Baseball is a game often obsessed with tradition. Some records are considered sacred, unspoken rules trump the letter of the law, and you never, ever talk to a pitcher in the midst of a no hitter. Businesspeople, too, have certain traditions that seem unbreakable. But in baseball and in business, sometimes rules are made to be broken.
In the optimism of January, it looked like the Tampa Bay Rays starting pitching rotation would be a strength of the 2018 season. But by the time the season rolled around earlier this month, starting pitching had gone from a probable strength to a real problem: they could barely field a rotation at all. After trades and injuries, the Rays 5-man rotation had diminished to 3. But the Rays didn't panic. Instead, they did something fairly revolutionary: for the foreseeable future, the Rays will be using a 3-man rotation, with the fourth and fifth days pitched exclusively by the bullpen.
The umpiring crew is still out on whether the Ray's unique pitching configuration will work. But the point is that they're willing to try something different. And in a division dominated by the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, the Rays know the same old strategies will not overcome the odds.
Businesspeople, too, should not be afraid to do something different. But there are tactics to follow that make your success more likely.
Here are tips on how to break the mold with the highest chance of success:
1. Do You Need to Change It Up?
Before you try something dramatic, make sure you've diagnosed the problem accurately. Is this issue actually what's causing difficulties? Or this there something else going on that's masking the real trouble? Are you sure the standard solutions won't bring improvement? Don't change just for the sake of changing.
2. Can You Fail Reasonably Safely?
You need to consider the harsh realities of your business environment. Don't bet the house on a totally unknown quantity. Be meticulous about the strategy and the math, and make sure this change won't bankrupt you if it doesn't work.
3. Are Your People on Board?
It's hard enough to make changes when personnel does buy in. Don't make it even harder on yourself by implementing a plan your people don't believe in. If your team isn't into it, it's destined to fail, no matter how good the idea. So have a campaign to get universal buy in, and listen to your team when they express reservations. And make sure leadership talks and walks as they should.
4. Do You Have a Plan If You Fail?
Obviously, you need to have a solid plan in place if your strategy doesn't work. Will you revert to your old methods? Or will you shift to another new strategy? What are the marketing and financial implications at each stage of change?
5. Do You Have a Plan If You Succeed?