Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Olympic Badminton Scandal … will people ever learn?

I took a course in Boston back in the early 90s called “Controlling Software Projects” by the brilliant team of Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister. Look for their terrific book called “Peopleware” if you want to see how strong teams are built (or not.)

Anyway … today’s badminton scandal is the direct result of not following the advice I got in that course. Eight players are going to lose their chance at Olympic glory – not because they cheated (although they did), but because they were forced to behave badly by the governing body’s choice to create a round robin tournament instead of a knock out tournament.

So what did I learn in Boston? Several things:

  • If you are not measuring it, it is not getting better
  • Keep your measurements simple and easily interpreted
  • People behave how you incent them to behave

That last one is directly applicable here. These people used to be incented to compete fiercely for every match, because to lose was to be bounced from the Olympics. Now, they are incented to strategically place themselves in a favorable position once they have qualified for the knock out stage. That means that the final game is disposable. Very bad idea.

When, exactly, will people learn to keep it simple and direct and to incent people to perform?

The smart ones among you knew that this next bit was coming Smile

CEOs and boards of directors had their incentives changed since the 70s and the 80s. They are now incented for short term stock performance instead of long term corporate health and their contributions to mankind (lol.)

So what happens when you do that?

Every bad thing that we have seen in the last decade … and a lot more to come …