On Culture and Chemistry

I heard an interesting interview with Mariners Manager Scott Servais last week. He discussed some of the differences between this year’s team and last year’s, especially when it came to how the players acted in the dugout and clubhouse.

Servais brought up a distinction I hadn’t thought about before, the difference between Culture and Chemistry. I’m going to paraphrase some of his comments, because they make sense to bring into a corporate or start-up environment.

To summarize, “Culture” is the foundation of the organization. It’s embodies the mission your organization is on, the processes and programs you implement and the latitude people have as individuals inside the system. “Chemistry” is how everyone gets along with one another – peer to peer, manager to employee, employee to manager.

So with those definitions in mind, here are some insights he brought forward.

1) Not everyone has to get along, but they all need to be bought in: A culture can’t just be dropped into place from above. It’s going to be started by someone, adopted, and expanded. The Mariners culture isn’t as simplified as, “We always want to win.” From an in-game perspective, it’s focused on, “We’re going to own the strike zone, on offense and defense.” Every member of that team knows that the team philosophy is about owning the strike zone. A guy from Korea and one from Venezuela don’t have to have anything else in common. But as long as they know the process that the organization has designed, and they both contribute to the process, then the culture will be strong. If you don’t believe in the process, then you are a bad cultural fit, and it’s better for both parties to have you move on.

2) You can have great Chemistry and deliver a lousy product: Having everyone love each other is great. But if your team enjoys 2 hour lunches with each other and 4pm happy hours, your culture of laziness and good times isn’t going to net you much success.

3) You can generally define a good Culture in few words: In the case of the Seahawks, the culture is simple – “Always Compete.” You know that whether you are Russel Wilson or a walk-on free agent, you are there to battle for a roster spot, bigger salary, and field time. There’s no gray area for interpretation. If you are going to be a Seahawk, you have a mindset that you will have to win anything you get. You know the guy behind you on the depth chart is trying to take your job. You are only going to continue being a contributing member of the organization for as long as you can outperform everyone else at the job you do. There are no bonus points for tenure. Experience just means you should be able to do the job better, faster and thus be able to do more.

I think you can find the interview on the 710Sports.com web page. Would love to know if you took away any other insights.

Could the NBA Come to Seattle With Chinese Billionaire Owners?

An article on Forbes.com states,

“…let’s look at the NBA, and the chances for Alibaba or another company to make a bid for a U.S. basketball team in the next few years.

It’s hard to know which NBA clubs might be up for sale, though various websites say that a few could come into play if the right buyer emerges. Alibaba chief Jack Ma and Wanda founder Wang Jianlin probably head the field of most likely candidates to make such a bid, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these big-name executives launch such an effort within the next 1-3 years.”

If the NBA wanted to get Chinese market more interested in the league (without moving a team to Shanghai), Chinese ownership of a franchise would be a good way to open up TV rights to games across the Pacific.

It would be natural to put an Asian owned team on the West Coast. We know Allen, Buss, Balmer and the Warriors or Kings owners aren’t interesting in selling. So would make sense to have a current owner cash out for a huge payday, and move the team to Seattle.

Farfetched? Maybe. But not out of the realm of possibility. Opening the Chinese market is a pretty big carrot to waive in front of NBA owners.

The Meat-Free Experiment is Underway

I’ve never contemplated vegetarianism. And no matter how long I live in Seattle, I can never see myself paying an extra $3 for a “sustainable” sandwich.

But I like experiments, so I have one underway. From May 17 – May 30, I’m going meat free.

I’m trading the steaks for salmon, bacon for yoghurt, and sandwiches for salads. Just to see how my body reacts to a meatless diet.

I’m starting this experiment about 20 pounds above where I’d like to be. I’m not changing any other aspects of my diet or exercise plan, to truly see how meat affects weight gain or loss. I’m also curious what this will do for my mood, sleep habits, energy level and more.

So, if I seem grouchy in the next few weeks while you inhale a T-bone and I choose the Ahi salad, this is why. And if you have tips on how to replace meat with other protein, please let me know.

Monday Mornings Musings, May 2ish

Another day late on the musings, mainly because…

Seattle Politics and Sports
…I wanted to see what the City Council would do on the vote to vacate a deserted alley behind a strip club, in order to clear the path so someday it would be possible to build a $500 million arena. This is one of those votes that would only be newsworthy in Seattle. Not a vote on building an arena. Not a vote on financing an arena. A vote on whether or not to SELL – not give away – an abandoned alley to the would be developer of the project. This decision is so simple to make, it would literally take a group of misfit buffoons to be fooled into voting the wrong way. Well Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the Seattle City Council. According to the Seattle Times, three of the people voted against vacating the street because they didn’t like how another Council Member was being treated on social media. Yes, we have the only politicians in the country who cast their vote based on how social media is treating their friends. It’s just maddening.

Personal Life
I mostly write about thoughts, observations and rants here, but it probably is worth mentioning that I joined an Australian company called Whispir. Very cool technology being used extensively in Asia. The Americas team is just getting off the ground, so it should be a fun experience. It probably also means that since I’m not going to be building a content development agency, I probably don’t need to write a lot of content. Just enough to keep up the SEO rankings (and rant about the Seattle City Council.)

The Mariners keep winning. But man it’s hard to root for them when they did so much work to keep the new arena from being built. How do you support the game of baseball but protest the Mariners management? I think I’m simply going to take a little break from them and explore things like hiking and such on days I would normally go to games. Let me know if you want some of my tickets.

Tech Events
The Geekwire Awards are on May 12. Always a fun event. Usually sells out, so buy your tix now. (Coincidentally, it’s being held on a piece of property that at some point the Seattle City Council would have had to give away to Paul Allen so he could build the EMP there.)

Monday Morning Musings (Tuesday 4/26 edition)

So I broke the #1 rule of consistency. But it’s been kind of a nutty week. More announcements to come…

All Hail the Mariners. All Hail a 10-9 record. All Hail being in 1st place in the West with just 88.3% of the season remaining. At this pace they’d win 85 games which *could* get them close to a playoff spot. For comparison, last year the Astros made the 5th playoff spot with 86 wins. So that’s saying something.

I found myself pretty intrigued by the historical TV show “Turn: Washington’s Spies” over the last year or so, and did a little research on some of the American Revolution’s main characters. Here’s a little stat you don’t read in your 6th grade history books. Ben Franklin had an illegitimate son. That son had an illegitimate son. That son had an illegitimate daughter. I’m not sure those are the family values the Daughters of the American Revolution type conservatives want to talk about.

Man, is this really going to be Trump vs Clinton? Most interesting idea I have heard lately is to temporarily pass a Constitutional Amendment making the President a 2 year term of office, giving us a redo for 2018.

Good luck to the 32 teams still remaining in the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition. This is the first year in a long time that I don’t have any students trying to get their companies off the ground. But I’m still looking forward to seeing what this year’s group has come up with.

Where would you say Prince’s death fits in terms of impact and surprise? Not quite Cobain level perhaps? But close. RIP.

Monday Morning Musings 4/18

Happy Tax Day! This might a good day for Bernie Sanders to dial down the rhetoric about raising my taxes. It’s a little bit of a sore spot for me this week, Bernie. Or another way he can look at is, “I don’t have any money to donate to a political campaign for about the next 4 years. Or charity for that matter…”

Speaking of Bernie, this political theater just gets more interesting by the day. The New York primaries are this week and I have to admit, I just want results to fall into place that will cause the most amount of chaos. I have my extra large back of popcorn kernels and am ready to sit back and enjoy the absurdity of super delegates switching sides, both parties having candidates claiming unfairness, pledged delegates being bribed and threatened, rules being made up on the fly, and the eventual elecetion of someone not even in the race right now. It just fascinates me that in one day, Hillary Clinton can have photo opps with Wall St billionaires and the leaders of Black Lives Matter, and vigorously tell both of them that she has a plan that works for them.

Seattle | Sports | Events
Startup Grind is a good event to hit. But next week, on 4/26, it should even be more fun for you sports fans. Adrian Hanauer, founder and owner of the Sounders, will be on stage with host Michael Grabham. Get your tickets now, as this one may sell out.

So my new business is officially off the ground. I’m calling it Content365.Online because my niche is developing content and materials for B2B companies so they can publish every day of the year. Take a look and give me a shout if you know any B2B companies that might need what I’m selling. Content is hard to produce, but I’ve been working on a process to make it easier.

Have a good week.

“I Have Front Row Seats to Kobe’s Last Game And…”

Well, I didn’t have seats to Kobe’s last game, in the front row, right next to the Lakers bench. But this woman in the photo below did. What would you do with such a prime location for such a milestone game? I’d probably do one or more of the following:

  • Watch intently
  • Take photos
  • Take video
  • During commercial breaks, post to a social channel or 12.

Now let’s see what this lucky person was doing. By all means, blow up the photo for a better view.

Kobe Bryant Last Game

What could should be doing? What’s your guess?

  • Checking Facebook
  • Calling an Uber so she can get out before the crowd
  • Texting her friends
  • Checking stats

Your thoughts?

Guest Post – The Referee’s Perspective: Sometimes We Know What We Are Doing

Editor’s Note: Garrett Galbreath is a high school basketball official in Washington State and a Board Member for the Snohomish County Basketball Officials. Since I am someone who has ALWAYS treated sports officials with the greatest of respect, and NEVER engaged in any kinds of disagreement with one rearding the idiocy of their calls, laziness on the field, or out and out incompetence, I wanted to get an opinion from his side of the whistle. Why do some parents, coaches, and players insist on arguing with these highly trained and well-meaning people, simply for screwing up a call on the field? This is the 1st post in the series of, “The Referee’s Perspective.”

As high school basketball official, I have heard just about every criticism a coach, player or parent can offer. Sometimes I register the good advice, “Watch the hook on the post!” …and consider it the next time I am in a position to observe post play.

garrettgalbreath_officialBut most of the time, we are bombarded with simple and contradictory instructions for how the game should be officiated. One minute its, “Call the foul!” The next, “Let them play!” What’s an official to do?

The answer is more nuanced than most people think. My general philosophy on officiating is broken into three mandates:
1) Keep the players safe
2) Enforce the rules
3) Consider the game

These (personal) rules are listed in order of importance, but numbers two and three blur a bit in many situations.

Some Examples

Parents Yelling 1Consider a typical 5th grade game. If we were to enforce all the rules in the NFHS rule book, the ball would never cross half-court because we would call travel violations on every possession. Nobody wants to sit through that. Instead, we have to balance where the rules must be enforced and when to let them slide for the sake of the kids trying to learn the game.

As officials, we try to balance the rules vs the game by looking at advantage/dis-advantage. Did a player gain an advantage by violating a rule? No? Maybe it’s best to let it go so the game continues.

Coaches Yelling 2We need to apply the same logic in a high school game. Although our tolerance for violations narrows a bit, we still have to consider the skill level of the players. Our 3A state champion team is probably going to have a different skill level than a rural 2B team with 6 varsity players. We have to figure out how to manage that gap in skill sets every single game.

So to you parents pleading for a foul at one end of the court while imploring that we let them play at the other end… Most of us saw the same thing you saw. By the rule book, you might be correct. We could make you sit through an hour of inbound passes.

Parents Yelling 2But remember, youth and high school sports are for the kids. In addition to being competitive events, they are teaching opportunities and a way for your kids to gain confidence. Our decisions might be different than yours, because we are working hard on blending a need to enforce the rules of the game while considering the quality of the experience.

Please include any questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Monday Morning Musings 4/11

Last week really brought home a harsh realization about Presidential politics. We the People actually don’t have a right to determine who a Political Party puts up for President. This wacky delegate rule is different in each state, but what’s clear is that its the members of Political Parties in each state who get to decide who they nominate. Sure we have the right to participate with an opinion on the matter, but we really don’t have to right to choose. This illusion is displayed in many different ways, with the Colorado GOP at least making it perfectly clear it doesn’t really care what people think.

Politics and Sports
You may have missed it, but the attacks in Belgium were not supposed to take place in Belgium. They were supposed to be in France during Euro 2016. Now that’s scary. Hundreds of thousands of Europeans shuttling around France’s airports, train stations and metros. Now, consider that the mass shootings in France last year happened during a soccer match.

These two things make it seem really possible that the Paris shootings were a dress rehearsal for some sort of multi-faceted terrorist attack during Euro 2016. I’ll watch from home thanks.

In 2 games pitched, Felix Hernandez has given up 1 earned run in 13 innings, with 16 strikeouts. Over the 1st 6 games, the Mariners are 2-4. But here’s the twist, they didn’t win either game that Felix pitched. This has the markings of a frustrating season.

The Sounders are not playing well. But Oalex Anderson and Chad Marshall bailed them out.

There is a key to this play that no one is talking about. The Dynamo had the ball at 92:40. All they needed to was possess for ;20 and the ref would have blown the whistle. But inexplicably, they booted it down the field where it went out of bounds. That gave the Sounders a throw in at about 92:50, and the ref let the play run its course until the Dynamo got possession back, even though it took the clock past the 3 minutes of extra time he called for. Quirky soccer rule. Dyanmo can only blame themselves.

If you are a B2B tech startup, you have three great reasons to attend this event on Tuesday at 11am, “Go-to-Market Strategies for B2B Tech Start-ups.” 1) It’s taught by Matt Heinz, who probably knows more about this than anyone. 2) You meet the folks from 9 Mile Labs, who are actively looking for promising B2B Tech Startups. 3) You get to see Galvanize, where a whole bunch of tech startups are hanging out. This is an easy call. Go check it out.

Have a good week everyone.

How Much Should We Blame the News Media for Donald Trump?

There have been a lot of articles about how the media, needing a way to breathe life into this election 12 months ago, hooked itself up to the Trump Train and rode it through every area of chaos it went, cashing their checks whenever it came into the station to refuel. It really wasn’t until they realized that a Trump Presidency was becoming ACTUALLY POSSIBLE, that the media jumped off and then started blowing up the tracks ahead in hopes of derailing it.

But that’s not the question I’m asking now. What I’m curious about is how much we should blame the collective news media for dumbing-down the news so much over the last 10-20 years? Was it only a matter of time before someone like Trump was able to attract the hearts and the simplified minds of “Soundbite America?”

Maybe it’s not their fault. Maybe it’s ours for only being able to absorb 8-10 minutes before needing a commercial break. Maybe we need to be mesmerized with four talking heads each bringing their best two to three minutes of content to a discussion. In this format, no one ever has time to discuss a “How.” It’s only about the “Why” and you usually have a full screen of people with polar opposite opinions fighting to get in the best dig.

But then, I could argue that IS the media’s fault for forcing that format down our eyeballs and earholes. What is the total cost of losing a few viewers to make sure that the people who keep watching get something more thorough than clever quips and cut downs?

I don’t know the answer to that. Broadcasters are owned by public companies so they need as much money as they can get to survive this new media economy that forced them to lose their near oligopoly status. Yes, it is much harder to compete in a bifurcated market than to be one of a handful of outlets covering news. So I understand the need to dumb down the news to make it appeal to more people. But I’m not sure I’m happy with the results.