The Miscalibration Principle

Do the “right” people do the “right” things “right” in your organization? If not (which is most probably) – then you might suffer from the miscalibration principle. The latter states that the discrepancies between what work is expected by a given individual and what is actually delivered / desired by / competent for increase with time. These discrepancies are defined as operational / motivational / competential miscalibrations respectively (with a joint name of occupation miscalibration) and further quantified through the so called occupation dominoes and occupation accordions. Hopefully by being aware of the miscalibration principle and by having the needed toolset (to capture and measure it) you might be able to outrun time and keep your organization calibrated.

The Occupation Dominoes

Numbers are not always the best way to communicate and understand a given phenomenon. For that reason the Occupation Vectors have a visual alternative called the Occupation Dominoes. The latter represent the time allocated for the 5P Occupation Model‘s aspects of work using tiles similar to the ones in the Dominoes Game. The squares from top to bottom stand for People, Processes, Products, Politics and Platforms while the pips correspond to 10% of time allocation (meaning that there are total of 10 pips on a tile). Given below are the occupation dominoes for the Scrum roles (which corresponding occupation vectors from the original article are 5:80:5:5:5 for Scrum Master, 0:5:80:5:10 for Product Owner and 0:20:10:0:70 for Software Developer).

The Miscalibration Principle - The Occupation Dominoes

As seen from the given example the mapping between the occupation vectors and the occupation dominoes is not unique. This is because the latter are coarse-grained (using pips of 10%) and thus less accurate. Still the greatest advantage of the occupation dominoes is that they are much more visually appealing and much simpler – making them easier to use and much more practical than the occupation vectors.
The occupation dominoes are called dominoes not only because of their visual similarity with the domino tiles but also because the name emphasizes that: (1) people occupying the same position or role should have similar (or even the same) occupation dominoes (thus allowing their arrangement into perfect lines); and (2) if a given position or role is not performed accordingly it causes a domino effect – dependent positions or roles start to suffer and become inefficient on their turn. Given below is an exemplary arrangement of the occupation dominoes for a team of 1 Scrum Master, 1 Product Owner and 6 Software Developers.

The Miscalibration Principle - An examplary arrangement of Occupation Dominoes

Arranging the occupation dominoes of a team in a line could be further used to describe and analyze its structure in terms of time allocation. Referring to the example above – one could draw an interesting observation that there’s nobody within the team who deals with people management and organizational politics (so probably there should be another organizational unit which covers this).

The Occupation Accordions

The Occupation Accordions are sets of occupation dominoes used to represent various time allocations for a given individual (thus they are personal). Each occupation accordion consists of: (1) the “expected” occupation domino – representing the expected time allocation (e.g. based on established company standards); (2) the “actual” occupation domino – showing the actual time spent by the individual; and (3) the “desired” occupation domino – reflecting individual’s own working preferences (or the things the individual would like to do the most). In addition to these three occupation dominoes, the occupation accordion has one more component – this is the so called Competence Domino. The latter represents the competence of the individual on each of the 5P Occupation Model‘s aspects of work. Any of the already existing evaluation methods might be used to appraise these competences – from multi-source (e.g. peers review, upward / downward feedback, 360-degree feedback, etc.) to single-source (e.g. self-assessment, direct-manager review, peer review, external evaluation, etc.). However there’s one important limitation – a 10-point rating scale should be used (from 0 meaning a total lack of competence to 10 being a recognized authority). The reason is consistency – rates should be reflected on the competence domino using pips just like the occupation dominoes (where you might have a maximum of 10 pips on a square). Given below is an example occupation accordion for an individual in a Scrum Master role (the pips on the competence domino are coloured red to indicate that they are representing competence rather than time allocation).

The Miscalibration Principle - The Occupation Accordion

The occupation accordions are specifically designed as accordions so when printed they could be folded into a single domino. This makes possible the arrangement of the derived dominoes into lines so one could further describe and analyze the structure of a team in terms of expected / actual / desired time allocation as well as possessed competences.

The Occupation Miscalibration

Any discrepancies between what work is expected by a given individuals and what is actually worked out and/or desired (as well as any mismatch in terms of possessed competences) is referred to as an Occupation Miscalibration. The occupation miscalibration might be further aggregated to cover entire workgroups, departments, branches or organizations as well (through determining the mean, median or percentile of the individual ones). Depending on the concrete discrepancy there might be three different sub-types of occupation miscalibration. The Operational Miscalibration is the discrepancy between the expected and the actual time allocation (and thus quantifies whether the individual / organizational unit is doing the right thing). On an individual level it’s calculated using the following formula:

The Miscalibration Principle - The Operational Miscalibration Formula

The Motivational Miscalibration is the discrepancy between the expected and the desired time allocation (and thus it quantifies whether the individual / organizational unit actually has the desire / aspiration to do the right thing). It’s calculated similarly to the operational miscalibration:

The Miscalibration Principle - The Motivational Miscalibration Formula

The last Competential Miscalibration shows the mismatch between what working activities are expected to be done and the existing competences in this regard (and thus it quantifies whether the individual / organizational unit is doing it right). It’s calculated using the following formula:

The Miscalibration Principle - The Competential Miscalibration Formula

Then the Occupation Miscalibration = (Operational Miscalibration + Motivational Miscalibration + Competential Miscalibration) / 3. The result (similarly to its sub-types) is a number between 0 and 1 (where 0 means perfect occupation calibration and 1 is the worst possible case of total occupation miscalibration).
Following on the example with the Scrum Master from the previous section we have an individual operational miscalibration = ( |1-1| + |6-4| + |1-1| + |1-0| + |1-4| ) / 20 = ( 0 + 2 + 0 + 1 + 3 ) / 20 = 6 / 20 = 0.30. Similarly for motivational miscalibration we get 0.70. The competential miscalibration = 1 – ((0.2 + 1.8 + 0.2 _ 0.1 + 0.8) / 10) = 1 – (3.1 / 10) = 1 – 0.31 = 0.69. And then the occupation miscalibration = (0.30 + 0.70 + 0.69) / 3 = 0.56. These results shows serious miscalibration – especially in terms of motivational and competential ones (and would eventually require some actions to be taken in order to address these).

The Miscalibration Principle

The Miscalibration Principle is an extension of some quite popular related principles as the Peter Principle, the Dilbert Principle, the Putt’s Corollary, the Rothbard’s Law and the Negative Selection in general. However in addition to the competential aspects of work it covers also the operational and motivational ones. It states that:

The occupation miscalibration (whether on individual or organizational level) tends to increase with time.

The miscalibration principle is just a specific manifestation of the more general Clausius‘ version of the second law of thermodynamics that “The entropy [or disorder] of the universe tends to a maximum.“. Its most important implication is that an organization needs to constantly invest time and effort to keep itself calibrated (and thus ensure that the “right” individuals are doing the “right” things “right”).

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