Solarium 2015: 'Moneyball' performance pitch gets chief's ear

By David VergunMarch 5, 2015

Solarium 2015: 'Moneyball' performance pitch gets chief's ear
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Solarium 2015: 'Moneyball' performance pitch gets chief's ear
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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (March 3, 2015) -- When Capt. Sean Clement saw the baseball film, "Moneyball," it was not Brad Pitt's performance that he remembers most. He said it was the sabermetrics that knocked the ball out of the park for him.

Could sabermetrics - applying advanced metrics to team statistics - also be applied to the Army to make a winning team even more winning, Clement wondered aloud as he spoke to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

The venue for that discussion was Solarium 2015, hosted by the Center for Army Leadership at the Command and General Staff College, Feb. 24 - 26.

The chief and other senior leaders listened, Feb. 26, as several of the 84 captains discussed how optimizing Soldier performance can give them an edge when operating in an increasingly complex world, as described in the Army Operating Concept.

To understand Clement's rationale, a brief overview of "Moneyball" is required.

"Moneyball" was adapted from the book by that same name, written by Michael Lewis. The premise of the story is that the collective wisdom of baseball players, coaches, managers, and so on is flawed.

Clement said "maximizing the performance of sport's teams based on statistically provable metrics might be completely different than what we think might actually cause success" and that the Army is striking out on doing that.

According to Lewis and a number of statisticians, statistical analysis demonstrated that in baseball, on-base and slugging percentages are better indicators of value than stolen bases, runs batted in and batting average. That premise had an impact, as a number of baseball teams subsequently hired sabermetric analysts and saw improved performance.

What the Army needs to do to get into the "Moneyball" league, Clement said, is "design a multi-attribute performance appraisal system to support personnel decisions and predictions."

The Army assesses about 10,000 Soldiers a month, he said, quoting Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, who spoke to the captains several hours earlier.

That is an enormous sample size from which one can gain incredible statistical data with personalized ratings scores, said Clement, adding that sample sizes that big would make statisticians salivate.

Human resource analytics are used by 40 percent of the top corporations in the United States. However, just two percent do it really well, he said. One of the main reasons these large corporations do not get good data is their sample sizes are not large enough to get statistical significance.

The "Moneyball" effect for the Army on using advanced analytics would be that it could better place people, reduce disciplinary problems, make better decisions on promotion and reduce turnover. "The Army spends over $1.5 billion a year alone on retraining people they can't retain," he said. An analytics system would easily pay for itself with a lot less money than that.

Clement said that the Army already developed such a system, which is now being used by the Mayo Clinic. It is called the Total Surgeon Concept, used to evaluate of all their surgeons, with "fantastic results." The system was developed and is used by Army Operations Research/Systems Analysis Functional Area 49.

As it stands now, metrics and even ratings on the Army's largest population group, privates through specialists, is lacking. When one of these Soldiers checks into a unit, leaders have "no concept of who they are as a person" because of the lack of measurable data other than height, weight and physical fitness scores.

For non-commissioned officers and officers, the picture is not much better, he continued.

To bring clarity to the complexity of evaluating personnel, Clement suggested scoring Soldiers on three aspects: human, cognitive and physical. The human aspect would include such conceptual things as will-to-win, motivation and perseverance.

Each of the three aspects would then be broken down to three to five subcategories. Weightings would be given to each subcategory, based on its importance to branch, position and rank.

The ratings would be given by the person responsible for reviewing the Soldier and filling out his or her non-commissioned officer evaluation report or officer evaluation report, assuming relevant behaviors were observed. If a particular rater inflated scores or tended to hammer people, that anomaly could easily be statistically factored into the scoring, he said.

The result of such a system would distinguish between Soldiers' levels of performance and provide a good picture of strengths and weaknesses, which leaders would then use to grow and develop their Soldiers, he said.

Perkins said the Army typically uses assessments to select, not to develop a Soldier.

The Army's metrics for selecting are at best a guess, Clement said. "We're excluding people for the wrong reasons."

Perkins then asked, "What if a person scored high" on such a system, despite having no high school diploma or failing a urinalysis?

In corporate America, 60 percent of software engineers and computer programmers have no formalized education, Clement responded.

Odierno said he sees "a lot of uses for this and it's something we want to do to have a better understanding," but to do it, the data must first be collected and tracked. "It will take some time to do, but it's worth it."

Regarding criminal background, urinalysis, high school diploma and other criteria that would cause deselection, Odierno said it is governed by "legacy" law that would need to be reviewed for possible change.


Soldiers discussed a number of other topics that had relevance to the Army Operating Concept besides "Moneyball."

Capt. Jed Hudson said the Army is not providing realistic training. For example, in Iraq, when Soldiers went on a humanitarian mission to deliver school supplies to a village, they would interact with a large number of entities including non-governmental organizations, school administrators, religious and cultural leaders, tribal chiefs, local government and police and so on.

While a certain level of that type of training is provided at combat training centers, it is lacking in home-station training, he said. Training should include local entities around the post, police, government and so on, similar to the Iraq scenario just described.

Capt. John Barrington pointed out that maneuver aspects of training are now being emphasized, although counterinsurgency roles are still important. Soldiers need to more effectively integrate land, air, sea, space and cyberspace into their training.

That is important, he said, because if the other services or coalition partners can't provide that, the Army needs to be able to do it.

Odierno said the integration of those domains is an important but complex task for the Army, particularly space and cyber.

Cyber is talked about from a national perspective like protecting infrastructure. However, there might be ways to use cyber tactically, Odierno said. For example, can cyber operations be coupled with manned and unmanned air and ground capabilities? "We have to become experts" on this, but it will take time. "We don't even yet think like this."

Perkins offered that a lot can and has been done in newly developed live-virtual-constructive simulations. A number of captains who have participated in these new, blended simulations agreed that they were realistic and had value.

Odierno said the captains' efforts and findings "exceeded expectations" for Solarium 2015.

(Editor's note: This is the third in a series of four articles on Solarium 2015. For more ARNEWS stories, visit, or Facebook at, or Twitter @ArmyNewsService)

Related Links:

STAND-TO!: Solarium 2015

Army News Service

Solarium 2015: Developing agile, adaptive leaders

Solarium 2015: Forcing multiple dilemmas on enemy

Solarium 2015: Upending conventional communicating

Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno Inside the Army News

STAND-TO!: The U.S. Army Operating Concept