Look to Baseball for an Example of Accountability Oversight

One of the ways to enhance the trustworthiness of accountability processes is for there to be oversight of the accountability process.  Sometimes this oversight concept is difficult to understand or is misunderstood because organizations worry that what is meant is second guessing of the results of the accountability process.  One of the requirements of accountability is having in place systems for internal ongoing oversight and assurance reviews and external verification.  A recent IAF blog asked verification of what? (link)  External oversight of demonstrable processes is not a review of every decision but rather a validation of the processes behind the decisions. What does this mean?  Minor league baseball provides an example.

This season the independent Atlantic League of Minor League Baseball first used a computer to call balls and strikes in its All Star Game.  The plate umpire wore an earpiece connected to an iPhone in his pocket and relayed the call upon receiving it from a TrackMan computer system that uses Doppler radar.  After its successful “tryout” in the All Star Game, the “automated ball-strike system” (ABSS) was implemented for the rest of the season.  It is anticipated that after the bugs are worked out (for example, ABSS deems a bounced ball that crosses the plate as a strike), the ABSS may be “tried out” in the Major League. 

Some will say this example is not relevant because a baseball player’s statistics, such as batting averages, are not personal information.  Baseball players have given the Major League Baseball Players Association the right to license their names and statistics.  Others argue that the use of baseball players names and statistical information should be freely available under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Whatever the legal theory, the calling of balls and strikes is part of a baseball player’s statistics.  Does he strike out a lot?  Does he walk a lot?

So how does the use of the ABSS in Minor League Baseball demonstrate oversight is of the assessment process and not of the assessment?  When the season is over, Major League Baseball will look at how accurate the ABSS was in calling balls and strikes over the season.  Major League Baseball doesn’t care what the results were with respect to a particular player or a particular team or a particular game.  But it does care how accurate overall the ABSS was and whether the results were achieved with integrity and without bias. 

This is what is meant by overseeing the assessment process.  The overseer should not care about the results of a particular assessment.  It should care, however, about whether overall the process was followed, whether overall the results were fair and whether the process overall had integrity and wasn’t biased.  When the oversight function works in this manner, the trustworthiness of the accountability processes is enhanced.

Let’s play ball!    

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