Sports numbers

Trailhead: Tim Britton. Prospectus Q&A: Rich Hill, Ace Pitcher. Baseball Prospectus (2015-05-23).

“I don't dive all in to every stat. I think you can do paralysis by analysis. But if you can say one thing will help this guy realize that, 'Hey, your curveball is your best pitch. If you throw that at a higher percentage, you're going to be more successful,' why wouldn't that be something the player wants to hear? It benefits the player, benefits the team, benefits the organization. You take it for face value and understand what it is. I really believe if you can have the player understand what some of the numbers mean—not all the numbers, just some of the numbers—you can improve the player. Even if it's by one percent, you're getting a lot better.”

Metrics. Even in sports—especially in sports.

But this description of metrics catches two things that we don't do well on the job sometime:

  1. We often don't tell the person being measured what the numbers mean and why we're doing it. It's for the people above, not the people below.
  2. When we provide metrics to the people doing the work it's often "well here they all are". It's an incoherent pile.
  3. The metrics are "how many widgets did you make", not "how well did you make the widgets", so it doesn't necessarily lead to better performance, but maybe more things performed

None of those complaints are universal or constant, but they exist. I often lean on sports and it's metaphors or things like leadership and training. But I'm wondering if they're way ahead of us in our technical industry in terms of technical metrics—or at least meaningful ones. It could be that I'm just missing out (they seem to have good dashboards on the manufacturing floor), but I'm also thinking that it's worth stealing metrics from baseball and other sports—either literally or as analogs—and bringing them to work. At the absolute least it could inject some fun into what we do.

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