“We walk into the gym, and Larry, Ed and Fred are sitting at the judges’ table — and their kids are out there on the floor trying out! We were told the process was going to be fair, but how can that possibly be fair?” said Sally, the mom of a kid trying out for the third grade travel basketball team.
As one whose kid was not trying out for the travel team (Tyler wrestles in the winter and so just wanted to do rec basketball), I had an interesting vantage point on these developments, knowing many of the parties involved from other sports in which Tyler participates.
Sally, and some of the other parents who were not coaching or evaluating the players, were annoyed that those with skin in the game were deciding who would play in the games. Never having been through something like this before, I was pretty amazed that those in charge would have set themselves up for such obvious concerns by developing such a questionable process.
Why, I wondered, would they not bring in some outside basketball experts with no vested interests in the players to do the evaluation? Why would they want their kids (if they did make the team) to do so under a cloud of suspicion that they only were able to with a little help from their parents?
I even went so far as to speak with a guy I know at my gym who teaches basketball to kids. His response: no, it doesn’t make sense to do things the way my town was doing them, but that’s the way most towns do it. Why? Because it’s easier than bringing in outside experts and spending a few bucks.
If I were asked to handle such a process, I would surely have gone the more expensive route, knowing that it would have given everyone — those who made it, those who didn’t, their parents, and me — much greater comfort in the outcome. Because, you see, it is process that gives comfort in outcome, not personnel. No matter how fair someone claims to be, or even actually is, if they have apparent or real conflicts of interest, their decision lacks legitimacy.
So when I was speaking with folks about this issue, and those who didn’t think the existing process was all that bad said something like: “Well, Larry’s kid is the best basketball player in town, so it really doesn’t matter that he’s evaluating his own kid. There’s no question he’d make it,” it doesn’t mean a thing — you cannot rectify bad process with good personnel.
I would have raised the funds for the outside experts by charging an application fee to tryouts. I would have had my experts create the criteria for selection and done the scoring in two sessions on separate days (so as to avoid the “my kid was sick for the only tryout” issue).
Oh, and the other thing — about two weeks after the final tryout, a few of the parents were asking around to see if anyone had heard anything about who made it and who didn’t.
“They didn’t tell you when they were going to notify people?” I asked.
“Are they going to notify everyone or just those who made it?” I asked.
We don’t know.
“Are they going to post the list somewhere for everyone to see?”
Again, bad process. Everyone should have left the tryouts knowing the next step; knowing when and how they would have been informed about the fate of their eager athletes.
Now, this is a small example of how a selection process needs to be fair on its face (without inserting personalities as a defense) for the outcome to be accepted by all. And though a small example, it relates very well to a process you deal with every day — IT governance. For each project on the departmental wish list is like a child, and each sponsor its parent. You, as CIO, don’t want to be the judge because you’re going to wind up with lots of angry parents and crying kids, all blaming you for ruining their chances at the NBA. You had better have a nice, clean and clear governance process in which all projects get a fair hearing by those with no vested interested in the outcome other than the overall health of your health system.
This process is so important we highlighted it a while back in a webinar featuring our good buddy Chuck Podesta, CIO at UC Irvine Health.
Chuck is a super smart guy with a big heart, but not so big he gets it caught in the crosshairs of someone who had the project of their dreams turned down. Chuck relies on a bullet proof process (as we all should) to ensure that while not everyone may go away happy, they at least don’t go away slighted and aggrieved.