We have a new soccer World Champion. Until last night, it was The Netherlands, now it is Spain (congratulations!).
“The Netherlands soccer World Champion until yesterday?”, you might ask. Yes, as long as we talk about the “Unofficial Football (soccer) World Championships” (UFWC). The UFWC, for those who never heard of it (and that’s probably the majority of readers), is an alternative way of determining the best soccer team on the planet. Starting with the first victory ever in an international game in 1873 (!) between Scotland and England, it applies the rules of boxing to soccer: If a reigning World Champion wins or draws a match, the title is defended and stays with the country, if the match is lost, the opponent is the new World Champion.
The final last night was the 835th UFWC title match, and as the Netherlands went into the cup as Champions and made it to the final, so something rather rare happened last night: A title unification. The unofficial and the official (FIFA) World Champion is the same team. Spain is only the 8th country ever to hold that undisputed title. They might even get the triple title next Wednesday. That’s the day when another measurement, the next FIFA World Ranking, will be released. Spain went into the World Cup tournament being second in that ranking (behind Brazil), so they most probably will also be the leaders on that scale.
So we have at least three different methods to determine who’s the best in the world of soccer. And keep in mind that we are talking about a game with a clear scoreline once the match is over.
A clear scoreline does not come too often in the business world. There are some jobs where it is quite feasible to determine who performed best. If one guy in a store sells 5 mobile phone contracts while his colleague sells 20 the picture is rather clear (but even then there might be anteceding variables that make the picture fuzzier). However, in most jobs that’s not the case. How do you want to determine which one of the two highly talented guys working on a strategy is more capable than the other?
But do you have to? Most people say yes, because how else would you determine how much variable remuneration each one of them receives? Or who should first be promoted? Or who should lead the next strategy project?
What a dilemma. It’s fuzzy, yet companies have to come up with a clean process. So they come up with appraisal processes with clearly defined scales, Assessment Centers, pseudo-measurable targets, etc. just to make the immeasurable measurable. The result is that there are many different views – just like the ones about the best soccer team.
What would be the solution? And is there one?
No, I don’t have the golden key to unlock the problem. But when you look back at yesterday’s final: After watching it, would you believe that the best two teams in the world were playing? It was an awful game to watch with two awful teams playing that night (and the less awful one winning). You don’t need any statistics or a scoreline for that, you just know it from watching the game.
I believe that the same is true in our jobs. Good people know just from watching the game and watching people working who is capable and who isn’t. Don’t believe in figures only, bring in a human factor into the evaluation process. One that is not bound to a scale. It’s not an easy task as you don’t want to give too much room to sympathy, therefore enabling the people to evaluate what others do is the key.
And that brings us to the real solution: Not only is that enablement good because it helps to come to a conclusion on the level of evaluation, but also because those evaluating can help others to improve. And that’s what it should be all about: Improving. Every one of us, every day.
If we share that goal, we will not care about any marks in our evaluation anyway. At least in my dream of a grown up organization.