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NFL Cheating Scandal: 4 Lessons For CIOs
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jastroff
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jastroff,
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1/21/2015 | 8:05:30 PM
The Football in the Room
@dave -- nicely done, covering all the bases, so to speak. If CIOs want to take some lessons from this, then they can. I'm betting most won't, because an advantage on any playing field is worth much. Just as Steve Jobs "borrowed" the first Mac GUI from Xerox Parc, so it will always be in business.

I never thought about how a football got on the field. The idea that the teams supply them is inviting problems. Why are they not supplied by the NFL and the cost billed back to the teams? The teams should never touch the football until play starts. Why doesn't the NFL have a reliable chain of custody for the footballs? Just watch one episode of the old tv show Law and Order or more recently, Blue Bloods, to see what happens when chain of custody is broken. The case goes out the window. How do baseballs get into the game? Do the teams supply them to the umpires? 

The winners of that football game may have been decided on merit before the game began, but the Pats have shown before that every little bit helps, no matter what that little bit is.

Apologies to all my European friends who know "football" as another sport.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/21/2015 | 9:36:01 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
@jastroff- That's a question an awful lot of people have been asking and no one knows the answer. Perhaps one of the lessons I should have added to the list is "we've always done it this way" isn't a good reason to keep doing somehting. Because as far as I can tell this is an artifact of a day when the NFL central office didn't have any power to control the ball. At this point it has the power and budget to do it for sure.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 7:05:44 AM
Re: The Football in the Room
@David: I understand. People having the power and the budget need to come up with cleaner methods to do things. When working in a company, you have to start from the top if you want to cleanse the entire workplace of illegal working principles and/or cheating.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 12:32:44 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
In the past, my organization has been ripe with the "we've always done it that way." Actually, it was worse. One long-time employee used the phrase, "If we've done it twice, it's tradition." Not only is innovation stifled when intelligent people don't ask the tough questions like "Why?" Security and integrity are also often sacrificed at the altar of tradition.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 6:24:42 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
@jagibbons- Oh no! Do you mean to say that getting my nose broken is now a tradition? Or my kidney stones? It is going to be a tough few years ahead. :)

I swear that every business would be benefit from always asking the passover question: Why is this night different than all other nights? I don't mean it in a religious way. I just mean ask yourself what is changing, what is the same, what should we be doing differently?
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 6:27:29 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
Those kinds of questions are key to not living in the state of insanity, i.e. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
1/21/2015 | 11:19:23 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
Before it became "The Celebrity Apprentice", it was a far better show known as just "The Apprentice". Here, under "The Donald's" tutelage we learn that to win in business, the most important skill you can have is to be able to effectively blame the project's failure on someone other than yourself. But, aside from that, it sure is great living in Boston, where we make money the old-fashioned way - we steal it.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 7:00:56 AM
Re: The Football in the Room
@Gary_El: It's not only about money. Some of my co-workers are so lazy that they find loose methods to do and solve things. This accomplishes two things: if the product is far from releasing, then the tests conducted on it allow the product to be sent back to the development lines which takes in more money than usual. And if the product is released then it causes problems and IT has to sit with customers for support. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/22/2015 | 10:03:29 AM
Re: The Football in the Room
@Gary_EL- It is nice to see Boston learn something from a such a quintessential New York figure like donald Trump. Almost brings a tear to my eye. :)
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Ninja
1/22/2015 | 11:53:25 AM
Re: The Football in the Room
@Gary_EL,

I don't know about other indsutries, but the 'blame it on the other guy' has been the norm since I've been in IT. That's been about 12yrs.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/23/2015 | 8:29:06 AM
Re: The Football in the Room
@pcharles09, I find that the "blame it on the other guy" mentality usually comes in the form of "blame IT"  people seem to feel like blaming a machine is a harmless foul "I couldn't get you that report because my laptop was acting up".  It's the fault of some inanimate object, right?  Well you do that a couple times and your IT team catches flack for the sales guy's laptop "always" having issues and they look bad.  I can't tell you how many times I've been down that road "Bob says that his laptop is constantly crashing why isn't anyone helping him?" then I look at helpdesk tickets and the last time Bob opened a ticket was six months ago because he forgot his password.  Then I go talk to Bob personally to make sure he's getting the warm fuzzy feeling from IT and get the vague "well sometimes it just kind of crashes but it's OK I can live with it" and eventually find out that there never was a problem with it, he just uses the hardware as a convenient scapegoat.  The deflategate issue shows a similar mindset, we hearing "well I don't actually have anything to do with the balls, that's someone else"  so now it looks like that someone else is calling the shots and screwing up when in reality they are probably doing their job exactly how they are expected to do it. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 5:36:20 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
@SaneIT- Funny my laptop actually seems to have that problem and I never file a ticket because it is sort of like taking a car to the mechanic for a funny noise. It never makes it when the mechanic is test driving the car. :)
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2015 | 10:44:28 PM
Re: The Football in the Room
@SaneIT,

Ahh how familar that schpiel sounds. Nothing better than getting trapped on a conf call where someone says something like that then a few others pile on as well.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/24/2015 | 2:26:00 PM
People can reform
But repeat offenders should not be tolerated.  Get caught once and you get a stern warning (except in extreme circumstances; like theft or other crimes, in which case the police should be called).  Get caught twice and you're fired.  The problem with zero tolerence policies is that they don't distinguish between succumbing to temptation and impunity; the former is much easier to correct than is the latter.

 I consider the deflation case to be an extreme circumstance that should result in lifetime bans (or at least multiyear suspensions for the perpetrators and those who abetted them).  Too bad that modern sports commissioners are more inclined to be CEOs than referrees in chief; even Major League Baseball has succumbed to that particular temptation under the recently retired Bud Selig.  Says me the referee job is the more important one.  And if the two jobs really are in serious conflict with each other, then they should be separated.  In the case of the NFL, it might be a good idea to have a President (serving at the pleasure of the owners) responsible for business affairs and a Commissioner (elected for a long fixed term) responsible for discipline (officials would work for the latter).

 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 12:30:49 PM
Re: People can reform
Great idea on separation of duties. That is one of the most effective process controls any business can use to protect itself from a single individual trying to do harm (or accidentally doing harm). While people can collude, proper separate of duties is a very strong control mechanism.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 5:42:21 PM
Re: People can reform
@jries921- I've always thought the problem with sports commissioners is that they work for the owners, not the game. When they do something "for the good of the game" it is actually for the bottem line of the owners. I think if the commissioners first thought was for the good the game, they'd do it very differently.

Sadly, I think most C-suites act the same way. 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 6:22:17 PM
Re: People can reform
That's a large part of it, but trying to figure out who should appoint/elect the Commissioner instead strikes me as a can of worms; hence my proposal to give responsibility for business affairs to a President appointed by the owners and serving at their pleasure; while keeping the Commissioner (elected for a renewable, fixed term) responsible for discipline.  In the latter case, the term should be long enough to allow the Commissioner to take the long view and to focus on the integrity and well being of the game itself without having to worry about short term fallout; and to make it unlikely that he would be removed for making a single unpopular decision (as it is likely Fay Vincent was for banning Pete Rose).

I'll note that when the office of Commissioner of Baseball was created and for a long time afterwards, the Commissioner was focused mainly on discipline and the integrity of the game, while the league presidents remained responsible for day to day business affairs, scheduling of games, hiring and firing of umpires, etc.  One of the reasons why this structure worked was that in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal, the owners didn't want to be held responsible for cleaning up the game, so they delegated the job, and the first Commissioner was strong enough that the owners were afraid to remove him; and once Kennesaw Mountain Landis was dead, the division of responsibility was well established and the job of Commissioner was deemed indispensible.  In the end, the division of responsibility failed because the owners wanted more of a focus on money and marketing at the top, so they fired the Commissioner and appointed one of their own (Bud Selig) in his place, then replaced the traditional federal structure with the existing unitary one (naturally, I think both were severe errors).

In the case of the NFL, Pete Rozelle was so good at popularizing the game that marketing became the primary focus of his successors.  To his credit, Rozelle knew how to properly balance the business and the disciplinary sides of the job, which is why combining them worked until he retired; but it hasn't worked all that well since.  I don't know what the story is in the NBA, but I suspect it is much the same.

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 6:27:49 PM
Re: People can reform
I have to say I like Bud Selig. He's done a pretty good job of cleaning up baseball after a rough start. The revenue is up. The parity is great. The game is as clean as can be expected (it will never be perfect). And now they're addressing some out of control pace issues. I think he deserves some credit for being willing to deal with some unpopular years. I like the NBA's Adam Silver, too. Seems to be up for anything.

It is Mr. Goodell who I think worries too much about appearences and not enough about what is right.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 6:52:03 PM
Re: People can reform
I suspect strongly that allegations of widespread steroid use (which turned out to be true) would have been dealt with a lot more promptly and decisively if the traditional structure had remained,  Landis wouldn't have tolerated it for five seconds, regardless of the fallout; and while he might well have used a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel, at least he would not have allowed a culture of impunity to develop (which *is* what happened under Selig).

That said, I will give Selig his due; he has been a very good business manager and he does appear to have solved the parity issue.

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2015 | 6:56:30 PM
Re: People can reform
@jries921- Well, I'm sympathetic to Bud in the sense that the game was just recovering from the '94 strike. The home run chase was giving it the "juice" it needed (pun intended). Baseball had a cocaine problem in the 1980's and a speed problem in the '70s and they both sort of sorted themselves out. I can imagine he thought the same thing would be true of 'roids. 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 9:21:52 PM
Re: People can reform
A couple of problems with the performance enhancement mania (to include the home run chase) were that it distorted the records (the season home run record in particular will be tainted until it is broken), and was definitely hazerdous the health of the players caught up in it.  And the toleration of cheating (which is what it was) is a proven way to insure that any sporting event ceases to be taken seriously as an athletic contest (making it mere entertainment).

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 9:00:47 AM
Re: People can reform
I know we're getting a bit off of the deflategate subject but we're tracking along the management of high performers subject so I won't feel too bad about posting this.  Yes there recently was a very public issue with steroid use in baseball, truth be told it's probably still going on people are just being smarter about it at the moment.  The issue here is that you have individuals whose lively hood depends on being just a fraction better than their peers who just happen to the be best in the world at something.  Players found out that a little cocaine or some amphetamines could give them a slight bump in short term performance and took to it not necessarily because they were looking for a high but because they thought it was the way to stay competitive.  We're seeing the same with steroids right now, the physical effects are much different but the reason for getting started is the same.  There is a big difference in being the third best in the league and being the tenth best in the league so if they feel like their career depends on it they are going to try it.  The substance abuse problems are often more than just a personal/off field problem and until the on field issues are addressed the problems will continue. 
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 12:27:07 PM
Re: People can reform
Which is precisely why there needs to be an actively engaged police agency with the authority to enforce the rules, regardless of the resulting bad PR, and without any conflicts of interest to stay its hand.  That has been the job of the Commissioner of Baseball since the office was first established in the wake of the Black Sox Scandal.  If the owners had wanted an interleague CEO, they should have appointed one separately (they still could).

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:48:24 PM
Re: People can reform
@SaneIt- Very true. And the difference between an average minor league player and an average major league player is so small. Any edge makes the difference between being a pro and flipping burgers. 

What's the equivalent in IT? How do you get that edge? Ritalin? Hacking?
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2015 | 8:33:02 AM
Re: People can reform
@David, that's a good question, and I would say that it depends on the position.  Having worked for a large software manufacturer I'll tell you that stimulants and long hours often made the difference in many programming positions.  They tended to burn out quickly and the ones who were promoted usually aged very quickly when they went from long hours to unbelievably long hours before they left.  For management the edge is usually social, if I have a great team and no one knows that I have a great team then I'm not looking at good as I should so I have to get out there and rub elbows with the people making decisions at levels higher than me. So at a certain level you tend to feel like you move from IT to sales and counseling.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:51:06 PM
Re: People can reform
@SaneIT- The stimulant thing frightens me. It frightens me like how I know there are thousands of truckers on 2 hours of sleep and 3 Red Bulls and a 5 hour energy driving on the same roads as me. If good programmers, and I mean good and not just people who need a new career, are taking things beyond a cup of Starbucks to get through a day it is actually sad and dangerous. 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
1/29/2015 | 7:56:28 AM
Re: People can reform
Well I can say without a doubt that many very good programmers live this way for about half the year.  When the development cycle started to near alpha release time the offices turned on an informal 24/7 schedule and it wasn't unusual for me to be working late, head up to one of the dev teams to get some information and find someone asleep in a cube with the person in the next cube hammering away.  They would run like this for a few months on one team, push out the product, crash for a month then go join the next team who was "stuck" and needed help getting their product out the door.  I didn't envy them at all but I didn't sympathize with them either since they had no problems calling me at 3AM when they had problems.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
1/26/2015 | 10:37:14 PM
Re: People can reform
David, it's not even that Goodell wants to keep up appearances. He wants to keep milking the cash cow as quickly and furiously as possible, at ever-increasing rates. Although there have been fires raging across the league all year, he keeps pointing to the field like a carnival barker and hoping you'll just keep noticing the great product on the field. It's very old-school crisis and reputation management --- like from the 50s --- and it's amazing that he's allowed to continue to flail at it ... unless all the owners care about is that cash cow too. Either way, they'll eventually come up against a casual fan base who will walk away from the game from being sick of it all. We may not be at that point yet, but give it a couple more seasons ...
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/27/2015 | 1:57:40 PM
Re: People can reform
@Broadway0474- I think what he is counting on is that the NFL moves the media needle, too. The sports media needs the NFL almost more than the NFL needs the sports media. Until fans vote with their eyeballs, he can have scandal after scandal with no effect. The media will cover it until the next story and then they'll forget about it so they can keep their cash cow, too.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 10:11:23 PM
Re: People can reform
@David, you add an important wrinkle. Where would the story be without one more bad guy --- the parasitic sports media that does nothing but invent controversy and hype? I feel bad for us these days. Or at least those of us who waste our time with professional sports. I long for the days when the way you followed an athlete was getting his bubblegum card. Am I getting old? Sounds like it. Next I'll say I have some line in the sand for music --- a year after which I refuse to listen to any music: ie, no music after 1994.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:54:37 PM
Re: People can reform
@Broadway0474- I know what you mean by following players by bubble gum cards. When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. My parents bought me like two or three packs of football cards. For several years I thought Brian Sipe was the best quarterback in the NFL.Never heard of Brian Sipe? There's a reason for that. But i still remember his trading card all these years later. 
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
1/29/2015 | 10:34:36 PM
Re: People can reform
What sticks with me, David, are the memories of the uniforms --- for me, that means the colors of the late 70s, early 80s. The San Diego Padrea with the doo-doo brown. Tampa Bay Bucs with the sherbert orange and the flamboyant buc on the helmet. The Expos and the Brewers, the Eagles with their kelly green and the Browns ... oh wait, the Browns still have the same uniform. Anyway, when players wear those kind of colors, they didn't get paid much and they didn't seem to get in as much trouble.
asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
1/27/2015 | 4:49:20 PM
It's a fact
Quite frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn about professional football.  That being said, I think the takeaway from this particular scam is that the more dollar signs you have, the bigger the enterprise, the more popular your product, the more you will get away with anything you please.  This is life 101 in the US of, by, for and about the billionaires/corporations.
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2015 | 8:53:03 AM
Very Apropos...
I just watched ESPN's documentary on Southern Methodist University last night.  SMU was repeatedly caught paying the top high school football players during their recruitment in the early 80's (aka 'cheating').  They got caught numerous times until the NCAA finally devlivered the 'death penalty' and deprived the school of the football program for a year which pretty much devasted the program.  The point is, it went on for so long there that the highest echelons of the institution considered it business-as-usual and didn't really think they were doing anything wrong.  Unfortunately the NFL will never be willing or able to levy anything substantial on teams like this that are routinely caught dodging the system.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:48:37 PM
Re: Very Apropos...
@progman2000- I suppose you are right. But what gives me small amount of hope is the NBA situation with Donald Sterling. He had long been thought of as a jerk. He had been sued many times for violating civil rights of his african american tennents. Finally, an event big enough to get him out showed up. I don't recall a time in my life that ever happened before. After Robert Kraft got up and demanded an apology yesterday, I sort of hope they find him on tape telling them to deflate the balls. I'd like to see the NFL treat him like Sterling. 
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2015 | 1:50:47 PM
Re: Very Apropos...
Is Donald Sterling even out at this point though?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
1/28/2015 | 1:52:08 PM
Re: Very Apropos...
@progman2000- Yes, he was forced to sell the team. Steve Ballmer owns the team now. 
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
1/28/2015 | 1:57:28 PM
Re: Very Apropos...
Yeah sorry, I thought that was still bogged down in legal but see that he is officially out.  It gets hard to keep track of all these disgusting sports scandals sometimes - the last I remember hearing was that Shelly had some kind of argument to keep the team and then the NFL spouse/child abuse scandals took center stage...


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