudes that the manager faces. Although some influential people are opposed to his methods and often criticize him, he is determined to see his plan works and does not focus on hindrances. For instance, the scene when Beane leads a scouting session shows his focus on achieving the season's objectives and the roles of every individual moving forward ("What's the Problem?" Clip from "Moneyball".mov," 2012). This a mark of strong leadership and management which is essential when developing strategies to over key challenges.

Another point that warrants consideration is the need to redefine strategies if they fail to deliver the desired objective. Moreover, new problems may arise in the course of the season and how leaders and managers react to these new challenges determines how they fair in the remainder of the season. This is the case in money ball, and the manager often has to redefine problems and develop new techniques to handle obstacles which is integral for effective leadership. The road to success is neither s straight line nor a curve and this a valuable lesson for anyone in management. There is no standard course of action, and the notion that doing the same thing will deliver similar results does not apply in management. The parameters that determine the eventual outcome are not standard meaning that different strategies are required for different situations.

Appropriate Leadership Development Intervention

Numerous factors determine team selection but perhaps the most enlightening factor highlighted in the film is the need to select the most competitive team. This is because competition encourages people to perform better and also brings out the best qualities in individuals. Billy acknowledged that Oakland’s scouts were experienced, but they also had a major flaw in that they did not perceive baseball in a competitive sense. As such, they were more focused on short-term success and progress as opposed to long-term sustainability and development that would guarantee success for years to come. To prove his point and show that the scouts needed to change this perspective, Billy appointed an unknown scout by the name Peter Brand as the assistant general manager which shows that leaders need to select teams that support and understand their ideas. This helps streamline operations and also set a clear path that needs to be followed by everyone to achieve the objectives. After establishing objectives, leaders need to determine the most appropriate course of action to achieve the aims meaning that changes in team networks may be needed to make sure that everyone follows suit. Having individuals who support and encourage others to follow your lead can help teams move forward and achieve even higher goals. Concurrently, in case individuals are opposed to a set course of action, it shows that they are not part of the team and therefore part of the problem and it might be time to let them find other ventures where their ideas are acceptable. The problem with most team members is that they do not like to leave their comfort zones which often results in stagnation. The manager highlights this when he asks whether one would prefer to get shot in the head or five times in the chest. In any case, when managers are letting players go, they need to be straightforward and also let the player know why such a change is necessary as a sign of respect.

Failure and success are both equally important learning experiences

During the first six weeks after Billy Beane became the manager, most of his ideas and plans failed the Oakland A’s were disastrous. However, the manager did not lose sight of his objectives and remained focused on the task at hand. Proponents on his ideas were often vocal, and this distrust percolated to the fans who were critical of his tactics. However, his hard work and persistence were rewarded in the long-run after his team put on a record-breaking unbeaten run. Patience is the key to favorable outcomes, and most manager’s fail when they listen to the voices of detractors who often want his/her plans to fail. Moreover, learning is a gradual process, and teams need time to absorb the ideas of the manager, develop individual plans to implement these ideas and then learn how to implement these ideas as a team. This means that continuous evaluation is needed at key stages to gauge individual development, find out which ideas are effective and which ones need redefining and also determine if more effective strategies are available to enhance the chances of success.

Adaptability to enhance competitive advantage

Adaptation is a key tenet of effective leadership since it determines how team members react to difficult situations. This is portrayed in the films through Billy Beane. After realizing that his team cannot compete on an equal footing with other teams such as the Yankee, he urges his team to adapt, and this strategy can also be employed in modern organizational management. Risk and instability are some of the obstacles that organizations experience daily. These factors coupled with emergent technologies and the influences of globalization means that businesses need to continuous upend business strategies to cope with the dynamic nature of the modern business environment. Conversely, changing operation and management strategies makes the operating margins more volatile, and the management of this process determines the eventual outcome in market leadership, influence, and position ("Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage," 2011). Apart from other aspects such as corporate responsibility and business ethics, businesses aim at maximizing profitability by offering competitive and diverse product and services to consumers in an unstable and unpredictable environment. Market dominance and competitiveness is determined by the capabilities and competency of leadership which sets the direction on the best strategy that will boost success by minimizing risks and uncertainty in the industry. Adaptability also encompasses business shift which refers to business changes to promote creativity and innovation. In Money ball, this occurs through setting up of scouting networks to discover young talents for the future. This is also the case in any industry since it ensures that

transitional periods do not negatively affect productivity. Moreover, it gives the younger generation time to gain experience, learn more about business and influential global dynamics and also make the learning experience more rewarding. For instance, learning from managers with experience is tantamount to apprenticeship, and this ensures business continuity. It also offers employees a chance to learn from both failures and success, which are both equally educational. In other cases, adaptability also instills discipline and employee engagement by ensuring that both employees and managers are continuously motivated to achieve better results and are not comfortable with the current business position in the industry or market.

Conclusion

Managers need to lead by example and focus on achieving objectives. On numerous occasions, the main character, Billy Beane did not have the full support of some of his player and staff members, but this neither swayed his vision nor dissuaded him from implementing his ideas. This went further downhill when fans became critical of his approaches to management during the initial six weeks when the team flopped, but he persevered and persisted with his strategies until the team gelled and rewarded his hard work with a record-breaking unbeaten run. Success is determined by many factors, but the most important thing at all levels of management is the manager’s belief in his or her tactics. This is highlighted as the film ends when Beane and his assistant Brand reunite with the players and show them how statistics were pivotal in delivering results. Sabermetrics enhanced performance, and the willingness of the two managers to explain the influence of their strategies on performance also emphasizes the need for transparency and openness to promote trust and collaboration between players and managers. Of equal importance is the lesson that one will often face obstacles along the way but all problem no matter how difficult they may seem often have a solution. The primary ingredient needed to overcome obstacles is an objective mind that can determine the nature and cause of the problem and then formulate specific strategies to deal with particular problems. Billy Beane's character differs from those of other managers in that he first established the main challenge which was limited resources in comparison to other clubs, developed strategies to compete with other teams through sabermetrics and eventually employed his ideas perversely to win games. This resulted in a twenty game winning streak which was a success by all accounts.

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References

  • Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage. (2011, July 1). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/07/adaptability-the-new-competitive-advantage
  • De Jong, J. P., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2007). How leaders influence employees' innovative behaviour. European Journal of innovation management, 10(1), 41-64.
  • Ferkins, L., & Shilbury, D. (2010). Developing board strategic capability in sport organisations: The national–regional governing relationship. Sport management review, 13(3), 235-254.
  • Khan, M. J., Aslam, N., & Riaz, M. N. (2012). Leadership Styles as Predictors of Innovative Work Behavior. Pakistan Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, 9(2).
  • Lunenburg, F. C. (2011). Goal-setting theory of motivation. International journal of management, business, and administration, 15(1), 1-6.
  • Oliveira, T., & Martins, M. F. (2011). Literature review of information technology adoption models at firm level. Electronic Journal of Information Systems Evaluation, 14(1), 110.
  • Pieterse, A. N., Van Knippenberg, D., Schippers, M., & Stam, D. (2010). Transformational and transactional leadership and innovative behavior: The moderating role of psychological empowerment. Journal of organizational behavior, 31(4), 609-623.
  • Sarkar, M., & Fletcher, D. (2014). Psychological resilience in sport performers: a review of stressors and protective factors. Journal of sports sciences, 32(15), 1419-1434. Sharda, R., Delen, D., & Turban, E. (2013). Business intelligence: a managerial perspective on analytics. Prentice Hall Press.
  • "What's the Problem?" Clip from "Moneyball".mov. (2012, February 25). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HiB9L3dG-Aw

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