Home > Community> The Lean Post> Lessons Learned from the Cleveland Indians’ Historic 22-Game Winning Streak

Lessons Learned from the Cleveland Indians’ Historic 22-Game Winning Streak

by George Taninecz
October 12, 2017

Lessons Learned from the Cleveland Indians’ Historic 22-Game Winning Streak

by George Taninecz
October 12, 2017 | Comments (2)

Photo Editorial credit:  / Shutterstock.com

Despite falling to the Yankees in the playoffs, the Cleveland Indians baseball team had a great season, one in which they put together a winning streak of 22 games, the longest in American League history and second longest ever in Major League Baseball. While watching their games, I noticed a number of characteristics that organizations — businesses, government, non-profits, religious groups, teams, etc. — should strive to emulate:

  • Clarity of purpose: Despite the widespread media attention and huge crowds that accompanied the streak, the team’s players and coaches insisted that they were focused on the ultimate objective of playing and winning the final game of the year. In 2016, the team overcame significant injuries and adversity and was never expected to reach the playoffs, much less the World Series. Having lost game seven of the fall classic — in extra innings — sharpened their focus on getting back to and winning the World Series. — In the movie City Slickers, cowboy Curly holds up his index finger and says the secret of life is “just one thing.” [1] What’s your one thing? 
  • Trusted and respected leader: I don’t have one-on-one access to baseball players and coaches, and I’m not a sportswriter (although I am willing to listen to offers). But by all professional accounts — broadcasters and writers at MLB Network, SportsTime Ohio, Akron Beacon Journal, The Plain Dealer, etc. the Indians’ manager, Terry Francona, is a truly admired leader. He consistently praises the effort and performance of his players, rarely assigns blame, and seldom if ever puts the spotlight on himself. He appears to have created, in true Toyota fashion, a working atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. — Are your leaders respected throughout the organization?
  • Total support: The front office may not don jerseys, but their role is critical to the team’s success. The Indians have often played well above their payroll. They relied on management’s ability to build a competitive farm system that could steadily deliver highly rated prospects. But this year and last, the front office also acquired key talent late in the season: relief pitcher Andrew Miller and outfielder Coco Crisp in 2016, and outfielder Jay Bruce and relief pitcher Joe Smith in 2017. These players were good cultural and performance fits for the team, but they also increased payroll. The acquisitions illustrate that Michael Chernoff, general manager; Chris Antonetti, president; and Paul Dolan, part-owner, chairman, and CEO, have the knowledge and courage to put up cash when they believe it can make a difference. — Are management and support functions fully engaged, skilled, and supportive?
  • Next man up: For most of the streak, the team was without key players who have been All-Stars (Michael Brantley, outfield; Jason Kipnis, second base; and reliever Miller) as well as many others. Without exception, veterans and emerging minor leaguers stepped in and performed admirably. So well, in fact, that Kipnis is now playing the outfield, in part because of another injury and in part because the infield defense has been as good or better in his absence. — If key contributors to your group leave, who steps up?
  • One day at a time: To some the baseball season seems endless, but I love its 162-game length. One bad day is simply that — a single bad day. There are many tomorrows to make amends or to push for improved performance. Manager Francona often talks about the mental durability necessary for the long season, how players’ past performances eventually play out as expected (i.e., don’t panic if things are momentarily not going well), and the need to approach each game individually. In every profession, blue collar to senior executive, we all received new opportunities each day, but do we treat them that way? — Do you and colleagues embrace each new day or remain stuck in yesterday’s glory or failure?

It’s not easy for any group to embody all five of these characteristics. But when they do, the results can be record-breaking


[1] City Slickers, directed by Ron Underwood, Castle Rock Entertainment et al, 1991.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
Keywords:  coaching,  culture,  lean leadership
Search Posts:
Key Concepts of Lean
Dave LaHote, David Meier, Ernie Richardson, Joe Murli, Karl Ohaus, Michael Hoseus, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Understanding Lean Transformation
John Y. Shook, Josh Howell, Karen Gaudet & Mark Reich
The Work of Management
By Jim Lancaster
Was this post... Click all that apply
HELPFUL INTERESTING INSPIRING ACCURATE
5 people say YES
13 people say YES
3 people say YES
6 people say YES
Related Posts
2 Comments | Post a Comment
Charlie October 12, 2017

Why is there a picture of a Cincinnati Reds' pitcher on an article about the Cleveland Indians?



Reply »

Lory Moniz October 12, 2017

Oops - this has been fixed. Not a baseball fan and put to much trust that the search results were correct. Thank you for calling it out.

 

Lory



Reply »

Search Posts:
Key Concepts of Lean
Dave LaHote, David Meier, Ernie Richardson, Joe Murli, Karl Ohaus, Michael Hoseus, Tom Shuker & Tracey Richardson
Understanding Lean Transformation
John Y. Shook, Josh Howell, Karen Gaudet & Mark Reich
The Work of Management
By Jim Lancaster
Why Leadership Needs to Drive the Bus