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Orioles' winning culture [Commentary]

From each thunderous 'O' during the national anthem to another Adam Jones postgame pie in the face, it has been a magical season at the ballpark. And though it's too early to plan a victory parade down Charles Street, I wouldn't bet against the O's when facing any playoff opponent. Would you?

But as we savor the season and anticipate an October to remember, I've found myself paying attention to something beyond the scores. Having assisted dozens of organizations and co-written a book about organizational culture, it's clear to me the Orioles are showing us the elements necessary for any organization — business, government or nonprofit — to operate at its highest level.

These elements include:

Leadership and management

Orioles' Executive Vice President Dan Duquette took his time during the off season, but he eventually signed Nelson Cruz at a bargain rate for accomplished major league sluggers. In contrast, the Yankees committed almost five times as much to sign Carlos Beltran during the off season. Which general manager made the better decision?

And don't forget the trades that Dan Duquette's predecessor, Andy MacPhail, engineered to bring Adam Jones, Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy to the Orioles. Not to mention a pretty fair draft choice in Manny Machado. Where would the O's be without any of them on the roster?

If there's a better manager in major league baseball today than Buck Showalter, I'd like to see him. While seeming to push all the right buttons, his quiet intensity has created an atmosphere where players are excelling individually and as a team. Win or lose, Buck Showalter's postgame demeanor hardly changes; I was especially struck by his comments after a recent win when, with the team in first place by seven games, he stressed the importance of everyone taking things one game and one day at a time.

Do the leaders and managers of your organization make good decisions and set the right tone for people to succeed?

Attention to detail

Though the Orioles' major league leading home run production is impressive, the O's defensive play may be the closest thing to perfection any of us will ever witness in the game — notwithstanding the recent rundown lapse against the Yankees. Whether it's Adam Jones or Nick Markakis getting the right jump on a deep fly ball, Matt Wieters or Caleb Joseph preventing a stolen base, J.J. Hardy ranging to his left or Manny Machado making yet another "did you see that?" throw, it's clear that hours upon hours of practice and attention to detail are major reasons why the Orioles win so many close games.

Does your organization pay attention to the details that transform good into great?

No one's bigger than the team

When Manny Machado was suspended for five games in June, I suspect many fans feared a bumpy ride with the Orioles' youngest star putting himself above the team. The day his suspension was announced, Adam Jones said he should accept his punishment and move on. The subtext of the message was clearly was "this isn't how we do things around here" and "we're all in this together."

Message clearly heard, and lesson apparently learned. And though he was speaking specifically about Manny Machado, I believe Adam Jones also intended his message for the entire team, thereby exercising — here's that key word again — the leadership necessary for success.

Does your organization have a veteran willing to speak up when someone's actions detract from a group's achieving its purpose?


Raise your hand if you expected the Orioles to possess baseball's third best record and a seven game division lead in mid-August despite losing Matt Wieters in June for the season, Manny Machado missing over 40 games thus far, the offensive struggles of Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy and so on.

I thought so.

But in the past two weeks alone, we've seen a rookie catcher who originally didn't make the roster homer in five straight games; a rookie second baseman batting under .220 ignite a late-inning rally that overtook the Yankees; and Chris Davis, replacing an injured Manny Machado in the middle of a game, homering to spark another come from-behind-win. It's clear this team will not give in to adversity.

Does your organization find the ways to overcome adversity?

So whether you're at the ballpark, watching on TV or following via social media, you're not only witnessing excellence on the field, but a powerful model of what's necessary for any organization to succeed — no matter what its business or mission.

Let's go Os!

Paul Sturm is a consultant to nonprofit organizations and adjunct professor at Notre Dame of Maryland and the University of Baltimore. His email is

To respond to this commentary, send an email to Please include your name and contact information.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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