Dec 22 2009

Filling Roles

It has been said that what distinguishes great golfers from not-so-great golfers is not the quality of their good shots, but the quality of their bad shots. While their good shots do not differ very much, the great golfers’ bad shots are much better than the not-so-great golfers’ bad shots.

The administrative lesson to take from this is that you assign roles based on trying to minimize the likely badness of the poorest aspect of fit of each individual to their role, rather than trying to maximize the likely goodness of the best aspect of fit of each individual to their role.


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  1. 1
    Funky Fresh

    It has been said…

    Where’s my motherfucking red pen?

  2. 2

    In other words, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The art of management comes down to keeping the weakest links from snapping, huh? Sounds good.

  3. 3
    Spiny Norman

    “you assign roles based on trying to minimize the likely badness of the poorest aspect of fit of each individual to their role”

    That depends entirely on the importance of said roles. If someone is going to do something important superlatively well, and something of middling importance poorly…

    This kind of hyperovergeneralization is why no book on “management” ever written is any good at all.

  4. 4

    But then you risk making your greatest talent handle the housekeeping work that keeps the lights on, do you not?

    Take goal-based sport where offense and defense are moderately distinct roles- hockey and soccer. Do you put your best player on defense?

  5. 5
    Comrade PhysioProf

    In hockey and lacrosse, the most athletically talented player is frequently put in goal.

  6. 6

    A cynic’s guide to mangement; I like.

  7. 7

    for certain values of “talent” yes.

    answer the defense/offense question though

  8. 8
    The Barefoot Bum

    This is a well-understood strategy in game theory (minimax) and economics (minimizing opportunity cost).

    It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s proven mathematically.

  9. 9

    Bad shots are bad shots. They happen regardless of the power and preparedness
    of golfers. The bad shot likelihood (usually) is not the most objective criterion to decide wether to place him in defense or offense. However, there are particular situations in which, yes, that criterion should be the strategic deciding one.

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