Green Bay Packers fullback William Henderson isnt known for his gaudy statistics. He doesnt pass for 210 yards a game like quarterback Brett Favre and doesnt average eight tackles like linebacker Nick Barnett. His metric: "dominating blocks." And Henderson wants two a game.
You wont see dominating blocks on a fantasy football site or in a box score. But its a metric Green Bay finds critical to its success and the primary way the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Hendersons performance is graded every week.
"A dominating block is one where I totally remove a player from the play and he has no hands in a tackle," explains Henderson. "Ideally, I knock him on his backside and he has no access to the running back. I try to average two a game."
Developing pro football players—and corporate employees, for that matter—is an inexact science. Part of the equation is based on intangibles (character, or how that employee performs when it counts—whether its the Packers quarterback in a playoff game or your project manager in a budget meeting). But another part is based on statistical evaluation (say, sales quotas or third-down efficiency), and its here that Green Bay thinks it has an edge.
The tools Green Bay uses to manage its talent are similar to those in the business world. Corporate dashboards of metrics such as revenue per employee and inventory turnover provide road maps to meet goals that are then filtered down to employees in sales quotas and product management goals.
However, Green Bay tracks employees more quickly and in greater detail than many other teams—and most corporations. Increasingly, technology in the form of digital video and a computerized database is being used for statistical analysis and business intelligence, allowing management to swiftly check employees work habits and rapidly develop performance improvement plans. Its a key reason the team—one of the most storied franchises in the NFL, with a record 12 league championships and three Super Bowl titles—is increasingly developing new player metrics such as dominating blocks.
By keeping track of a players weekly game performance, quantifying it in terms of number of catches or runs, and then analyzing the technique and success of each completion or rush, the team is able to build up a database of what a player is executing well and where he needs to improve. The Packers coaching staff can then easily spot problems, initiate corrective action, and enhance even their superstars performance.
The result: In Green Bay, employee development is a week-to-week and day-to-day project, not something conducted quarterly or annually as it is in most corporations.
Kenneth Shropshire, a professor at the University of Pennsylvanias Wharton School of Business and a sports business expert, says business could take a page out of Green Bays playbook by more closely monitoring employees during events such as business meetings or sales calls, grading their performances and developing improvement plans. While he says some organizations do this to some degree—such as call centers monitoring phone exchanges—few companies do it consistently.
"When you are in the middle of events—game time or a season—you want that instant feedback to make good decisions," says Shropshire.