While Mike Forde was building a sports performance company, consulting for teams seeking championships like the NBA Spurs; the NFL Falcons, Rams and 49ers; together with Olympic athletes and Tour de France winners, and as an executive of Chelsea FC, he developed a branch of research. The goal: to examine hiring trends across various sports to better advise consulting executives and coaches. Sportsology It’s what Forde calls it.
He mentioned this in a separate call, for another story, when another NFL hiring cycle began to take shape beginning with a series of layoffs late last season, four that took place before the schedule shifted to December. His research arm was extended after seven franchises decided on new leadership and after his team had analyzed the data. He highlighted how small teams broke with recent trends and how much the next group of owners starting in new directions should consider both diversity of thought and diversity in general.
The research group defined a new leadership role as hiring a general manager or the equivalent level of organizational power. That put seven NFL franchises (the Falcons, Panthers, Broncos, Lions, Texans, Jaguars, and the Washington Football Team) in their 2021 hiring cycle study. Based on trends from the previous five seasons, six of Those seven teams hired someone with scouting experience (the WFT didn’t, technically, since Martin Mayhew came from soccer operations, but he also had years of personal experience), six of the seven hired outside the organization ( the Jaguars promoted Trent Baalke) and five out of seven hired someone to take on that level of leadership for the first time (with Mayhew and Baalke as exceptions, and, according to the folks at Sportsology, both were hired in chief in the coaches in which neither of them will have the last word in the decisions of the list)
All seven hires were between 40 and 56 years old and had NFL experience for 18 to 22 seasons. There was more turnover (2.5 vacancies above the average), a much longer average hiring time (54 days, when the average of the five previous seasons was 13) and the number of external hires was higher than the same average in 24.1%. . This seemed to speak primarily of the number of weaker teams that laid off general managers (or the equivalent) prior to the season ended, which took longer before new hires could be made, given the NFL’s handling rules. The Sportsology Research Folks: Marcus Jones, NFL’s chief of research knowledge; Patrick Manhire, Vice President of Executive Search; and Chris Brady (yes, every pro football story somehow relates to a Brady), director of research, don’t see the longest time to hire as a trend.
The most relevant conclusion is that, despite calls for more diversity, despite rules designed to correct long-standing and implicit biases, despite the 2020 race riots Y Despite data from Sportsology showing no appreciable gain or loss from hiring a general manager with scouting experience, NFL franchises continue to hire the same types of people. Through the exact same processes. Similar results, if not disappointing. In fact, of the last 19 hiring of leaders in the analyzed group, only three had resumes that contained previous experience at the highest level of an organization. In other words, and this is Illustrated SportsThe bottom line, not the researchers’ opinion: NFL teams view GM’s role as first and foremost a scout.
On many levels, that makes sense. General managers generally pick players and shape rosters, and an exploration experience is not only helpful in those activities, but is also necessary. And yet what seems obvious – that general managers with that particular experience would ultimately choose better players and build better teams – is not the reality of recent NFL history. General managers with experience in managing salary caps, contract negotiations, and soccer operations won at a slightly higher rate (59.2%) between 2015 and 2020 than teams with leaders with exploration DNA (55.5%). %). The best win rate came from a sample size of one: a de facto general manager with coaching experience, Bill Belichick.
For new leadership hires in that same time span, cap / contract GMs won at a rate of 50.3% (excluding Sashi Brown’s career in Cleveland, when the front office was collapsing), while headhunter types won with 49.1%. Of the background scouts, only Chiefs general manager Brett Veach can claim a Super Bowl (LIV) title, and he was an internal candidate promoted to general manager in 2017.
The question these numbers pose is: Why? Why not take a chance? Try a leader from another origin? Not making the same mistakes other teams are making? Researchers don’t know an exact answer to this. Surely some of the trends stem from the NFL’s status as a copycat league, where teams look at successful franchises – like Veach, a scout-turned-general manager in Kansas City – and try to emulate what worked elsewhere. But why can’t one DJ be in charge of more players? Why can’t they be in charge of culture? From building processes? How does a rig fit together once assembled, not just during assembly? The numbers just don’t support an argument for the power of the silo and compartmentalizing what happens in and out of season.
If anything, the researchers advocate a more differentiated approach. There is no right answer, no easy solution. It’s more like: Try something else, someone else, to achieve a more desired result, rather than continuing down the same path and expecting a different result.
That would start, Forde says, with any franchise clearly defining what it wants from that kind of leadership position. When Brady did similar research in the business world, they called him undertaking a Functional analysis. Start with who reports to whom, how the power structure operates, and, in the case of NFL franchises, why a general manager would receive such an important title, but not the actual power that title would confer. Just participating in this exercise would help teams better identify internal talent.
Franchises that lean toward the norm, seeking outsourced leadership with exploration experience, do not follow the decision theory process that researcher Brady believes all large organizations must go through. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s get someone to change things,’ but the research shows that’s not working,” says Brady. “My previous research shows me that that doesn’t work. You could also flip a coin. “
What these teams need, all researchers agree, is more diversity of thought. They call this concept cognitive diversity, and its construction begins by hiring people in leadership positions of different races, ethnicities and origins. Naturally, a more diverse group would come on various topics and team-building exercises with more varied opinions, more solutions that deviate from conventional thinking, less more of the same. The point is not to make diverse hires just to check boxes, but rather to change the way organizations think and solve problems. “The time for lip service about the diversity debate is over and real action is required,” the same research team wrote in another article: The Ethical and Performance Imperatives of Diversity for Headquarters.
In that analysis, the researchers cite many typical and troubling themes: that the 2018 Census of Diversity of Women and Minorities on the Fortune 500 Councils showed that 80% of positions held by white people, with 60% held by men white; that organizations with diverse senior management teams were up to 33% “more likely to outperform their competitors financially” (McKinsey study); and that the difference between non-diverse and diverse organizations was 12% in revenue from 2018 to now (Gartner report).
Given those kinds of numbers, it’s not surprising and deeply discouraging that organizations in particular industries, like the NFL, continue to hire the same kinds of people, mostly people with scouting experience, which means white men, because people with experience in scouting. scan are typically white males. The portfolio itself is not diverse, limiting the pool of applicants for jobs that women and minority applicants already face a greater chance of landing. That’s where it gets cyclical. With fewer applicants and fewer vacancies, the central offices remain homogeneous, without changing the number of candidates or their opportunities. Which brings you back to the same place: fewer candidates, more prepared excuses. And, to the extent that Sportsology is doing, a more homogeneous front office tends to think more homogeneously. That’s why nothing seems to change when it comes to recruiting NFL leaders.
“Cognitive diversity may be a silent bystander in a diversity debate,” the researchers write, “… but it is crucial for high performance and innovation.”
That means building the pool of applicants. That means making the interviews real rather than symbolic, to satisfy one rule or another. That means transparency in employee diversity data. That means creating a more welcoming culture and maintaining it. All of which should lead to more significant changes, given Sportsology’s data and analysis. Correct?
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.