The Mpower Group COO to speak at 81st Investment Recovery Seminar & Trade Show

The Mpower Group is excited to announce it’s COO, Anne Kohler, will be a  presenter at the upcoming 81st Investment Recovery Seminar & Trade Show on April 1, 2015 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago!

The Mpower Group is in the business of Mpowering our clients to accelerate superior business outcomes by unleashing the full potential of their Strategic Sourcing / Supply Chain organizations. We are a global consulting firm dedicated to serving the needs of Fortune 500 Strategic Sourcing & Supply Chain organizations.

tmgheadshots12-13l150As Co- Founder, Executive Vice President and COO of The Mpower Group, Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 20 years. Anne is responsible for overseeing all client engagements and all operations of the firm. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. She has extensive expertise in change management, organizational design, organizational transformation, talent management, shared services, supply chain management, ERP, finance, accounting and process reengineering. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.

Before founding TMG, Anne was the SVP of Strategic Sourcing and Initiatives for JP Morgan Chase (formerly Bank One) Bank One. In this role, Anne led a team of over 100 professionals, internal and external staff in developing and executing supply strategies for the entire bank’s externally purchased goods and services. Over four years, this organization managed over $3 billion in annual spend and contributed in excess of $1.3 billion in savings.

Prior to heading the Sourcing organization, Anne led a major reengineering effort of the bank’s finance function. This two year effort streamlined the finance organization and core processes, and was founded on a successful implementation of SAP as a fully integrated financial systems solution. During her time at the bank, Anne also led complementary initiatives focusing on Insourcing / outsourcing, supplier management, eProcurement, and financial reengineering.

Anne is a recognized thought leader, a frequent contributor to articles and a highly sought after speaker on the topics of Strategic Sourcing, Shared Services, Change Management and Building World Class Organizations.

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Competency Based Models Eviscerate Talent Development?..Not So Fast!

cbtmIn doing research for an upcoming leadership coaching session with a CEO, I came across something in Forbes that I cannot resist taking on (you see, normally I’m quite a shy person ;-) ).  The author (Mike Myatt) makes a bold statement saying that companies are doomed to failure if they use a competency based model and that it “eviscerates talent development”.  Unfortunately, while he is trying to make a very important point that strategic (soft) skills are far more important than technical skills, he blames competency based models as the culprit when what he should be attacking is the content of the model.  His real point is that competency models that consist of Technical competencies and don’t account for Strategic competencies are doomed to failure – we could not agree more!!  Every single client of ours reading this will recognize that argument instantaneously and every alumni will now know why we insist on integrating Strategic and Technical competencies in our model, curriculum, processes etc. etc. etc.

First, it is critical that we pursue competencies and not just skills.  Competencies are applied skills that produce tangible business benefits. The act of applying those skills facilitates Adoption – otherwise, the shelf life for adults of these newly learned skills is measured in weeks.  Myatt somehow equates competencies with technical competencies, ends up using the terms synonymously and goes on to say that organizations should value alignment, vision, values, collaboration, communication etc. (Hallelujah!!)

He then commits the cardinal sin ( ;-) ) of appropriating the term Next Practices for his definition, when in fact it is Competency Based Talent Management that is a Next Practice – as long as you use our (TMG) construct of making sure that Strategic competencies are not only included but also have at least as much weight as Technical competencies.

His argument actually becomes self-defeating. In fact, it is only through incorporating the Strategic competencies in your Competency model that you ensure that your entire Talent Management life cycle is based on the desired competencies – both Strategic and Technical.  The gaps that he rightfully tries to address (organizational, talent, leadership cultural etc.) will only get addressed if the entire lifecycle ( not just performance management, which is but one component) is based on the desired competencies.

Not rewarding the core competencies needed to perform the job (using a spreadsheet) is an important point that he raises and I could not agree more.  My formative years were spent at the Enfield CT facility of Digital Equipment Corporation (a pioneer High Performance Work System location) where you were paid a wage for showing up and producing parts – which was table stakes as Myatt calls it.  If you wanted to make more money, you had to acquire AND apply strategic competencies.

While I totally agree with Myatt’s central premise that Strategic Competencies are far more critical than technical competencies, I totally disagree with how he proposes to achieve his goal.  It is in fact by incorporating the right competencies in the desired competency model and then using it as the foundation for your overall Competency Based Talent Management strategy that you can actually achieve your goal of institutionalizing and adopting Strategic competencies.  When people know that every decision from Hiring to Retiring is based on both Strategic and Technical competencies – they know the corporation is serious.  By the way, incorporating activities (Stakeholder management, Communication strategy, Value Drivers, etc., etc.) that require strategic competencies in your core processes is also very critical.

Myatt makes a very important point regarding the importance of strategic competencies but then does himself a disservice by the answer he proposes???  My guess is that if we were ever to talk, we would end up in violent agreement.


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Critic or Coach?

iStock-Unfinished-Business-1At The Mpower Group we are strong proponents of Competency Based Talent Management.  One of the greatest assets most organizations have is their talent, yet few companies make the investment in that asset relative to other investments.   A large part of our consulting practice in fact is focused on helping organizations build capability and competency through Competency Based Talent Management (“CBTM”). 

 We look at CBTM as a system that needs to be managed as such.  We also believe that, at its core, is a well- defined competency model that helps employees understand what behaviors are required to be successful in their role.  One element that is often a given, is Performance Management.  Companies have built elaborate systems and spent millions of dollars to evaluate employees on an annual basis, supposedly with the goal of improving performance.  An article published in HBR’s April issue entitled “Reinventing Performance Management” looks at how Deloitte is redesigning their own performance management system which is currently out of step with their corporate objectives.

“ In a public survey Deloitte conducted recently, more than half the executives questioned (58%) believe that their current performance management approach drives neither employee engagement nor high performance.”  Believe it or not, as part of the reinvention,  Deloitte is getting rid of cascading objectives, annual reviews and 360 degree feedback – watch out for the HR police :-) !

Here are some interesting discoveries that helped them to build the case for change:

  • Creating ratings for employees consumed about two million hours a year
  • Assessing employee skills produced inconsistent data which was due to individual raters’ perception
  • Performance management was focused on the past not on the future
  • The person best able to assess a team members performance was the team leader and they were not part of the process

As a result of this study, Deloitte set out to reinvent their system under three main objectives  1) recognize performance 2) clearly see the performance 3) fuel performance.

  • Recognize performance – at the end of each project (or quarterly, for long projects) teams leaders were not asked about an individual’s skills but rather about their “own future actions with respect to that person” (e.g. would you want that person on your team again OR is this person ready for promotion OR should they receive the highest salary increase / bonus possible)
  • See performanceteam leaders provide results and behavior observations of the team member to support  the “performance snapshot” – evaluation is timely, more frequent  and utilizes several data points
  • Fuel performance – team leaders check in with the team member often (even daily) to provide coaching and guidance as opposed to the once-a-year conversation behind closed doors. Because team leaders have heavy demands on their time, it is the team member’s job to initiate the check in

In my opinion, some of the elements of this performance management approach are very strong:

  • It is not an annual process but one that considers many data points and is led by the person that is closest to the team member
  • Looks to the future as opposed to the past; forcing the team leader to state whether they would want to have this individual on a future team (how many of us have been the victim of a poor performer that was passed along to us)
  • Places the team leader in the position of coach as opposed to criticizer – this is huge and if done well can go a long way to building better teams and fueling performance.  By the way, this has always been the job of the team leader, but as we all know this does not happen consistently or ever

By the way, requiring the team leader to take on the role of coach requires a different set of competencies which has to be factored into the entire competency based talent management system.  We have long held the opinion that modern performance management practices simply do not work.  For the most part, they are not integrated into the “system” of competency based talent management.  Like Deloitte and others we have surveyed hundreds of companies across numerous industries and have found VERY few that have ALL the elements of a comprehensive talent management program.  All the elements must work together to be effective.  So, while Deloitte is working to “reinvent performance management” they also need to ensure that their talent objectives are supported by recruiting, training / development, career management and succession planning as well.

 Let us know what you think and join in the conversation.  . . . . . .     


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Just Focus on What They Wear-Throw Away Myers-Briggs

3d small people - business pyramid7inMy original title was going to be ”Just Hire Skirts” but I was told in no uncertain terms that some might find that offensive, regardless of my message :-) .  There is the famous story of Michael Jordan never winning a championship till the 1991 finals against the Lakers (I watched at the clubhouse in Pebble Beach with a number of clients on a TV we had them drag in during our dinner- the club was not happy :-( ) when his coach pointed out to him that he was part of  a team, and Paxson was open while Jordan was being double teamed and missing shots.  Bill Russell (11 championships in 13 years) was asked if the Miami Heat was going to win when they first assembled the Dream Team (LeBron, Dwayne and Chris) and he said – “NO” with his explanation being “One Ball”. 

Much has been written about the importance of teams and how to form them.  Popular thinking has been to mesh personalities (based on tools like Myers-Briggs “MB”) and Cass Sunstein (author of Nudge, White House advisor) has some very strong arguments debunking both the premise of effective teams (because of meshing of personality types) and using MB to determine personality types.  The predictive power of personality tests is very dubious according to most research and an “MB score is going to be totally useless for purposes of prediction or for deigning a team”.  His other argument is that MB intrinsically has low test-retest reliability – meaning you will get different results 50% of the time when you retake the test (I can attest to that personally).

While he concedes that the collective IQ of a team does determine outcomes, Sunstein uses the research by MIT to introduce a new measure of collective IQ of the team called Factor C.  It consists of three different metrics:

  1. The average score on a test of Social Perception (the reading the mind in the eyes test- Invented by Borat’s brother) – higher scores equal higher performance
  2. Uneven Participation – Dominant types have negative impact on performance
  3. Number of XX chromosome members – more women on a team equals higher performance (can we please stop the discussion on this topic already and start adopting this premise)

For those of you who have been through the full blown “Teaming” portion of our curriculum, all this will be very familiar and a number of simulations will come to mind (some humorous and some embarrassing memories for sure).

Having the core competency as an organization to assemble, launch and effectively utilize teams is most critical today and unfortunately sorely lacking in most companies.  We have seen major Transformation efforts fail  because clients continue to “under invest” in this.  In almost every client engagement, we attempt to demonstrate how to utilize teams effectively by launching joint teams but the attention to the art and science of teams is quickly abandoned.

Most Competency Development or training programs often miss the mark on this as well.  By minimizing the focus on “soft skills” or Strategic Competencies, they fail to enhance exactly those competencies that lead to better teams.  By not providing experiential learning, which can get quite uncomfortable for many participants (but is exactly why it’s a powerful learning experience), they don’t provide a safe, constructive learning environment for people to practice new behaviors and discard bad ones.

By the way, my views on women in the workplace are well known.  If you were smart, you should  go to the third metric listed above and just focus on the chromosomes – make sure you have as few Y chromosomes on your teams as possible.  It turns out that women consistently score better than men on the first metric and it would be hard to argue that the second metric is much more of a Y chromosome (male) trait.  Like I was saying – Just Hire More Skirts!! .  Next time, be known as a genius…. look around the room and count the skirts on the team and you can predict their success.  Just don’t tell them you were counting skirts.


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Do you Know 25 year old Xuhua Zhou? Maybe you Should!!

ChainXuhua is a dropout from UCLA (PhD program) and has caused Lumber Liquidator’s (“LL”) to drop 2/3 – YES, 2/3 of its market cap (from $3bn to $1 bn) within a year!  He noticed a significant increase in their profitability compared to the industry, and in investigating why, discovered that their Supply Chain had a major risk exposure – mainly that LL had cut their supplier prices by buying flooring that violated safety standards – too much formaldehyde.  In addition to the loss of $2bn in valuation, LL was just featured on 60 minutes, the Senate has launched investigations, class action suits are being filed by investors AND consumers and their market share is diving….and the troubles have just started.  Ultimate survival of LL may be at stake.

For those of you who follow our research or are clients or alumni will remember our initially much aligned series called “Strategic Sourcing is Dead” and if not, it should be from a few years ago when we started preaching that the relentless cost focus of sourcing efforts was actually destroying value and Supply Chain/Sourcing organizations were headed for extinction unless they changed.  This is another example of a long list of organizations that continue to prove our point – and we wish we had been wrong.

Those that look at Supply Chain risk for their organizations should definitely take note of this new phenomenon – professional short sellers who are looking at your supply chain today, identifying risks that you may or may not know of and then exploiting those risks where it can pose an existential threat to your company- unless you are better at identifying and managing those risks.  Meet Whitney Tilson, founder of Kase Capital Management, who found Xuhua’s research, took it public and to 60 minutes while going short on the stock in anticipation of a major drop in share prices.  He has already made a killing.

While LL is trying to do as much damage control as possible, in the world of PR and reputational risk, if you are defending yourself and attacking the testing methodology used by investigators, defending your companies actions by saying you meet the standards (when you clearly don’t) and challenging the accuracy of what your suppliers are saying on TV – it’s a lost cause.

These types of risks in offshore outsourcing (Apple-Bloomberg) have been known for a long time (Toyota-USA Today) and therefore even if the market buys LL’s explanation that it did not know about this (despite suppliers saying that LL knew about it), the market is likely to still hold LL totally accountable and responsible.  The suppliers were clearly not meeting safety standards yet stamping the product as if they did meet standards. 

The discussion that was started about pursuing a low cost strategy is still valid The Next Practices  version of sourcing must identify the real Value Drivers of the company and then relentlessly make sure that the executives support this fundamentally different version of the sourcing process.  The days of putting undue pressure on suppliers to meet totally artificial “should cost” targets are long gone and the sooner we as a profession realize it, the better  our companies will be.  This fundamental shift has to occur and has to be Adopted by the organization or elsewe will continue to expose our companies to the types of existential threats that we cannot imagine.  Of course, this shift also requires a shift in the types of competencies we have but if you are a reader of this blog, you already knew that :-) .

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