Happy Easter From the Mpower Group…oh and a nice video



Since, this is the beginning of Easter weekend, we thought we would delay our really serious blog post that we had planned  and send you a nice video to watch.

We hope you have a safe holiday weekend with friends and loved ones.

From all us at The Mpower Group

Change Management Video:


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When Does More Information Become TMI

tmiIf you don’t know what TMI means, you can always ask your kids (Too Much Information) but the normal context is related to some gross or vile thing where all the information being shared is making you regurgitate.  The emergence of Big Data (why is it always capitalized-makes it ominous?), while apparently increasing analytical ability, also poses significant risks and challenges that must be netted out against all the benefits.  And the constant search for more data in corporations to drive better decision making is the proverbial Holy Grail (now that capitalization I understand).

The internet was supposed to make us all smarter and better informed because it made so much information available to so many people so easily.  While that may generally be true, it is also true that information overload has now become a significant challenge.  Besides the obvious issue of having to weed through mountains of data, a lot of that information is what I call re-generated and not new information.  It’s the same information regurgitated over and over again (where else will you find two references to regurgitate-now three).  People are now paying to get away from the constant information barrage.  How ironic is that?  They spend most of their life chasing the proverbial “hot spot” to get an internet connection and paying for it and then spend money to get away from it.  Not only is there TMI, it also causes another unintended consequence – Confirmation Bias.  The natural tendency in a state of TMI is to seek that information which you already agree with. Thus, you are never exposed to new or contrarian information.  The filters you use weed out anything new to challenge your thinking.  It turns out that the internet may actually be making us dumber and not smarter.  In fact, many studies have reported that the political polarization in the U.S. can partially be attributed to this phenomenon.  For those of you who have been through Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U”, this will sound like a familiar refrain.  Depending on how your team performed during  Lutts & Mipps , you may have some not-so-fond memories of being confronted with lots and lots of data but not being able to provide the solution.

Corporations face the exact same challenges with very serious implications.  They spend millions and millions on chasing more and better data.  ERPs were not enough – we have them bolted on to legacy systems and then bolt on a bunch of applications on top to provide more data faster because they believe it leads to more effective and efficient decision making.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We’ve even had CXOs tell us that if they just had more data, it would lead to better alignment and collaboration.  If that were the case, the no brainer sourcing decisions backed by incredibly solid analytics would not continue to die.  And the notion that all we have to do is provide a better hammer to the carpenter to make him a better carpenter is a fallacy.  If you don’t agree, then all you have to do is to look at what happened with Boeing and Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  There was no shortage of information about the risks – there was no lack of information about them.  Having access to information does not mean that organizations act.  The ability to process information and act on it is totally separated from having all the information.  Yet organizations continue to add to their information infrastructure by providing more information faster and then breathlessly waiting for better decision making to spontaneously erupt.  Better tools do not lead to better outcomes.  Many times better tools may in fact lead to worse outcomes.  Know when you have TMI!!

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Supply Chain Management and the 57 – cent part . . . .

brokenchainMaterials managers, buyers, transportation coordinators, category managers, product engineers, suppliers, quality controllers, etc. all make up this mysterious world of Supply Chain.  If you look at that list and think that one role is more important or more critical than another, then think again.  Would it surprise you to learn that a 57 – cent part may have been the cause of GM’s recall crisis?  According to a recent article – The 57-cent part at the center of GM’s recall crisis, a 57-cent part inside the ignition switch was redesigned in 2006, but the part number was never changed.  It is standard practice, by the way,  for the manufacturer to change the part number any time a part is redesigned.  “The fact that the part number wasn’t changed prevented federal safety investigators, and even some GM employees, from figuring out what caused the accidents.  Accidents declined in newer vehicle models, but investigators could not figure out why, since there didn’t appear to be any change in how they were manufactured.”   Some are suggesting that the lack of a new part number is a sign of a deliberate cover – up, while others are suggesting that this is criminal deception . . .   Maybe BUT maybe not!

I must admit that I was not surprised nor did I immediately jump to the conclusion that this was a deliberate cover-up or criminal deception.  What I did think was that here is yet another example of the critical role Supply Chain plays within an organization.  Here is an illustration of a typical Supply Chain model:


If this model looks complex, my assumption is that GM’s model is even more so.  It is that complexity and the numerous handoffs (between many, many different people, departments, geographies, etc.) that leave any organization vulnerable to errors.  In addition, many (maybe even most) of the players don’t understand what a Supply Chain is, how it works, or their role within it.  Ask an engineer,  and I have, within a typical manufacturing company what his/ her role is within the Supply Chain and more than likely you will hear that they are NOT part of the Supply Chain.  I am only using engineering as an example but there are many other players that would provide the same response. On the flip side, a materials manager may readily identify himself as a member of the Supply Chain but probably does not realize how his role impacts the entire system.  The 57 – cent part debacle may be as simple as someone forgetting to change a part number (by the way, my assumption is that GM has hundreds of thousands of part numbers and hundreds of changes per day) and the rest is now in the press everyday.

What does this teach us about a Supply Chain and Supply Chain Management?  Here are a few thoughts:

  • A Supply Chain is just that, a chain.  When one link is broken it will dismantle the entire chain
  • Every link needs to know how it fits into the overall Supply Chain
  • Your Supply Chain is only as strong as your weakest link – therefore every link counts
  • If you can’t get the everyday stuff right, the rest doesn’t matter 
  • Most professionals have no clue what a Supply Chain is, let alone what it does or the Value  it can provide
  • Supply Chain management should be a core competency for any organization that is providing goods or services (yes, even service organizations have Supply Chains)

By the way, GM like many other large, global organizations probably has more policies, processes, technology and tools than most within their Supply Chain.  The real question is whether or not those resources have been fully adopted within the organization. It is very possible that the 57-cent error was not seen as a big deal but ask the families of those that died what they think. Let’s not underestimate the value that the Supply Chain can bring and also the tremendous responsibility IT has. But first we need to define IT, communicate IT, embrace IT and manage IT.  

Join in the conversation and let us know what you think  . . . . . .

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How Good Are You at Candy Crush? It May Determine your Career!

imagesca4dnz00“People with criminal records stay longer and perform better”

“Relevant experience does not lead to increased productivity”

“Management quality influences attrition & productivity more than employee background’

“Educational attainment is not as critical”

“Long period of unemployment does not make you a worse worker”- From Your boss wants to be Nate Silver

I’m sure most of you have believed at least one of the above but according to recent research ALL of them might be false.  People Analytics or applying Big Data to Talent Management may be fundamentally changing how employees are selected and managed.  It is allowing companies to use predictive analysis on not just personality tests but biometrics and personal data that we all leave everywhere. 

Clearly, the ability to identify the real drivers of employee success and using those to select the right employees is a very powerful tool. If having been to college or which college is not critical, the potential candidate pool looks dramatically different (If true, it also changes the value of an education but that’s for another day.)  That in and of itself could cause a major disruption in the job market.  If having relevant experience is not critical, then career management takes on a whole new dimension?  By the way, similar techniques are  also being planned for assembling the “right” teams of people.

Utilizing video games as part of the selection process allows for the collection of biometric data.  Not only can your play predict your behavior at work but the biometric data collected predicts your responses in certain situations. Your next interview may involve a head mounted video camera, an optical pulse recorder and measuring electrodermal activity.  This is no longer science fiction; it is available to early adopters today.

The data trails that we leave everyday are also being collected and analyzed for predictive patterns.  The number of sick days, attendance issues, what you buy and where you spend your online time – all of these combined offer vast amounts of predictive power.  That predictive power is already being extensively used for marketing and politics and now employment.  Companies are combing the cloud for all the data we leave behind and offering it to employers as a screening device.

A lot of this sounds scary – we have all seen science fiction movies where “machines” are sorting out humans and predicting human behavior (Minority Report).  The “identification” of people into certain “categories”, though based on some tests and algorithms, eerily sounds like a caste system.  The notion that everything that you have ever done (whether online or off) and how you interact with a video game or perform on some personality test will actually determine your (and everyone else’s) station in life is daunting. You can just imagine the Jonah Hill character in Moneyball sitting over a computer and deciding what you are good for.   What happens to our lives when the machines know us better than we know ourselves”?

This is clearly a debate that we will all need to engage in.  This clearly has the potential to fundamentally disrupt how we select and manage employees-and how we as individuals prepare for employment.  The potential predictive power sounds very exciting and inviting.  The ability to identify the perfect employee is clearly better than depending on instinct.  It looks like Big Data has crept into and may fundamentally change Competency Based Talent Management.  Yet, it comes with all kinds of risks and concerns that must also be dealt with.  These two statements probably sum it up well:

 “This video game (interview) never ends.  This job interview is permanent.” – referring to the data we leave behind.

 “In the long run, will it be healthy for society to run everything by the numbers?”

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Skill Gaps – Do the Germans Have a Fix, or Do We?

skillDid you know that nationwide we have over 4 million unfilled job openings but 10 million people are unemployed; this is according to U.S. Labor Department statistics.  On the weekend edition of NPR last week, they ran a story “What Germans Know that Could Help Bridge U.S. Workers’ Skill Gap” which notes that this “phenomenon is puzzling to some European companies that have expanded into the U.S. and are used to a more skilled workforce”.  “It’s pretty much that middle gap” explains Martina Stellmaszek, a representative from the German American Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta.  She explains that they have no problem finding qualified engineers on one end of the spectrum or really low-qualified workers on the other end.  It is that middle segment that is the problem and Germany may have the fix.

The NPR report goes on to describe a three-year apprenticeship program that every trade worker in Germany must undergo before being certified in a skilled job.  Certificates are awarded by the Chamber of Commerce and they set the standards for what is taught in the schools. This program is elaborate and quite successful as it provides employers with certified, experienced workers the day they walk in the door.   It has also captured the attention of the Obama administration, so much so that Joe Biden has been assigned the task of reviewing America’s jobs program.   This is being taken so seriously that new regulations will be announced later this week requiring for-profit and vocational colleges to demonstrate that they are properly preparing students for careers after graduation or potentially be excluded from federal student aid programs.

So by now you are asking yourself, “what does this have to do with our profession?’’ We don’t hire trade workers.  We hire mostly college graduates.  I agree. Yet, the issue of finding the right skilled workers, particularly in our discipline, remains the same and our education system is not necessarily helping.  I’ve met and taught some of the kids coming out of the Supply Chain programs from some of the best universities in the country and while they are smart, they are not equipped to hit the ground running, day one.  Perhaps we need to force the same accountability on our colleges and universities as we do on our vocational schools.  Maybe the idea of an apprentice program for Supply Chain / Sourcing or any shared service function (e.g. Finance, IT, Human Resources) could have some real benefit. Or instead of waiting for our educational system to catch on or up (by the way, this issue has been discussed for years), you can do something about it within your own organization. What we can learn from the Germans is the value of learning and experience on-the-job as opposed to in the classroom. Having delivered training in Germany to a German audience, I appreciate their relentless focus on application.  Here are a few suggestions:

Internships – Start by grabbing the kids early, perhaps after their sophomore year in college.  Establish a program that replicates an apprenticeship where they work side by side an experienced leader.  Give them meaningful work – not the stuff that no one else wants to do.  Most importantly, pay them. Even if it is only minimum wage, paying an intern does give them a sense of worth and commitment. Make it a multi-year program where they work for two to three summers before they are offered a job.  The benefit to both you the employer and the intern is that you get to know there capabilities, work ethic, etc., and they get to learn your culture, processes, expectations, etc.  To be successful this program must be structured and staffed or you will not achieve the benefits.

Rotational or Internal Apprentice program – As you are bringing on new employees, either create a one to two year structured rotation program that allows them to learn the business hands-on or team them up with an experienced leader that they can learn from for at least the first year (this needs to be a structured program as well).  The benefit to both you, the employer, and the employee is that they have a structured learning program that is targeted to add value to your organization.  In addition, these types of programs have proven to be differentiators in the market place when you are recruiting.

Experiential Training – Develop a training program (either internally or with an experienced consultant – I know one, by the way :-) ) that focuses on learning and application of new skills in the classroom but more importantly outside the classroom.  This would focus on on-the-job assignments to ensure that the learning sticks. This approach is not only powerful for new employees but also for current employees where you are trying to upgrade their skills.  The return on investment is ten-fold.

 Another powerful learning tool is to establish Communities of Practice.  But, ooops I am beyond my word limit so that will have to wait for a future blog . . . . .

In conclusion, there continues to be a shortage of the right skills within our profession.  We can either wait for others to fix our problem (the education system) or we can do it ourselves by replicating some of the best practices we have seen from our friends in Germany!

Join in the conversation and let us know what you think  . . . . . . . 

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