Adjusted plus/minus in the workplace

One of the more interesting stories to emerge in the past 12 months from an unusual source is the use of an "adjusted plus/minus" metric to measure the true worth of individuals to the team in basketball.

This concept first came to my attention via Tom Davenport, who suggested that HR could use a similar metric in business.

After sharing this story with actKM, Kaye Vivian inspired me to think more about how this metric could be applied in practice.

Here are some of the reasons why adjusted plus/minus works so well in basketball:

  • Repeating, contained scenarios (each game has fixed start and end points)
  • Comparatively fixed pool of participants
  • Frequent and easily observable changes in teaming (ie as people come on and off the bench)
  • Short, medium and long term quantifiable and trackable outcomes (point, match, season)

This kind of situation does occur in business, but it's not all that common. Places where I believe proper team analytics could prove its worth are:

  • Call centres
  • Help desks
  • Sales staff
  • Manufacturing operations

Interestingly, these are also places where individual performance measures and incentives are commonly used. It's also where stories frequently crop up on how individuals end up acting selfishly and against the team's interest. So I believe there is a real opportunity here.

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