Please Grade Me

  • Andrew Coffey
  • 19 September 2016

I read some great content recently that 30% of companies consider themselves as disruptors. It is easy to imagine the respondents to the survey now wanting to wear the disruption unicorn badge proudly, of course while sitting squarely in the (and it’s not meant as an offensive term) world of mediocrity.


Humans love a good grade. Not surprising really, we’ve all spent most of our developmental years being graded, some of us into our careers. I’m not at all making fun of it. Being so entrenched into human behaviour we should use it, leverage the common acceptance of grading to help the agenda of improvement.

There are a few issues of course, two of them being:

1)    The grade doesn’t count

2)    You can’t trust self-assessment

The grade doesn’t count

To be clear, it’s not the grade that counts, it’s the guidance that grade offers your next steps. A historical account of your position in any facet of life isn’t as useful as guidance towards your next step. GPS that shows you where you were 5 days ago? Not useful.

You should care about how, when and why you improve your actual digital capabilities. A grade that purely defines is hardly as useful as tangible guidance. More so where the grade turns into a KPI. I don't want to labor the point but what use is a grade without action? What use is a almost arbitrary “zone”, “segment” or “grade” without pointing towards areas where your organisation can improve and benefit the most from that improvement and help measure it.

For the record, ideally a useful grade would be; contextual, prescriptive and per the below, independent.

You can’t trust self-assessment

While the digital ecosystem is hard to define, and even harder to benchmark, but it can be done. It can be done at various levels with various methodologies, so yay good news, you can be graded.

If we took the below to market and did a survey, I wonder where people would position themselves. I would expect there would be a heavy bias (let’s not get into the psychology of it) towards an inflated response. Have you ever asked a group of people if they are a good driver? Seems everyone is a good driver. You get the idea.  So, we love a grade but we can’t really rely on our self-assessment.

Let's try it, here's something I occasionally use to aid discussion. Where do you think you fit into the below?


How did you go, where do you think you fit? Let's try that again with some guidance, anecdotally here’s what a % spread could look like. In my experience, the vast majority or organisations are coping at best.


Did you think you’re in the top 1%, maybe top 6%? No. Chances are you're in the bottom 94%. Its not all bad, noting the above topic, remember where you land really doesn't matter.

This all might come across a little negative, and it’s not meant to. Positioning your organisation makes a lot of sense, and its a great tool for framing a discussion. One of the early steps. But please if you are going to do it do it scientifically, independently (technology agnostic, external yet accountable) and, as part of a fuller process and most of all – do something about the outcome.

I’d love to know your thoughts on the current state of digital grading out there, connect with me on LinkedIn or send me an email.