Last week I spent 5 days in Orlando working on continuing education units necessary to maintain my certification as a Project Management Professional (PMP). While the course contained some very good information, much of it was a reinforcement of the principles of project management that I’ve studied and practiced over the course of many years. During one of the less scintillating moments of the lecture, I began to ponder how the project of the Mets reconnecting with fans would work using the formal project management framework.
The first phase is called “Initiate” which is when you brainstorm openly about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. During this phase you write down notes about stakeholders’ ideas but don’t dismiss anything, no matter how outlandish. Things that might occur during this phase might include improving the roster, changing the leadership, spending some money, structural changes to the stadium and investing more money into the draft to develop new players. You might do feasibility studies during this phase to ascertain whether or not proposed changes would have a significant impact on addressing fan apathy (and outright hostility). Lowering the price of parking, beer and hot dogs might be something that would make it more appealing to go to the ballpark.
The second phase is, for Mets fans, painfully called “Plan”. We’ve been hearing all about “The Plan” developed by Sandy Alderson and company since his arrival in late 2010. While no one outside the executive offices was privy to its specific contents, it’s a safe bet that finishing at or near the bottom of the division each year, fielding a team of replacement level players and failing to heed the cries of the fans was part of it. Obviously righting the S.S. Madoff was the first order of business and for all we know it is the singular goal of the unpublished plan. What’s supposed to be done here is an analysis of the ideas in the “Initiate” phase, schedule and budget development for the key features and milestones you hope to achieve.
The third phase is called “Executing” which is not what you do the hopes of young ballplayers that excel in the minors but never get a chance, but the implementation of what is developed during the “Plan” phase. Here you develop the detailed steps necessary to achieve what was envisioned. If, for example, part of the plan was to find lightning in a bottle through undervalued or over-the-hill ballplayers, then the “Execution” phase would include how you would go about it – applying advanced sabermetrics, looking for veterans coming off injury or PED issues, and offering up minor league deals with complex contract clauses that later force you to make the decisions you’re not willing to make during spring training.
The fourth phase is called “Controlling”. During this part of your project you monitor progress and measure it against the metrics for success you defined earlier in the project management process. Seeing how you’re headed to a 72 victory record when 90 wins is set as the minimum acceptable performance would be an example of just such a measurement. What is seriously missing from the Mets is the process of taking corrective actions to get the team back on track towards its defined goals. Watching what’s working and not working, making changes, and reevaluating is all part of the “Controlling” phase.
The final phase is called “Closing” which has nothing to do with Jenrry Mejia or Bobby Parnell. It is during this phase you get sign-off from the project sponsor (the one who signs the checks) that everything has been done to his satisfaction. You document your successes and failures into a “Lessons Learned” archive, and hold project team meetings to discuss what could have been done differently to ensure that the project ran more smoothly. Topics at this type of meeting might include not rewarding a losing manager with a contract extension, not investing in players whose best days are behind them (thus forcing you to rediscover more talent the following year), or being more active in the trade market to jettison dead weight, pare away surplus and address ongoing needs.
The slogan at this conference on signs and printed on a t-shirt given to attendees was, “Keep Calm and Hire a Project Manager”. It would seem that in the midst of all of this planning, execution, monitoring and closing failure, it is sage advice for the Mets to follow.