I am a casual baseball fan who has loved this year’s post-season battles. But truthfully, I have often wondered what a manager actual does. There are several coaches for every team, hitting, first base etc, but only one manager. It seems like he assigns the batting order and picks a pitcher and then sits through the game as others play it on the field. While watching a recent San Francisco Giants win over the Phillies I finally understood a baseball manager's real role. The manager’s true purpose is to make hard, fast decisions and be held accountable for them. In the sixth game of the series against Philadelphia, the San Francisco Giants’ manager, Bruce Bochy, was confronted with a plan that did not work.  His starting pitcher was performing poorly very early in the game.  Rather than wait to see how things would turn out, he acted swiftly and decisively by sending in a relief pitcher in the third inning.

Have you ever rolled out a compensation plan only to see it have little or no impact?  How many times have you immediately enacted change to improve the situation?

The first Giants' reliever did well enough for a few batters, but obviously was not a long-term solution. Mr. Bochy acted again and again, replacing pitchers as quickly as they proved ineffective. Some replacements were stellar for a few batters, others proved immediately useless.  Regardless of the inning or batter, the manager kept thinking and trying new ideas. Failure of his winning plan was not an option. In the end the Giants won the game and earned a spot in the World Series.

We often suffer from ”decision fatigue.” We try something and it doesn’t work. We try something new and it doesn’t work. We put the project on the backburner and hope to fix it at some point in the future.

The baseball season is long. Early in the season you can let a pitcher stay in the game and evaluate how he performs when things are going wrong. With only a few games left to play in the season, every decision is magnified and the process must be faster and more aggressive. You must understand your players, your team’s personality and be willing to be held accountable for every action of every individual under your management.

The compensation season is also long. It is delineated by years and some LTI plans are intended to compensate over several years. As we get to the end of each year we run up against deadlines that require decisive actions.  We must understand our data, our company culture and the goals of every piece of the business. We must make decisions that will impact hundreds or thousands and be willing to be held accountable for their success or failure.

In the end a baseball team is measured by two factors.  How well did it do overall and how well did it perform relative to expectations? Compensation plans should be subject to the same measurements. We must be willing to evaluate every decision and measure its result against our plans. Sometimes we forget, or are too busy, to perform this final piece. In the end it is the only thing that matters and understanding it is the only thing that will make us better.

As you go through compensation planning season this year  be willing to make the hard decisions. Don’t be locked into a plan just because you put a lot of effort into getting it approved and implemented. Establish a “decide and act” position rather than a “wait and see” attitude and finish this year with a win while managing your way into an effective 2011.

When KISS becomes WISH - Understanding Compensation

Neutralize the Mercury in Your Compensation Pool