“But, if a forklift driver has enough experience on the resume, and properly answers a few questions, isn’t that enough for the manager to make the right hiring decision?” I asked.
“One would think,” Pablo replied. “But, it begs the age-old question, ‘How big is the role? And, how big is the person?’ Two questions, pretty simple.”
“I am following you, but, I don’t think it is as simple as you say. Or else, we would have figured it out by now.”
“Often, it is because we are looking, desperately so, in the wrong places. We think if we can simply understand human behavior, it will all fall into place. So, we try to measure human behavior. If you ask any CEO their biggest challenge, it is almost always, right people, right seats. Even psychologists struggle with measuring human behavior. They arrive at psychometric assessments with some statistical repeatability that they call reliable. The problem is, just because I can demonstrate repeatability in one measured system does not mean it is causative or a predictive indicator for something else. Where the art of engineering is built on objective measures of physics, and medicine is built on objective measures in anatomy, physiology and bio-chemistry, the art of management is, for the most part, built on alchemy, which is of little use in predicting decision making and problem solving.”
“Objective measures, in the art of management? Predictive in decision making and problem solving?” I repeated the statement as a question.
Pablo nodded. “Let me give you three buckets of water, one iced-cold, one room temperature and one heated, but not boiling. Put your right hand in the heated bucket and your left hand in the iced-cold bucket. After a moment, remove your right hand and place it in the room temperature bucket. Is the water warm or cold?”
“It will appear cold, because of the change in temperature,” I replied.
“Now, take your left hand from the iced-cold bucket and place it in the room temperature bucket. Is the water warm or cold?”
“To my left hand, it will appear warm, while my right hand in the same bucket will feel cold.”
“Well, which is it?” Pablo asked. “Warm or cold?”
“It depends on the context,” I nodded.
“Change the context, behavior follows,” Pablo smiled. And waited. “And if I placed a thermometer in the room temperature water and said, ‘your experience of the water, whether warm or cold is of little consequence, the water is 75 degrees.’”
“Now, we have an objective measure upon which we can all agree, no matter if it feels warm or cold, the water is 75 degrees. What does that have to do with management?” I wanted to know.
“Even more important,” Pablo replied, “what would an objective measure have to do with the art of decision making and problem solving? How big is the role, how big is the person?”