The Man from FCPA is a life-long Houston Astros fan. A recent book by Sports Illustrated writer Ben Reiter, “Astroball: The New Way to Win It All,” chronicled the rise of the Astros from literally the worst team in baseball to World Series champions. The book tells the story of how two people—Jeff Luhnow, the former director of scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals, and former NASA rocket scientist Sig Mejdal—changed the fortunes of the franchise and turned it into a winner. 

Team owner Jim Crane had the foresight to buy into Luhnow’s vision and the wherewithal to put up with people like me who were unpitying in their criticism of the Astros and their plan. It turns out they did have a plan and, more importantly, they executed it. 

The plan was to use data analytics to evaluate talent, then use another set of data to help develop that talent once the Astros had acquired it. The next step (which the Astros are still working on) is to use analytics to “consistently change the future.”  

These analytics tools provide not only feedback, but also measurable goals. They have also given the Astros a track record, or baseline, from which they can measure going forward. Reiter quoted one rival general manager who said, “I think they’ve unlocked a lot of things on the hitting side, and are more advanced in that area than anyone else.”

What does this mean for the compliance practitioner? It demonstrates the power of artificial intelligence and data analytics, but also why the human element is so critical in both baseball and compliance. From the Astros’ first strategy of talent acquisition, you need to wed the data to the emotional heart of a player. For the second part, it is having willing players, both on a ball team and in your organization, ready to use the data to improve how they play baseball or do business. The final step is to use data to make your compliance program a better driver of business efficiency and profitability.