Thursday, March 6, 2014
The New Up and Coming "Money Ball"
Here's a recent article from the Journal concerning the new technology available to sports managers to assess performance. It's no surprise that this is starting out in baseball, with its discrete, individual plays, easily captured and measured by the camera systems. Presumably something similar to this will be coming shortly for sports like basketball, hockey, lacrosse, etc. (basketball already has a slightly less effective player/position measurement system in use; what's described in this article will refine it considerably). I don't know if NFL football will ever get to the point of accurate measurement described in the article, because there are too many people moving in close proximity for precision tracking by the cameras.
This type of system poses an interesting question for employers generally. How much observation of the workforce makes sense for effective management? I've commented previously on employers using RFID tracking to follow employees around the office, in an effort to determine optimal seating arrangements, office usage, break times, etc. Some employers continually monitor computer workstation activity to measure employee performance. But at some point, doesn't this become self-defeating? A workforce that believes itself to be 100% monitored 100% of the time does not sound like a happy or productive group. And while measurements of speed, strength, and reaction time lend themselves nicely to sabermetrics, the truth is that people are not continuously productive throughout their days at work. Some people get a lot of work done immediately and then coast through the afternoon; some people are more productive later in the day; some people are highly effective procrastinators who leave everything until the last minute. The observation systems described in this article would seem to move people in the direction of some type of continuous level of effort that would not accommodate their idiosyncratic strengths (or weaknesses).
Of course, professional athletes making a fair amount of money for playing a game usually understand that their effort level on the field is required to be a consistently high, and most of them have grown up being filmed from the time they were in middle school. Observation is probably less of an issue for these folks. But for the normal workplace, I would guess the act of generating this kind of data would create more problems than it solved.