During their run to a second straight CIS women’s basketball championship last season, Windsor Lancers head coach Chantal Vallee agonized over some personnel decisions and the domino effect it would have on her team.
Vallee went with her gut instincts and she was proven right not just by the results on the floor, but also by the cold calculations of a computerized analysis of the Lancers’ team leadership and chemistry after the season.
“I thought I was making the right decision and this verified it,” said Vallee of having her team work with PEAK Consulting of Tecumseh on a social network analysis.
“This would have been nice to know during the season. I would really like to do this again for next year’s team once we have that group together.
“I think this is a fantastic model not only for sports teams, but any organization. Teams and businesses they’re the same because they’re made up of people who have to work together for a common goal.”
Vallee was introduced to the statistical model when PEAK Consulting owner Vancho Cirovski approached her right after winning the CIS championships last March.
Cirovski hoped to use the two-time champions as a base to compare a championship organization to less successful ones.
While many coaches might have shied away from the unconventional, Vallee was intrigued and interested in finding every edge she could.
“For me, this was super interesting,” Vallee said. “I have a masters in sports psychology and I’m always reading and researching leadership, cohesiveness, communication and defining roles in a team.
“To see the results of the unbiased computerized data on the team, it was extraordinary. It really gives you an insight into your organization.”
Cirovski can achieve such in-depth analysis with seven pretty straightforward questions.
These questions probe the connections between players on and off the field, who holds influence in what areas, who are the enforcers of the team’s culture and which players are more isolated.
The players’ answers are graded on a scale of one to five to create a model of nodes and arrows revealing the connectedness and integration of individuals on the team.
In analyzing the pattern, Cirovski can identify a team’s leaders, but more importantly, potential emerging leaders and players of hidden influence.
“I started dabbling in this stuff back when I was manager of Organizational Capabilities at Hiram Walkers in the ’90s,” said Cirovski, who attended Michigan State on a soccer scholarship where he earned a masters’ degree in Labour and Industrial Relations.
“My real passion has always been sports, so I did some stuff for my brother (University of Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski).
“It wasn’t responsible for them winning their two NCAA championships since I started working with him, but it resulted in him making some changes that really improved his team’s chemistry.”
Cirovski, who attended Lowe Tech in the late 1970s, founded PEAK Consulting in 1998, but has devoted his efforts to the company fulltime for the past year.
The genesis for the firm came after he took in a lecture given by fellow MSU labour and industrial relations graduate Valdis Krebs at a 1995 alumni gathering.
Krebs is the founder and chief scientist at Orgnet and the developer of InFlow software for social and organizational network analysis.
“He’s a real smart guy and my mentor on this,” Cirvoski said. “He designed the algorithm for the model.
“I recognized right away I could use this at Hiram Walkers and then gradually introduced it into sports.”
After Bloomberg’s Business Week did an article on how his brother used his work to help Maryland win its first men’s Division I national soccer title, Cirovski said he was inundated with 100 requests to do the same for various businesses.
He did some, but was still engaged fulltime with his then employer Cardinal Health.
“I couldn’t handle it working fulltime, but that’s when I realized you know there’s a business here if I want to build it,” said Cirovski, who uses the Denison Survey for his seven-question chemistry quiz and 60-question cultural examination. “I was just working with paper and a pencil then.
“Until I got the back end built - the survey methodology - it was difficult to do.
“The timing to try it just seemed right. I was looking for a new challenge.”
Cirovski solved that problem with the help of Windsor software designers NYN Design.
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