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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Is baseball like business? A wonderfully irrelevant idea from a department that rarely has any; THE most important job - and why I'm thrilled to bits

My regular correspondent Andrew Gadsden - Saviour of Tea - sent me two things yesterday, both with a lesson.

One (I think it was a joke: he is a bit of a wag) told me that at last I can buy a falafel franchise.

I have a great interest in franchises: I ran the first ever franchise exhibition in this country at the Lancaster Gate Hotel in 1969. But I have no interest in falafel, which I regard as not far removed from loose cement with flavouring.

The other thing he mentioned was a new piece of folly among HR people.

The great French leader Clemenceau said that war is too important to be left to the generals. In my view, people are too important to be left to HR departments.

When I came into business the phrase Human Resources was unknown. They had personnel departments. I guess that sounded too dull, so someone devised the new name - which reeks of inhumanity - to make them sound more important.

Tonight in my speech for the Royal Mail I shall suggest, among other things, that the most important asset in any business is people.

I have always thought finding and training good people is my number one job. In the last year I have found three excellent copywriters. I am thrilled to bits. I hope they will free me to write two new books.

But what HR person can spot a potentially good copywriter or art director, or recognise the likely traits?

Anyhow the Human Resources drones are all a-flutter because of a film about a baseball manager who has managed to find under-priced players with real potential and do extremely well as result (most professional sport is about buying and selling nowadays).

Now baseball is a sport which revels in statistics about even the tiniest details. It is easy to compile them. How many home runs and such.

Is business like that? There are very few equivalent statistics.

"Was in the top quartile last year for long and boring reports"; "Managed to stay on as Marketing Director of a bank without being found out for 18 months (20% more than average)"; "Was able to stamp out any new ideas for 9 months - a new record for his department"; Attended 53% more pointless meetings than his counterparts"; "Wasted £49 million on a re-branding that failed" - and so on.

Anyhow, here's the piece in question: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/04/16/moneyball-and-the-hr-department/

And if you want a few more insights like the ones above, well, you'll have to come to Bristol on May 30th, when I shall tell you about a few of the things I got wrong, so you don't have to.

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