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Axel Kohagen

Bad Managers Manage Poorly In Their Own Ways: Ideas on Managers Impacting the Game.

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If you're a Twins fan, you've questioned Ron Gardenhire's ability to manage. Even if you didn't question it before 2011, you do now. After a catastrophic season, any reasonably minded baseball fan would wonder if the man leaning on the dugout fence is going to fix his team or make it worse.

If you're a fan like me, you're not in the dugout with Ron Gardenhire. Gardy has never coached me, nor has he attempted to coach me. I can analyze his performance based on what I see on television and read about online, but that wouldn't give me enough information.

The debate regarding managing skills might be informed by applying communication models to the task. Specifically, David H. Olson's Circumplex model offers a framework for discussing how managing skills might be understood and evaluated.

Olson's Circumplex Model (you can see what it looks like at this website - http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/PS101...cumplexmap.jpg) suggests there are multiple ways of being a happy family. Families develop problems in the areas of cohesion and adaptability. As families create more balance, they add stability. There's a tremendous amount of research and analysis on Olson's Circumplex Model, but I'm trying to avoid being overly academic.

There are some interesting overlaps between Olson's views of families and managing a team. For example, Olson's view of cohesion applies directly to managing a baseball team. A team with low cohesion would be a team without connections, and a team with high cohesion would do everything together. Similarly, teams with low adaptability would resist change and teams with high adaptability would be chaotic and always changing. There may already be research further connecting the Circumplex Model to athletics, but I have not researched this idea at this time.

Following this logic, the worst managed teams would combine deficiencies on both axes. A rigidly enmeshed team(low in adaptability, high in cohesion) could be a team where change is fought against and players are expected to do everything together. A chaotically disengaged family (high in adaptability, low in cohesion) would have difficulty even finding a team identify.

Where do managers fit in? For Olson, fixing these problems is aided greatly by communication. The better the manager communicates through problems, the more easily teams would find balance and be able to accomplish goals.

How does this relate to Gardy, and for other MLB managers? I don't think it offers easy answers. Most of team problems in adaptability and cohesion would not be the problem of one manager, but would be a joint effort of the manager, the players, the management, the players who are no longer with the team, the town, team, etc.

Instead, a good manager should be aware (on some level) of these axes. I suspect a manager could do positive work with a team even if he couldn't consciously identify these differences, but I think greater conscious awareness of these problems would be helpful.

Most importantly, it seems good managers communicate well. This is no bombshell, and it's still difficult to analyze when you're not involved with the team. If this article does offer anything to think about, it would be watching the axes of adaptability and cohesion during a manager's tenure. If the symptoms improve or stay stable during a manager's time on the bench, it may be a sign there's a steady hand on the reins.
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  1. Steer's Avatar
    I think winning takes care of alot of problems. Winning will cover problem areas until there is too many to cover and and it snowballs. Did this happen last year? An avalanche for sure!

    Lets see if Gardy can do as your article suggests.
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