If It's Good Enough for Your Fantasy Team...


Last week was the annual office fantasy football draft.  (As I've watched the news roll in about the 49ers defense since then, I wish we'd drafted a week later but that's a different post.)  In the days leading up to the draft we consulted experts, pored over rankings, reviewed stats, and tried our best to make projections about performance and value.

All of that preparation made me wonder if we approach our real-life functional work teams the same?  If we don't, there are several ways that we should.

Define the Metrics

Sure, this one is fairly easy for sports as the important numbers are already defined.  A great quarterback puts up a bunch of yards and completions, with many more touchdowns than interceptions. 

How about your production team?  Have you identified the metrics that drive success?  The number of calls handled, loans booked, or payments processed might be your equivalent of a quarterback's passing yards.  First call resolutions could be your touchdowns and rework your interceptions.  Whatever numbers drive your business, identify and measure them.  Then it will be easy to recognize your team leaders.

Take the Best Talent Available

We've all seen the posts on LinkedIn that read "Hire attitude and train skill" in fancy handwriting over a picture of an ocean sunset.  Those words are true.  It's much easier to help the right person gain new experience than to get the right experience to be a new person.  But, that's not always the way we promote and build our teams.  We often look for experience over aptitude.  It's not quite the Peter Principle, but it's close.

No way anyone would pick their fantasy team that way.  No one is picking Michael Vick over Russell  Wilson because he has spent more time playing quarterback. 

Balance the Team

Good fantasy teams are balanced and diverse.  We watch bye weeks when drafting to make sure our starters and backups aren't going to be off at the same time.  We don't draft multiple players from the same team because it increases risk.  If the quarterback has a bad year or gets hurt, will the wide receiver's numbers hold up?  Probably not.,  We even look at schedules and divisions and conferences when drafting.

The lawyer in one of my favorite short stories, Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville, tries to balance his team to comic and tragic results.  He already has Turkey - wonderful in the morning and worthless in the afternoon - and Nippers - the exact opposite - when he hires Bartleby in the hopes that he can bridge the two and calm the office.  I'd prefer no to tell the rest of the story, but if you've read it you know it doesn't end well.

The same is true as we build our work teams.  A team of all Turkeys or Nippers will never succeed.  An even mix of the two will only be half as productive as a same-sized balanced team.  It's important that each addition to the team fits and complements the other members.

Evaluate Performance

So, we've drafted our fantasy team.  One of the first things we do is get on their calendar for January and July performance reviews, right?  Of course not.  We look at their statistics each week, compare them to their peers and our needs and standards, and make constant adjustments to our lineups.  In a perfect world we're looking at leading indicators, such as practice time or reps with the first team, instead of waiting for the week to end to review the lags.

Is that how you manage performance on your team?  Is it a semi-annual kind of thing or do you measure and provide instant feedback? The teams that consistently review performance and expectations are better, and more accountable. 

The next time you're filling out that employee requisition form or conducting interviews, think about your fantasy football team.  If we were drafting a running back you'd look for a high-performer who fits within the makeup of our team.  But often we would look at experience in the computer system of record when hiring a processor or customer service rep.  Does that make sense?

I don't think it does. Now, I'm off to find a new defense.