August 20, 2015

Front Office on the Same Page

"A front office that works together on the same page." 

In one sentence Dave Dombrowski made a statement. You can read all you want into the statement or you can take it at face value. He could be saying that the front office in Detroit no longer played well together or he could be stating that he understands that the Red Sox front office was dysfunctional. Regardless it is paramount in leadership to work with a team that is on the same page and going in the same direction. 

Dave Dombrowski led a renaissance in the Motor City. As the Fox Theater marquee displayed this message in 2006 the tradition of baseball in Detroit began to change and Comerica Park suddenly was home for the Tigers. 

Leaders & Managers

Like me you have probably read the columns about great leaders and great managers as well as bad managers and bad leaders. Leadership and management are not the same; it's been stated clearly that leadership is about people and management is about things or systems. That's probably true. Michael Fullan is one of the leading writers on effective change and he places a great deal of focus on building the capacity of people through the change process. Collaborative culture is relatively new in work environments. Much of the 20th Century was spent in isolation in all industries. Now we are focused on working together and moving forward.

Educational Aspect

In 2006 Fullan wrote "Change theoryA force for school improvement" and it supplemented his work in the book The Six Secrets of Change. Fullan focused on the development of people through the difficult change process, including:

  1. a focus on motivation; 
  2. capacity building, with a focus on results; 
  3. learning in context; 
  4. changing context; 
  5. a bias for reflective action; 
  6. tri-level engagement; 
  7. persistence and flexibility in staying the course

Dombrowski & Avila 

Overall it's important to motivate your colleagues, including the management team, the front–line team, the support team. Motivation makes a different. Then building the capacity is important. Raising the bar and helping people understand the need to reach those goals — all the while ensuring that everyone is able to learn, improve, and contribute. Working within the system and changing the context of the process and allowing everyone time to "get on board" is also necessary. Create a focus on reflective action. Fullan says, "People learn best through doing, reflection, inquiry, evidence, more doing and so on." Finally, getting all stakeholders in the engagement process makes a difference, e.g. the state, district, and school. Persistence makes a difference but the leaders and managers have to stay the course but also be flexible. While Fullan is focused on education, it's clear that these same factors were in place as Dombrowski began rebuilding the Tigers back in 2002. Fourteen years is a long time to run any organization, let alone a baseball team.

Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski have worked together more than once in the past. Is there the potential for one more reunion? 

Same Page

Dombrowski may have encountered some things changing in the Tigers front office or maybe it was just that Mike Illitch somehow lost faith in his President/General Manager. We may never know what really transpired that fateful August 1 morning or afternoon. We have heard that Mr. Illitch contacted Mr. Avila and offered him the General Manager position on Saturday, August 1 but didn't notify Dombrowski of the change until Tuesday, August 4 — in the evening. It doesn't add up and it makes one wonder about the behind–the–back dealings that may have occurred. Remember, at his introductory press conference in Boston, Dombrowski said, "A front office that works together on the same page." 


Clearly Dombrowski managed the organization well but his leadership has come into question lately. It's been said he's rigid, somewhat of a micromanager. He was the President and General Manager — there was no title that suggested leadership. The organization reflected Dombrowski's management style. Now, Mr. I has decided a less rigid style is necessary and possible one more focused on analytics would be the right route. Is that where the front office breakdown happened, analytics? Only time will tell …

No comments: