Thank You Major League Baseball

I just heard MLB consultant, Theo Epstein, who was instrumental in recent rule changes, and all I can say is, thank you MLB. In case you don’t have a best friend that moved to Chicago and became obsessed with the Cubs or you’re not following the story, here’s what MLB’s doing:

    • Bases went from 15” to 18” shortening the distance from 2nd  to 3rd  by 6” giving fans more of what they came for—more stolen bases, more of a running game, more action and more excitement
  2. BANNING ‘THE SHIFT’ (outfielders clustering based on hitter algorithms)
    • This puts players (not back-office computers) in the middle of the action and gives the fans the excitement they love
    • Keeps both pitchers and batters on the ball so that during spring training it shortened game time by about 30 minutes

Since I only know enough about baseball to enjoy the game when I’m lucky enough to score an invitation to Wrigley Field, I’ll get to my point. Given that this is just the season opening, we have yet to see the impact, but as I see it, the real game changer is the thinking behind the changes—what I’d call Strategic Listening.

Epstein alluded to an elaborate process, the Joint Competition Committee, which developed the changes with player representatives and a sequence of testing in the minor league and follow-up feedback. He summed it up simply. The new MLB Rules are about the Players and for the Fans. They’re designed to give fans more of what they like in a way that players and umpires can easily adjust to. How simple is that?   

In the restaurant business, we can think about it as about our Teams and for our Guests…what our teams can execute consistently and our guests will thoroughly enjoy. The MLB project reminded me of guest ‘moments of truth’ focus groups I did when I was at Max & Erma’s years ago which helped redesign our guest experience and flipped our perspective to a guest point of view to maximize guest satisfaction and achieve our mission—to make people want to come back.

The simple clarity of ‘about the Players and for the Fans’ got me thinking about a recent experience with a restaurant brand that I used to love and is now a shadow of what it used to be after being bought and sold (and bought and sold). After a series of visits where all of my favorite menu items had been cost engineered almost to extinction, it was clear it had become about their Investors and for their Bottom Line. My last visit sealed the deal for me: I just didn’t ‘want to come back.’

That’s what I love about the MLB approach. It shows that listening to what fans want and making smart tactical shifts to support it might just be the blueprint for keeping our guests wanting to come back so that restaurants always stay…    

“America’s (Other) Favorite Pastime!”

Until next time, let me know your thoughts.