Sunday, July 18, 2010

Would you ever choose to use "Hand of God" at Work ?

The FIFA world cup frenzy is over. And we are all are now left with memories of the super moments that defined this World cup.
One such moment was during the Ghana vs Uruguay Quarter Final match on 2nd-July. The scene was set when both the teams were tied-up after the designated time. The match went into Extra-time and with just less than couple of minutes left in the Extra-time, the teams still tied at 1-1, Ghana spotted a golden opportunity. Ghana forward beating the defense and then the goalkeeper, who was lying on the ground as a mere spectator to the Kick that was meant to be landing at Uruguay's goal post but destiny had other plans. Just a few inches from the goal post stood Uruguan striker Luis Suarez, who deliberately put his hands to the ball, which otherwise would have landed in the goal post, giving Ghana the victory. The ball reflected and went away. The outcome of this act by Saurez was evident- a Red card and a penalty kick to Ghana. One of the most reliable strikers in Ghana took the penalty and as luck would have it, missed the shot. The rest, as they say, is history- Ghana losing the match on subsequent penalty shootout.
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Luis Suarez later described his handball act as 2010 version of "Hand of God" drawing parallels with Diego Maradona's original Hand of God . Saurez obviously became a Hero for Uruguay as his act was instrumental in denying Ghana the semi-final spot, which would have made them the first South African country to achieve the honors. Saurez, more obviously was a villain for Ghana, denying them a slice of history.

I am not sure what went into Luis Suarez's mind but would like to make an attempt here. He simply had a split second to decide and act. For him, it was surely a big risk. Look at odds at stake for him-
- What if Ghana would have scored on the subsequent penalty ? Ghana would have won and he would have been villian for rest of the world including Uruguay. Uruguan's would not have appreciated his act had Ghana won.
- What if Ghana missed the subsequent penalty and win in the shootout ? I guess the outcome here would have been same as above. Saurez being a bad guy till the time he is on this planet.
- What if he tried stopping the ball but the ball goes inside his goal post touching his hand ? He would have been termed as a loser for whole life.
- Even if he were to save the ball, the odds of getting the Red card stared at him.Then too he was not sure that his country would win.

All these consequences stared at him but he chose to do what he thought was right for the moment and risking entire career and life ahead of him. But the million dollar question is-

Did Saurez do the right thing in overall scheme of things?

Lets look at why is it that Saurez's act was all fine-
FIFA World cup is a high intensity, high profile tournament. As an estimate, the Finals were watched by close to 750 million people across the globe. Not even the commoners, but the higher up government official including head of states of different countries follow game like ardent fans. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy got so taken aback by his team’s show that he termed his team’s loss in early round as an National issue and has even summoned a probe to discuss his team’s debacle.

With so much at stake, the term “Winning” takes altogether a new dimension. When each win is influential enough to lift the mood of entire nation and each loss is treated as bad as losing a war, “Win at any cost” seems to be the motto of many teams. Considering this, what Saurez did was just right because, the goal at just 2 minutes from the finish time would have virtually eliminated his team but his “Hand of God” act would atleast give his team an outside chance to reach the coveted semifinal position. Afterall, he was letting his country gain at the cost of him being called a scapegoat.

Didnt Holland try every trick in the bag during the final that earned them two figure Yellow cards ? Didnt they consider country above anything else ?
What Saurez did can be described as a selfless act. He didn’t care about his reputation, put country before self. He thought of a bigger cause- his country. His act was patriotic.

He may be treated as a patriot. His act was selfless, without caring about himself, he thought of a bigger cause- his country.
His act can be more thought of as an instinctive, split second reaction and he did what he thought was best for the moment and his country did eventually gain.

One more thing is that he did not escape the punishment nor did he try to question that. He got the red card, one match suspension. And as per rules, Ghana was offered a Penalty which they eventually missed. What was Saurez’s fault if Ghana did not make use of given opportunity ?

Now, Some insights into why his act was a bad act ?
“Hand of God” of Maradona and “Hand of God” of Saurez were quite different. Infact, Maradona’s act was more of a disguise when referee didnt spot that ball hit Maradona’s fist and landed into goal. Saurez's was an open violation of football laws. There was certain mystery surrounding Maradona’s act but in essence “Hand of God” is unethical. Just because no one saw, doesnt mean your act was all fine. Infact, at the surface it was a cheating act which the guy who did knew but no one else in the world had an inkling about. But just by labeling it as “Hand of God” turned it into more dignified act, and got the respect which it didn’t deserve. Saurez just tried to leverage the aura around “Hand of God” to find excuse and get respect for his terrible show of hand.

One more thing is that Red card is no doubt a blot on any footballer’s resume. The worst punishment that can be offered to a footballer. There is nothing actually to be celebrated for a red card. Even thought his country reached semis on this act, they eventually lost. In proves that Sports is actually a great leveler.

People from Uruguay may term Saurez’s act as patriotic but can he be called as “Role model” outside his country ? It is highly doubtful. It is infact every sportsperson dream to be a source of inspiration for the younger ones. Saurez, unfortunately has lost this opportunity by choosing to do something unsportsmanlike.

If such an act can be termed as good, should this be included as a part of football coaching instructions ? Should more teams be using hands more often in “foot”ball. Can anyone who uses hand in football use the term “Hand of God” to make his act more dignified ?
Does it not have parallels with Trevor Chappel’s underarm incident in Cricket ? Trevor exploited the loopholes in rule and Australia won but he lost the credibility. The Cricket rules were later changed to disallow underarm bowling.

"Hand of God" at work. Are you for it ?:
The term “Hand of God” can be treated as a metaphor for an act that helps a bigger cause i.e. helps achieve success in a meaningful venture but by using seemingly less fair means and eventually controversial means. We live in a fiercely competitive era. Organizations need a unwavering focus in sustain profits in today’s era. Ever increasing profit lines seems to be the mantra of organizations. After all the respect comes only after organizations has been successful. In such an environment, if an employees are often faced with situations when they have to choose between what is right as against something that not all that wrong but will fetch organizations much needed profits. But the bigger question is- Is it ok to make profits by compromising Integrity ? Did Saurez’s act compromise his Integrity ?

In his book, The Professional Subroto Bagchi talks about what Integrity means in the professional context-
- We follow the rules.
- Where rules do not exist, we use fair judgment.
- When in doubt, we do not go ahead and do what suits us; we seek counsel.
- Finally, faced with a dilemma, we as ourselves:
Can my act stand public scrutiny without causing embarrassment to me and my family ?

Often, the situations we are faced with are not very straight-forward. There is always a very thin line between an Ethical and Unethical behavior. But when the stakes are high, your integrity is put to real test. The best definition of Ethical behavior that i know of is- "Doing the right thing when no one's watching you ?"

For example, if you are a person who is involved in testing a product and know of a big loop hole that might impact the customer in a long run but the defect is such that it is not visible on the surface and would not impact the Acceptance test. I have talked about one such case in my earlier posts here . Would you go ahead and raise your voice and present all the possible facts ? or Would you remain silent and let the product go as no one is going to be finding about your defect anyway anytime sooner.i.e. Would you use your “Hand of God” and keep quiet and thereby helping the organization “succeed” in a short term atleast.

Such situations are tough, but i think standing by truth and being ethical is not the easiest thing to do. If it really were, the world would not have witnessed the Satyam saga and it would still have been one of most respected organizations. But the reality is not always sunny and rosy.

Are you for using “Hand of God” at work ?


Vittal said...

Hi Anuj,

Thanks for sharing your views.

As per me what happened in Ghana vs Uruguay match was cowardliness. It was robbing a nation its win, which it deserved after fighting a fair and square battle.

The 3rd part of the post talks about "Hand of God" in day to day activity. "Hand of God" has become synonyms to "Picking the easy way out" and not the right way. As a per me, it’s not a question of day to day work, but it’s a general concept how one leads his life and in either case, use of "Hand of God" is not right way out.

In one of your earlier post, you explained the concept of "Helping our competitors win ". Well that’s the way to go. It not only helps you improve your game but increase the level of efficiency you bring in/add on day to day.

As you have rightly mentioned "Doing the right thing when no one's watching you", that is a professional and ethical behavior. Unfortunately most individuals find it easy to pick the "Hand of God" way, but then again "What is popular need not be right and what is right need not be popular". It all boils down to how one wants to get treated if he was at the receiving end of “Hand of God”. If an individual doesn’t wish to see himself at the receiving end, I feel it’s unfair to put others in that position. For me, this definitely applies to QA and life, both :)

Anuj, definitely you are a philosopher disguised as QA Expert :)


amagazine said...

Thanks for sharing your comments, Vittal

The 3rd part of the post talks about "Hand of God" in day to day activity. "Hand of God" has become synonyms to "Picking the easy way out" and not the right way.

I think you put the essence of "Hand of God" quite nicely here. It is surely doing what is easy not right.

games tester said...

Its a nice post. Thanks a lot for sharing such a wonderful views.

Maddy said...

Hi Anuj,
A very nice article. Thank you very much. I may be a bit late to read this but I made it.

amagazine said...

Hi games tester and Maddy,
Thank you for visiting and for your comments.