Monday, March 30, 2015

Cloud Computing (1) From Knowledge to Customers

click to watch the video

I imagine that for some CEOs, cloud computing remains too nebulous (pun intended, that is, in the form of a cloud or haze) to have practical impact and business value.  A few years ago, cloud computing sounded more like a centralized data storage, such as that provided by Dropbox, Drive and iCloud. So instead of relying on our personal (local) hard drive, we can draw on a far greater space for whatever document, image or video we want to store.  But these days, cloud computing provides far more: It is an online access to a wide range of computer services and resources.  So the definition of what cloud computing is, in a nutshell, has evolved.   

That said, I wondered what mechanisms more specifically does cloud computing offer or enable for engaging more effectively with customers.

Here is my take: At a fundamental level, cloud computing allows colleagues and managers to share their knowledge, for example, from files stored in a place that they can access.  Of course, for true learning to take place, they would have to (a) reflect on and talk  through whatever is contained in those files, (b) make sense of it and draw conclusions, then (c) take better informed, coordinated action on issues.  I suspect that T-Mobile, the case example that Tim Minihan from SAP spoke to, drew on this cloud-enabled learning to gather critical data on customer churn and employed cloud-based analytic tools to identify factors that directly impacted churn.  In this case, then, cloud computing helped T-Mobile better engage customers who were at risk for leaving.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Kalia Firester on Science (and Art)

Kalia Firester certainly sounds like a bright, poised young lady, and deserving of this Intel award, meant to encourage girls to go into science and technology.  Her project already sounds positively academic, but I am glad she explained it well in layperson language.  I hope, though, that just as she speaks against the risks of using pesticides, she is mindful, too, of the potential risks of engineering plants.  I hope she has advisers who can dive into the scientific process and also step back to keep the bigger picture in mind. 

Firester makes a terrific point at the end: People may draw arbitrary lines between science and art, when in fact some, like her, possess interests and talent in both. 

The interplay of science and art, plus religion is at the crux of Tripartite Model.  In brief, I argue that while people certainly have the choice, and have chosen, to ground their lifetime work on one of these disciplines, we must draw on any or all three to solve day-to-day problems and wider ranging, social issues, such as poverty, disease, conflict and environment.  For example, we ought not rely solely on a scientific, analytic approach, when people in general are both rational and non-rational in thought, emotion and behavior.  Also, we can laud how clever and creative artists are, regardless of genre, but we ought not rely exclusively on an intuitive, subjective way of understanding ourselves and the world around us.  Finally, whether we define religion in strict terms, for instance, according to Christianity, Islam or Judaism, or in broad strokes, such as spirituality, purpose and meaning, we not ought get swept up with a purely religious frame of reference.

All three - science, art and religion - have an intricate play in a more complete grasp of things around us and in a more effective way forward with these things.  In essence, this is what Firester speaks to. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Patricia Arquette on Gender Equity and Narratives

Like musicians and athletes, actors have a privileged platform from which to speak good and do good.  Their renown, if drawn on sincerely, wisely and actively, can advance whatever philanthropic effort they and others are engaged in.  So it is for actress Patricia Arquette, who recently won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Boyhood.  I very much agree with her that people have already had a lot of conversation about pay equity for women and that it is time to really make something happen.

For Arquette, it happens through her medium, her art, and after nearly 30 years of acting, her renown as an Oscar winner.  To her point, Hollywood may have largely ignored the narrative of a single mother who worked her ass off to raise her children.  Movers and shakes in Tinseltown better listen, then, or else they lose sight of something that, as I mentioned in the preceding article, can make them money and let them do a social good at the same time.  Nowadays, with social media and mobile technology so freely at our disposal, there are so many ways that people are speaking to whatever moves them.  There is no excuse, therefore, for those Tinseltown titans not to listen and make something (doubly) good happen.

By the way, Richard Linklater, the genius behind the very thoughtful films Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight, is also the writer and director for Boyhood.  I am inspired by the very unlikely, very creative approach he took to making this film:

Shooting the film spanned across a 12-year period from 2002 to 2014, Boyhood depicts the adolescence of Mason Evans, Jr. (Coltrane) from ages six to eighteen as he grows up in Texas with divorced parents (Arquette and Hawke). Richard Linklater's daughter Lorelei plays Mason's sister, Samantha.

The project began filming without a completed script, with only basic plot points and the ending written initially. Linklater developed the script throughout production, writing the next year's portion of the film after rewatching the previous year's footage. He incorporated changes he saw in each actor into the script, while also allowing all major actors to participate in the writing process by incorporating their life experiences into their characters' stories.
Arquette must've felt very fortunate to have worked with Linklater, and of course vice versa, too.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Julianne Moore + Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis: L’Oréal

I've always found Julianne Moore to be a graceful, talented and beautiful actress.  While her recent Academy Award for Best Actress in the inspiring film Still Alice can be celebrated, it is merely one marker in an oeuvre that spans 25 years.  In other words, this Oscar acknowledges the quality of her work, but it doesn't define it. 

I wasn't acquainted with Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, until now.  She founded Classes 4 Classes:
Classes4Classes was founded on the belief that when we teach kids empathy and tolerance there is no room for hate.

We provide a social network that connects teachers and students with other classrooms. What better way to enhance teaching and learning a true social curriculum than by connecting?
Then, I learned about her story, in her own words:  Teaching Compassion After the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting:
In the days and weeks following December 14, 2012 I was left reeling. I was searching for answers (that would never come), desperately trying to regain a sense of security and safety. I was desperately yearning to return to the life I knew on December 13th, one that seemed a world away. Eventually I came to realize that I was never going to answer why; not then, not now, not ever. In coming to this realization I had to instead focus my energy on questions that I could answer. One stood out from the rest, and that question was, 'How do I make sure this day does not come to define my students or myself?' I didn't know the answer right away, but I knew I had to find it.
The answer for Roig-DeBellis was Classes 4 Classes, and in 2013 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth and Points of Light Honor 10 Inspiring Women Making Beautiful Differences in their Communities:
Bound by a deep sense of purpose and appetite for change, this group of women will join the community of 70 esteemed Women of Worth honorees from the past eight years. Tackling society’s most pressing issues, from helping victims in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, to enabling terminally ill seniors accomplish their bucket lists, to building a nonprofit restaurant that helps at-risk youth learn life skills, the 2013 Women of Worth honorees are united in their quest to fuel the future.
And back to Moore:
An Oscar winning actress, Julianne is the essence of the modern woman - natural, independent, and committed. 
Her beauty transcends the generations and her firm beliefs have made her an incredibly inspiring figure.
"I am honoured to convey the idea of self-confidence with the motto Because You’re Worth it."

A major figure in the movie world, she is the essence of the modern woman: at once natural, independent, and committed. Today, L’Oréal Paris is delighted to welcome her as the Brand’s Global Ambassador.
It is my firm belief that making money (business) and doing good (philanthropy) are two sides of the same coin.  Each under girds the other, and each is an essential part of the purpose for the other.  For example, the spirit of business ought to be philanthropy, and philanthropy sustains itself by adopting an effective means for making money (i.e. business model).

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ram Charan and Jerry Useem on Why Companies Fail

(image credit)
June 13th 2002 notes on leadership, business and economics

Why Companies Fail is a persuasive article: It speaks to the fundamental fallibility of the human psyche, and despite the fact that the CEO is the powerful head of a company, his or her psyche is no less fallible than yours or mine.

Here are authors Ram Charan and Jerry Useem's take on the failure factors: 
  1. Softened by success
  2. See no evil
  3. Fearing the boss more than the competition
  4. Overdosing on risk
  5. Acquisition lust
  6. Listening to Wall Street more than employees
  7. Strategy du jour
  8. A dangerous corporate culture
  9. The new-economy death spiral
  10. A dysfunctional board
Why is it that very smart, highly accomplished individuals fail to appreciate the import of negative signs? In part, it is because they are smart (and successful) that they can read a sign, and flat-out rationalize it, minimize it, deny it.

Cognitive Dissonance argues that people will work to reconcile discrepant information in ways that shape their beliefs and perceptions powerfully. They come to believe their reconciliation because it removes the discrepancy.  It reinforces not only of the re-formulated belief, but also the very process of cognition, because it removes the highly discomforting tension, anxiety, or other dysphoric emotion.

Another way of explaining it: It is a failure of the ego to do its function as reality check and the executor of adaptive behavior. It is also a failure of, or a squelching of, the superego to put the ethics-transgression check on the decisions and actions of the ego.

What makes these two important psychic agents fail? 
  • Too powerful id impulses (greed, aggression, pleasure).
  • Weakened states of ego and superego, due to high stress, constant pressure, little rest and recovery.
  • Fundamental deficits in the ego and superego, arising from missing or insufficient nurturing of these agents in an earlier life stage.
  • Defensive mechanisms deployed to guard against some underlying, unconscious anxiety, and the intensity and the endurance of the anxiety necessitate an equally entrenched set of defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms serve its purpose of keeping the ego at some level of comfort and equilibrium, but at the expense of its optimal functioning.
Charan and Useem’s quick fixes:
  • Re-engineer the board
  • Turn employees into corporate governors
  • Banish EBITDA
The CEO can certainly engage in ego- and superego-strengthening activities. Also, the CEO can install key people who can effectively assume ego and superego functioning for the the CEO.

This sort of people installation really ought to be a group that can withstand the powerful pathological forces that swirl around the CEO. Alternatively, it can be a group that is outside the CEO’s organization altogether.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

McKinsey on The War for Talent

(image credit)

April 30th 2002 notes on leadership, business and economics

I finally began to read this book during our Saudi Aramco trip. I know I must read more books, especially those that top business people out there read. I must read more books to build my knowledge, my vocabulary, my thinking about the things that are critical to my work as a PDI consultant, that is, in the broadest sense: their business, their organization, their talent.

Michaels et al. identify five imperatives that companies must act on, if they are to win the managerial war for talent. In a nutshell these are the imperatives that high-performing companies have already woven into their organizations, in some form or other:
  1. Embrace a talent mindset
  2. Craft a winning employee value proposition
  3. Rebuild your recruiting strategy
  4. Weave development into your organization
  5. Differentiate and affirm your people

Establish a talent mindset
  • Establish the gold standard for talent
  • Get actively involved in people decision deep within the organization
  • Drive a simple, probing talent review process
  • Instill a talent mindset in all managers through the organization
  • Invest real money in talent
  • Hold themselves and their managers accountable for the strength of the talent pools they build
Case Study: Les Wexner of The Limited

Began in 1963, The Limited grew to be a “retail and marketing marvel” under Wexner stewardship. By 1990, it had 3800 stores and $5 billion in sales. But in the 1990s, its earnings hit the wall and its stock plunged. Wexner was beside myself.

So with the access he had with top people, he went about to speak to them about what they were doing to run their companies so well: Jack Welch (GE, of course), Wayne Callaway (PepsiCo), and Steven Spielberg (director). Wexner found that, unlike him, they hardly spent time checking sales, reviewing new ads, or working on new product concepts.

But what did they do with most of their time? They said they spent about half their time on people:
  • Recruiting new talent
  • Picking the right people for particular positions
  • Grooming young stars
  • Developing global managers
  • Dealing with underperformers
  • Reviewing the entire talent pool
Wexner not only gained insight on the criticality of a talent mindset and talent management, but also quickly adopt these and implemented them:

1. He worked with his HR people to list the company’s top 100 senior people and take stock of each of them.

2. He hired Len Schlesinger, an HBS professor, as a consultant and confidante, to help him put together a talent review process.

3. He then began to pump the organization with new talent, probably head-hunting other major organizations, including their competitors: Estee Lauder, Banana Republic, J. Crew, and The Gap. He also grabbed talent from Pillsbury, PepsiCo, and BellSouth.

Over three years, more than half of the top 250 positions were changed. One-third of the replacements were from the outside, and two-thirds from the inside.

Results: Profits grew from $250 to $445 M, and the company’s stock price almost doubled.

Wexner declared:
I used to pick sweaters; now I pick people.
Reference:  The War for Talent.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Security and Strategy in the Post-9/11 World

(image credit)

April 25th 2002 notes on leadership, business and economics

Ralph Schrader and Mike McConnell, senior executives at Booz Allen Hamilton, lay out the harsh reality of our post-September 11th world. At the same time, they lay out hope for thriving in such a world. An integrated dance (my word) between security and strategy is the key.

Security must be built into core processes, budgeting cycles, and strategic planning, not just bolted on. Here are the key areas to secure:
  • People (“The implications for recruitment, retention, and productivity are real”)
  • Core business (systems, facilities, infrastructure [assets, really], and processes)
  • Networks
Peter Drucker identified four key sources of disruption:
  1. Globalization (of the economy)
  2. Technology (explosion of new technologies)
  3. Pluralism (growth of pluralism)
  4. Knowledge (emergence of knowledge as an asset)
Nokia is a good case example:
The peril for the unprepared can be profound---as can the opportunity for ready competitors [Telefon AB L.M. Ericsson of Sweden v. Nokia Corporation of Finland; p 40].
A fire in the New Mexico semiconductor plant of Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV disrupted their supply of chips, and Nokia officials noticed a hiccup in the product flow even before Philips informed them. They acted immediately to bring in their chief supply troubleshooter, and within two weeks a global team of 30 officials patched together a solution:
  • Redesigned chips
  • Accelerated a project to boost production
  • Used its company clout to get more chips from other suppliers
Result: Nokia gained three share points, and Ericsson not only lost the same but also ended up exiting the handset market.

Booz Allen Hamilton has used strategic simulations to analyze conflict situations. In a well defined scenario, teams of client personnel (and consulting personnel, I imagine) represent the key forces, methods, or ideologies in question and compete against one another.

Idea: Contact Lou Quast and Cori Hill about how to leverage this in our client work. I believe Active Leader builds off of such thinking. Perhaps PDI senior management might utilize it to strengthen its business.

For example, Caterpillar has used strategic simulations to break the truck market into several segments. The experienced executives who took part
did not know how much they knew about what they marketplace wanted until they matched wits against one another [p 40].
Schrader and McConnell make a persuasive argument about the importance of companies partnering with government and other public organizations. In the age of fear and insecurity, both need to be on the same side and not be foes.

For instance, Chevron partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to ensure environmental compliance as it developed oil and gas reserves in the eastern half of New Guinea.
“The environment inside the oil fields is actually in much better shape than outside the fields,” said Jared Diamond.
Idea: I see Scott Alford and I going to a Chicago official and exploring ways that PDI can help ensure security for the people in the city.

Reference: Security and Strategy in the Age of Discontinuity: A Management Framework for the Post-9/11 World.