Why do basketball scouts and analysts always seem to be fighting?
Can everyone can work together toward a common goal?
They work together on the same team.
Here’s what teams need to put in place.
It starts with the decision maker.
I previously wrote about what basketball analytics really means.
I encourage you to read it.
If you’re just bookmarked for later there, know this.
Scouting reports are a form of data, too.
They’re different types of data, but they’re both data. They both deserve respect and consideration.
A decision maker (often the general manager) needs to be willing to listen to everyone.
- Different types of basketball scouts
- Analytics people
- Other personnel people
- Medical staff
- Other advisers, and so on.
But like anyone, decision makers come from a particular background, whether it’s basketball scouting, coaching, or analytics.
They have their own biases. Like most of us, they’re predisposed to listening to people who think like them. We all do it. Just look at your social media feed.
But these slanted perspectives lead to subpar decisions, communication problems, and disputes within the organization.
It’s not where you want your mindset to be.
A decision maker must listen attentively to other points of view.
But a good decision maker plays a crucial role, an analytics program offers important support.
A great analytics system provides a huge boost.
A good analytics program can make decision making easier by bringing different types of data under one roof.
That’s where data centralization comes in. You want to keep scouting reports, statistics, medical reports, and video in one place.
A decision maker like a general manager can access it all easily without wasting time going to a bunch of different sources to get it.
It sounds really good, doesn’t it?
But let me tell you about faulty analytics programs.
They lack organization.
When organizations have disorganized systems, it becomes a lot harder to share information across departments.
That problem has consequences that go much deeper.
People don’t communicate well or as much. Divisions break out.
Then you get bad decisions and frustrated, angry employees who might not be employees for much longer because of those bad decisions.
It could have been avoided with real systems.
Too many organizations make these mistakes.
The Sports Analytics Use Survey (SAUS), which a few years ago explored how sports organizations use analytics, sheds light on the situation.
90% of teams said at least some of their data could only be accessed by a single person. Almost half admitted most of their data relied on one person!
Come on! I hope more organizations have worked on these issues since the survey.
When one person serves as gatekeeper for important information, the decision maker’s job becomes harder.
A team’s employees can’t come together when some people are listened to and others aren’t.
And when the decision maker only has one set of information, of course it’s that information they listen to.
This gatekeeping adds fuel to the flames of the scouting or statistical analysis argument.
Ben Alamar writes in Sports Analytics: A Guide For Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers:
Once a number is served to a decision maker, the tendency is to treat that number as a fact and either accept it as truth or dismiss it as trivial. In most cases the proper way to understand the analysis lies somewhere in between those two extremes. Only the decision maker can truly decide how to weight the results of quantitative analysis. But by probing the result and the process that led to the result, the decision maker can start to understand how much confidence the analysis deserves.
The best answers come from listening to all the different voices.
No one form of data holds all the answers.
Sorry, not even if you have well-researched numbers and charts.
But to make all that data available, you need those systems in place!
Without it all working together, your decision making makes incomplete and slanted, prone to mistakes and bias.
It is important to note that analytics models provide information; they do not make decisions. There are a host of factors that determine how successful a player will be at the professional level. Many of these can be accounted for in analytics models, but it is up to decision makers to weigh all of the relevant information. The goal of the analytic model is to support the decision making process through richer and more accurate input.
A good decision maker knows there’s a lot of information to consider. And they do it. Even though it means more work for them.
And a good analytics program makes it easier for that to happen.
Good systems get scouts and analysts on the same page.
So we explored why having a good decision maker and analytics program proves essential.
Even when interpersonal problems develop in an organization, a good analytics program can help mitigate the conflict.
And of course conflicts happen all the time! You have a bunch of people working 100-hour weeks together in a competitive environment. You’re going to have conflict.
It reminds me of a story Wayne Embry relates in his autobiography The Inside Game.
Embry, then general manager of the Cavaliers, explains a power struggle between him and coach Mike Fratello in 1997.
They had a big meeting coming up between Embry, the coaches, and ownership.
Embry noted “the coaches were acting secretly.” He knew something was up but he didn’t know what.
At the start of the joint meeting Fratello began explaining charts so comprehensive they were “enough to cover three walls.”
Embry, of course, had never seen these charts before.
Fratello put him on the spot in front of the owners.
Embry got yelled at. And soon after, the owners let him know he wouldn’t have his job much longer.
Of course this between Embry and Fratello went far beyond this single story. I don’t mean to use it as a doomsday scenario of bad analytics.
But it does illustrate a lack of information sharing between decision makers. This kind of thing contributes heavily to problems that impact the whole organization.
If the Cavaliers had a centralized information system in which Fratello’s data were supposed to be available to Embry, perhaps the outcome could have been better.
Takeaways for basketball scouts and analysts
Let’s wrap things up by reviewing these takeaways:
1. A great decision maker listens to all the different voices in making decisions.
You can practice this skill by considering your predispositions.
Are you a scout? A coach? A number cruncher?
Acknowledge it. Then go out of your way to make sure you include the other perspectives in your thought process too.
2. A great analytics system ensures all forms of data are easily available to the decision maker.
Start with your own information.
Do people have to come to your personally with a request?
Or is your data in a place where they can easily access it on their own?
Make sure the person who needs access can get to it easily.
3. Having the above two things in place leads to better communication and teamwork within the organization.
Make a concerted effort to include other points of view. The people you work with will feel appreciated and valued.
And they’ll feel included. That’s how you build a winning organization.
So that’s it for today. Basketball scouts and analysts can get along.