Project Practitioners > Tighten It Up!

Tighten It Up!

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Summer baseball tends to drag on and on. The dog days of summer never apply more appropriately than to baseball in August. In one particular game, the umpire got off to a terrible start. It was his fifth career game behind home plate.

A few bad strike calls and a manager abruptly appears out of the dugout to give him an oddly uplifting rant about the poor job he is doing. Below is the transcript:

“My guys are f**king savages in that f**king box, right?!...And, you're having a piece of s**t start to this game. I feel bad for ya. But, f**king get better ... Our guys are f**king savages in that box. Our guys are savages in the f**king box. Tighten it up right now, OKAY?!?”

Including the expletives, the message is beautiful. Currently, you are sucking. These players do not work hard for you to mess with their careers. While your start is horrible, you have time to get better. So tighten it up and be better.

Succinct and effective messaging in his ejection from the game. Your teams are much of the same. Team members have worked hard to be where they are at, and if you take it lightly or start on the wrong foot, it is detrimental at the moment, but from here on out, be better and recover.  

Here is how to tighten things up:


Wake Up Call

Sometimes the mundane gets pretty exciting when there is a close call making you aware of things slipping through the cracks. Your daily routine gets interrupted by tasks not going as planned like every other day.

Maybe the coffee machine is not working. Your car does not start. Your emails and phone calls go unanswered by reliable people. The things you rely on become ineffective giving you a wake up call. Showing you how much you depend on these things to go right each and every time. And the second they do not perform, chaos.

The umpire example above is reminiscent of that. He has probably called thousands of balls and strikes over his career. The game of baseball has not changed much in over a century. Yet, on that fateful day, nothing was going right. The manager provided a necessary wake up call to get his actions back on track and how he normally performs.

The rest of the game went on without a hitch. Similar to a day that starts wrong yet ends up alright. Your car does not start, and you get to work an hour late. The people around you are aware and pick up the slack for a short time. You tighten your day up like a professional.



You continue to do the same things the same ways expecting different results. Be better and figure out a way to make it work. In the umpire example, the difference between amateur and professional sports may have caught him off guard. The ball is traveling faster with more movement. Therefore, he was not prepared for the job at the moment.

Once he got a feel for the game, things retracted back to the baseline. What he was used to doing over and over was not working this time leading to short-term insanity. A simple change, be it mental or physical, makes all of the difference.

Today, making a slight adjustment to the way you normally do things can be the secret. Always hitting traffic on your way to work. You take a left instead of a right, and magic, you avoid the jam. You call someone in the afternoon instead of the morning because they are usually short with you. Come to find out, all they need is a decent start to the day and a meal.

A simple flip of the script makes things better. Zig when you normally zag. Even if things are well, maybe they could be better. Tighten it up!


Green Grass

The grass is not always greener. You start to let it slip because your eyes are elsewhere thinking a new situation will make it better. In reality, you are in a good spot but fail to appreciate it. One little mistake builds on itself creating a snowball effect. Take your eye off the ball, and it blows by you.

Newer is not necessarily better. A company knows the right things to say to get you over there. Then, you start to realize nothing is different and more money is not necessarily better. Your emotional health is more important than a few extra thousand dollars.

Let's go back to the umpire. Umping a major league game is the pinnacle. More money. More stature. More amenities. Yet, the stage may be too big at the time. Being an overseasoned veteran is better than an unprepared rookie. Tighten it up, rookie!



Some words of encouragement are necessary. The delivery and word choice can vary, but the message remains the same. Get your stuff together. Be better. Tighten up.

This wakeup call, like motivation, should not be called on often. Discipline and pride should carry team members through most of the year. But every once in a while, you have to tell your team to tighten up and get it together.

The grass is not always greener, and they will experience that once they leave. The rigors and standards put in place are to guide them during difficult times, not control them. With constraints, your team becomes more effective and even happier. Play within the sandbox and all is well. Step outside the sandbox and a reminder is given.

If something is not working, change. Always remember the definition of insanity. You want to keep pounding your head against the wall expecting things to change, have at it. Others decide to navigate the murky waters to better outcomes.

As Aaron Boone said, “Tighten it up right now, OKAY?!?”

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