Moneyball for Defence
Whilst we’ve been out on the road, visiting Modern Day Marine, we’ve had a chance to get back to our roots. Not in the traditional sense of the expression – we are a UK veteran-owned company after all, and are proud to be that, and we are hardly experts in the fascinating game of Baseball – but in a much more important, albeit metaphorical sense.
Cervus are a data analytics company. It’s what we do, and what our customers tell us we do well. We thrive on finding the hard-to-reach data that is already out there (usually unmanaged) and take an ‘open approach’ to analytics and performance measurement at the individual, team and organisational levels. This source agnostic, objective measurement methodology is a game-changing differentiator for a range of Defence and Security applications in the same way that Billy Beane’s approach to the management of the Oakland A’s revolutionised the game of baseball in 2002*. His approach was innovative then – as ours is here and now in a different, but comparable, environment.
Beane’s use of data was not well understood, and often flew in the face if the prevailing wisdom of the time; subjectivity and the ‘old ways’ were deeply entrenched in the system. Beane was ‘data driven’ – as we are – and it bore results that none of the traditionalists expected. He took the 3rd smallest budget team in the MLB (Major League Baseball as our new American friends at the ballpark were kind enough to explain the details of!) and managed to get them to the playoffs – as well as proving that they could be competitive with teams on a budget three times their own.
We think of the unfair game described in the book as being analogous to the operational and training environments that Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Air Force personnel find themselves in. They are complex, pressured and the results matter. Whilst there will always be a place for subjectivity in performance measurement, there is less and less need to rely on it as the only way to assess; some things are far better counted and measured objectively, some indicators are simply more adequately described through analytics, some things need to avoid the biases and heuristics of ‘people in the loop’ to help inform the best possible outcomes.
Working out here with the United States Marine Corps, at Modern Day Marine has been amazingly rewarding – because they “get it” and want to see more data in the decision making. We couldn’t be happier to keep driving forward with them, and expanding our presence in the US. Nor could we be more grateful to our American cousins for explaining what on earth was going on on the pitch!
* as described in Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball: the art of wining an unfair game” (Published by WW Norton & Company in Jun 2003) and depicted in the film “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (released in 2011).