In my opinion, the Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, is the worst thing that’s happened to football in decades. It slows the game down, infuriates under-pressure managers and confuses fans without really creating better refereeing decisions.
Last Saturday, Liverpool scored a perfectly good goal that was disallowed following a check by the VAR team. After the game, the body responsible for refereeing games apologised for the decision, blaming “significant human error.”
Later in the week, the body released the audio of the VAR team. It didn’t make for great listening – in fact it was comically pathetic – but it was clear that human error wasn’t the cause of the mistake. The error happened because of a lack of a clear system of communication for checking decisions.
W. Edwards Deming, the godfather of the total quality movement and hugely influential in Japan’s post-war industrial progress, argued that the question is rarely “Who?”, but “What?” A statistician by training, Deming’s research showed that 94% of variations in workers’ performance were due to the design of the system rather than the people operating in them.
As a leader, it can be tempting to seek out the individual responsible for an error, but it if the system doesn’t improve, your results won’t either. The refereeing body suspended Darren England, the hapless VAR official, but that’s not the solution. If VAR is to stay, the solution is to create a coherent system of communication for each check, and to train people on that system.
It’s the same for the errors in your organisation. If you want to see long-term, lasting improvements in results, don’t ask “Who?”, ask “What?”
Off The Record: You Ain’t The Problem by Michael Kiwanuka
You are the one, do all the talkin’
You got me wrong, I caught you fallin’
I hear you callin’
Don’t hesitate, time heals the pain
You ain’t the problem