Georgians need to start judging their bosses
10 October, 2013
There is a new term being used more and more in the west - “Big Data”. This means not one or twenty measurements but a very large number of measurements or data points. These can come from many points for those who know how to get them, and can clarify a great deal in a graph or a map or used in other ways. In large organizations it is now very common to use them to judge employees but more
importantly to judge managers. It is also being used to judge municipal services and many other things that a government does. With it, you can make decisions based on data rather than guesses. All over Europe and North America and increasingly in Asia, businesses and governments are using big data to improve judgment and decision making.
An example: Google is the company that is the most difficult to get a job with in the world. They pay high salaries, it is fun, and they are very good at using data. They found that in hiring people, when they look at who interviewed people and how those new employees did after a few years, that nobody was good at interviewing, or nobody was better than anybody else, the correlation was random.

They also found that except for one or two years out of university, good grades were not a good predictor of success on the job because they need people who are creative not people who are good at taking exams. And people learn and change over time, or they should. But most interesting is Google’s work with data as it applies to their managers. Several years ago they started a system where all the subordinates of a particular manager judge him or her according to fifteen different parameters. It is all anonymous. The managers are then told how well they communicate, if they are fair or not, do they support their team or not according to their employees. They even receive some written advice anonymously. They are expected to improve and they do.

Since it is anonymous and it is all in the spirit of helping the managers improve rather than firing them, people participate and change their behavior. It is easy to do. There are several software firms that provide the very simple software to do it.

The biggest advantage is that it uses the opinion of those on the bottom of the hierarchy. As we know, this is not so common in Georgia. The usual situation in Georgia is that the boss is right by definition. The right thing is what the boss thinks and what the boss does. This is idiotic. It is just because there is nobody to tell the boss that what he (and it is usually a he) is doing could be done in a better way. Finding that is the key to improvement.

The same is true for the government. Since the change in government the Civil and Public Registry has begun to move as slow as mud. There are many new people and they are so afraid of making a mistake in front of their bosses sitting above that they constantly refuse to take documents, and find tiny excuses not to register things. Big data could solve this if gathered and looked at correctly. And the same is true for many other parts of the government. Even publishing data about parts of the government, what administrative actions are done at what speed, would be a big help. It would help the ministries and local governments know what is working and what is not, according to the population and the objective criteria of data rather than simply surveys or opinions.

The government of Georgia is slowly beginning to collect a great deal of data about itself and what it does. And there is a behind-the-scenes conversation about who owns that data. Do the people get to see it? Can the government hide it? The old way is to say that people can request it if they know it exists but of course usually they don’t and it comes out on paper or some other twentieth century format. Now the most forward thinking governments are saying that all data needs to be released except in some special or unusual circumstances. This can really help the people know what the government is and isn’t doing and can lead to great insight on government operations.

But a good start is in the private sector for employers to use this tool with managers just as Google does. Why not? Are they afraid of what they will hear? The reality is there are plenty of managers in Georgia as everywhere that aren’t sure what to do, are worried about their investment and so they yell at their chief executives. It is the same at banks and in restaurants or any other business or part of the government. The directors then turn around and yell at their employees down the chain. The best way to break that cycle and incentivize managers to improve their work is to ask in a non threatening anonymous way all their employees what they need to do more or less of and share the data.