5 Overlooked Insights for Improving Company Performance

Did you ever hear about the mysterious success of the Oakland A’s beginning in 2002? The true story was made famous in the book and the 2011 movie “Moneyball.”

Here’s the one sentence version. In 2002, the Oakland A’s, with a payroll 1/3 the size of other teams, outperformed most other major league baseball teams. And, they continued to do so for the next several years.1

What does this story have to do with your company’s performance?  Stay tuned.

So, how did the Oakland A’s achieve those results? The A’s “discovered” baseball statistics that were far more predictive of winning baseball games than batting average and RBI’s.


You might be wondering why “discovered” is in quotes?

It turns out that these “new” stats were not new at all. In fact, they had been published and available to every major league baseball team every year for more than 15 years.

The Oakland A’s “discovered” these insights while other teams overlooked them. The A’s then applied these insights to how they selected and managed players.  In the process, The Oakland A’s built a competitive advantage that left other teams in the dust wondering what happened?

What About Your Company? What overlooked opportunities, like those the Oakland A’s “discovered,” does your company have to improve organizational performance and achieve record-setting results?

“We Don’t Have Time”

When the economy is performing well, I often hear company leaders say, “Things are going well and we’re making money. We don’t have time to improve company performance.” 

I get it. I’d probably say the same thing if I were in your shoes…until I realized…

When things are going well, the water rises for all boats. When things get challenging, those companies with competitive advantages (think Oakland A’s) outperform their competitors, sometimes for many years in a row.

Your Company’s Record-Setting Results?

Record setting results provide competitive advantages such as premium pricing, lower costs, market awareness, customer loyalty and the chance to build lasting competitive advantages.

Here are 5 insights your company can apply to achieve record setting results:

  1. The top 10% of sales people in your industry sell twice as much as average sales people in your industry2
    • What is the make-up of your sales team and how could you hire or build more top performing sales people?
  2. “A” player employees produce 4 times more of a financial return on investment to your company than “C” players.3
    • How are your “A Players” different than your “C Players?”  How can you hire or build more “A Players?”
  3. “C” players look and behave like “A” players during the interview process – making it more likely you’ll hire “C” players.
    • What questions should you have asked in the interview process in the past that would have revealed a “C player?”
    • What characteristics do “A Players” have that “C Players” don’t have at your company? 
    • What questions will reveal the differences during future candidate interviews?
  4. While every employee is unique, employee performance issues are not unique to each employee. Human behavior is highly predictable.4,5,6,7,8
    • How can you leverage this principle to predict and improve your company’s employee, team and organizational performance?
  5. Culture is defined as the way a company habitually operates.  Out of all the measures proposed to improve the culture of a company, there are only 5 culture metrics that actually improve company financial performance (4%-17%).9
    • Do your salespeople habitually call on companies that are not your ideal customers? Why is that?
    • Are your leaders habitually conflict-avoidant or habitually effective at having the tough conversations that improve employee and team performance? 
    • Which organizational habits improve your company’s performance? 
    • Which organizational habits, if they were more clearly spelled out, would improve every employee’s performance?

Even if things are going well at your company now, what is the one area of your company that could be or should be delivering better operational and financial results? 

What challenges is that area of your company facing?

  • Hiring mistakes
  • Undesired employee turnover
  • Can’t find right people
  • Under-performing teams – sales teams, project teams, leadership teams
  • Individual leader performance issues
  • Resistance to organizational change efforts (even at the leadership level) that are necessary to move the company forward
  • Building a culture focused on achieving record-setting and industry-leading results

Reasonable Excuses

Now, since I know how the brain works, your brain will soon start to think of all the reasons why “now is not the right time,” such as:

  • “We’re just too busy right now to work on improving our performance.”
  • “Those results might be possible, but not for us.”
  • “We brought in some training to improve results and it didn’t work.”
  • “We don’t have that in the budget.”
  • “I don’t have the energy for a huge change effort.”
  • “I don’t want to screw up “good” in order to take a chance on “great.”

These “reasonable” excuses come from the part of the brain designed to conserve energy, resist change and keep us safe.  They are reasonable, however…

Cost of Doing Nothing

These excuses are reasonable except when stacked up against the costs of doing nothing:

  • What happens when one of your “C” player sales people goes up against a competitor’s “A” player sales person?
  • What does a hiring mistakes cost your company? Go ahead, Google it. The average cost for a hiring mistake is, on average, 100% of the employee’s total annual compensation – the cost is much higher if you lose an “A” player.
  • What if a competitor innovates (think Oakland A’s, Amazon, Uber, etc.) and leaves your company behind?

In short, every one of the challenges listed above costs your company hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars – every year.

Lasting Competitive Advantage

Now is your chance to improve competitive advantage and then, eventually, build lasting competitive advantage. 

Jerry Rice said it best; “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t”

About The Author:

Jim Connolly is Founder & CEO of Industry Leading Results.  For more than 30 years Jim has been helping companies:

  • improve
    • hiring decisions
    • employee/team performance and
    • operational/financial results
  • by applying specific, proven and overlooked insights
  • from the Science of Human Behavior

To learn more, check out ILR at www.industryleadingresults.com. Or, contact Jim directly at jconnolly@industryleadingresults.com.

What is My Why?

Why do I do what I do?  I help companies achieve record setting results (think Oakland A’s) because record setting results are possible.

The urgency is that record setting results are achievable for your competitors as well. 

The only question is whether it will be your company or your main competitor that gets left behind.


  1. Lewis, M. (2013). Moneyball: The art of winning an unfair game. New York: W.W. Norton.
  2. Goleman, D. (2006). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
  3. O’Boyle, E., Jr., & AGUINIS, H. (2012). The Best and the Rest: Revisiting the Norm of Normality of Individual Performance. Personnel Psychology,65(1), 79-119.
  4. McGregor, D. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York, NY. McGraw-Hill (1960).
  5. Duhigg, C. (2012). The power of habit: Why we do what we do in life and business. New York: Random House.
  6. Sturm, R. R. (2013). Market Efficiency and Technical Analysis Can they Coexist? Research in Applied Economics5(3), 1.
  7. Guidotti, R., Coscia, M., Pedreschi, D., & Pennacchioli, D. (2015, October). Behavioral entropy and profitability in retail. InData Science and Advanced Analytics (DSAA), 2015. 36678 2015. IEEE International Conference on(pp. 1-10). IEEE.
  8. Williams, D., Burrell, D. N., & Lu, S. (2013, Spring). Employee Engagement Management Approaches Versus Command and Control Management Approaches for Millennials Employees in Public health and Safety Organizations. Journal of Knowledge & Human Resource Management,5(11), 102-113. Retrieved July 1, 2016
  9. Connecting Organizational Culture to Performance. (2013). Human Capital Institute; research conducted for P.S. Culture Matters