Workforce Hierarchy and Bracketology: May the Best Team Win!

  • By: Tom McKeown
  • Blog
  • May 4, 2012

As the final moments of the Kansas vs. North Carolina NCAA basketball game ticked by Sunday and another top seed was falling, I found I was, as always this time of year, marveling at the greatness of the NCAA basketball, March Madness championship tournament.  If you win you proceed and if you lose you are out, regardless of the seeding and any preconceptions on anyone’s part.  I also couldn’t totally turn my work mind off and observed the similarities between brackets and workforce hierarchies.  Although the former usually starts from the top and builds downward and the latter starts on the sides and builds towards the center, they both have a seemingly common goal: to get the best party capable in every box.

There are many holes one can poke in this analogy, but open your mind and try and picture a way to bring playoff efficiency to selecting the best people to fill your company’s positions.  The major conferences in college basketball are the most experienced with how tournament selection works, and their leading contenders have been tested week in and week out against teams that will also make it to the tournament.  Look at these as your internal candidates to fill positions.  They won’t suffer any culture shock in playing for the title, but may not have what it takes to get beyond the first two rounds.  But, usually they are solid bets and are given a shot.

The smaller Division 1 conferences and independent teams are usually not as tested.  Often only one team, the conference champion gets to go from the smaller leagues, and an independent – if there are any left – has to rely on the large conference teams agreeing to play them during the regular season, so they can show their stuff on national television well enough to get noticed.  In other words they have to crash the party by bringing something unique to the table.  Those represent your outside candidates for positions.

Once you have picked your elite field you let them square off against each other for the privilege of running your company.  If you hire and develop well you will have the equivalent of Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (North Carolina), and Bill Self (Kansas) regularly on board helping drive record revenues and profits with the occasional Brad Stevens (Butler University) brought in to add new ideas.  Granted no solution is perfect, but when in doubt I favor open competition and leaving it all on the court.

An Avid Fan,

Tom McKeown

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Tom McKeown was recently the CEO and Co-founder of TrenData, which was acquired by isolved HCM in 2021. He currently manages the product team and business unit for their People Analytics offering.

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