“It’s all about evaluating skills and putting a price on them.” “Thirty years ago, stockbrokers used to buy stock strictly by feel. Let’s put it this way: Anyone in the game with a 401(k) has a choice. They can choose a fund manager who manages their retirement by gut instinct, or one who chooses by research and analysis. I know which way I’d choose.”
– Billy Beane


The book, and subsequent movie, Moneyball, chronicled Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s, who in 2002 had the second lowest payroll in professional baseball but, was expected to field a competitive team against clubs with much higher payrolls. Beane found himself at odds with baseball insiders who relied on subjective data, gut feel and conventional wisdom to put a winning product on the field; it was the way it was always done. Sound familiar?

Beane himself was a product of subjective hiring. His failed playing career turned out dramatically different than the wild projections of success predicted by scouts when he was drafted. Beane, however, proved to be a better baseball executive than a player.  With a limited payroll and high expectations, Beane was forced to take an unorthodox approach to find players, undervalued by the market, and find value in those players.

Conventional wisdom looked at batting averages, stolen bases and runs batted in as the determining factor for drafting a player. Rigorous analysis, however, showed that on base percentages and batting performance were better factors for offensive success.  Beane turned to Sabermetrics, the search for ‘objective data’ in baseball, to fill his roster with affordable players. Armed with objective data and rigorous analysis, Bean was able to field a team with overlooked players that met his criteria; to get on base, giving them an opportunity to score!

The result of using objective data and analysis? The Oakland A’s beat their 2001 record and earned spots in the 2002 and 2003 playoffs. They also set the AL record for winning 20 consecutive games in 2002. The only team to eclipse this feat was the 1935 Chicago Cubs with 21.

Fast forward to today. Are you attempting to field a team using only subjective data and conventional wisdom? Are you doing so because that’s the way it’s always been done? As good as you are, are you in the camp of “I’ll know it when I see it?” If so, maybe it’s time to rethink your strategy and add some rigor, analysis and objective data into your selection process!

in-text-graphToday, advancements in technology and the behavioral sciences allow you to know more about an individual than you could learn in six months working with them; before they’re hired! Are they a fit? More importantly, are they the ‘right fit’ for your particular role?

If the job could actually talk, it would tell you what it needs for success; the competencies, behaviors and motivation needed to exceed in the role. It would also tell you if an incumbent is in the right role or whether that person should be repurposed in another role. Want to give the job a voice? You can and the technology is available. If you’d like a free Executive Briefing on how to give your jobs a voice, email me at jim@kellenjames.com.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to field the best team possible to accomplish your mission. Why trust this responsibility to a purely subjective and outdated guessing game or hunch? Like Billy Beane, rethink your strategy and put a winning team on the field!

Jim O’Hara is the President of Kellen James, an Advisory, Diagnostics and Search Consultancy that helps companies hire more accurately, manage more effectively and grow more efficiently.