Leadership & Culture | Jan 26, 2017
The Houston Astros’ Special Assistant to the GM, Process Improvement reveals his greatest blunder.

Sig Mejdal’s role at the Houston Astros is Special Assistant to the GM, Process Improvement. His work sees him support the development, implementation and supervising of improvement programmes across the club. Mejdal’s acquisition from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he worked between 2005 and 2011, was something of a coup. Armed with two engineering degrees from the University of California at Davis, his work took him to aerospace company Lockheed Martin and NASA before he entered baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals. His analytical acumen, which is further bolstered by advanced degrees in Operations Research and Cognitive Psychology/Human Factors at San Jose State University, is rooted in the fabled field of sabermetrics, which was made famous by Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s and Michael Lewis’ book Moneyball.

From the MLB Draft to Major League trades, whenever player personnel enter the ranks at Houston one can be almost certain that Mejdal has been consulted. In 2016, the team had some of the most promising rookies in the Major League, including Alex Bregman, Chris Devenski, Teoscar Hernandez. So much has gone right but we probed him about those inevitable moments when mistakes happen. In the latest of our new series on the Leaders Performance Institute, Mejdal reflects on the biggest mistake of his career, and the lessons he learnt from it.

“I think it was my ignorance of change management. I didn’t know this entire field even existed. We did our best to follow the well documented steps and processes out there. So the early on steps are creating a vision and this is from the upper management, a vision that needs to be spread out to everybody and so the ownership, GM, need to spread that message and create the initiatives that will be more specific to follow the vision. That also involves everybody creating the momentum and the energy to keep the change going; and if it’s about innovation you need to work to realise that innovation before the bad guys do.

“We made a point of celebrating small successes – in fact this is critical to change management – and we’d go out of our way to give kudos to those who’d done well, which goes back to sustaining that energy and keeping the momentum going for what is a difficult experience for anybody; handling change.

“However, when I look back, or even now when I read books on change management, books which state what not to do, it was as if someone was over my shoulder watching what I did. However, when I reflect, I made every mistake presented in those change management books because I didn’t know those books even existed, so that’s why I would have loved to have known before I got in this field was how the field of change management could affect someone like myself.”

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