About Dalip Raheja

Dalip Raheja is President and CEO of The Mpower Group (TMG). Dalip has over 30 years of experience managing large organizations and change initiatives. He has worked across the spectrums of supply chain management, strategic sourcing, and management consulting.

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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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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Free: Excellent, Sophisticated Data Security System. Act Fast!

20140313_112715 A retail giant was recently the target of the largest hacking operation in history.  The name is not important as the story is equally applicable to many other companies.  And those of you who have been through the advanced curriculum of our Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “University” will remember the discussions in the Risk Management class on this topic.  The best designed Risk Management solutions (consonants) are worth nothing unless they are adopted by the organization (vowels). 

Let’s talk about the aftermath first:

  • 40 million credit card records stolen – around Christmas
  • Tons of lawsuits
  • Huge reduction in profits, sales, etc.
  • Significant immediate costs($61 million) with projections in the Billions
  • Incalculable loss of trust, loyalty

This particular company had recently installed the absolute best protection software (used by the CIA and Pentagon) and hired a team in Bangalore to monitor the alert system and it all worked beautifully.  On November 30th – the system alerted the company to the attack but it wasn’t till December 15th that the company eliminated the malware – and by then it was too late.  During this time, the protection software could have eliminated the threat  on its own but that feature had been turned off.  The company could have taken other measures when the alerts were sent from Bangalore but didn’t.  After detection, they could have followed the hackers through the internet and identified them but didn’t.  The data could have been stopped on its way to the hackers but wasn’t.  Yet – the Risk Management system that was designed worked extremely well.

Unfortunately, the design had never been adopted.  The organization did not react and did nothing when the multiple alerts were received.  The malware used was very primitive and identified the hackers and yet the company did not act.  One can only assume that there had been no plan in place to react and take action and the protection software’s automatic protection had been turned off – which turned out to be a recipe for disaster.  The entire system was dependent on human intervention and yet there had been no adoption plan in place.  The risk management solution design had inherently designed in more risk!!

Alumni will remember well the discussions about the Boeing Dreamliner and the failure of Suppler Risk Management. And this phenomena is rampant not just in the private sector but also in the public sector as you may also recall the discussion around Hurricane Katrina  and Sandy and the failure of government to act.  You see – almost ALL Risk Management solutions focus all their efforts in designing solutions but very little effort on actually adopting the solution (acting on the results).  As a result, a very unsophisticated attack defeated a very sophisticated, extremely well designed solution that actually worked – it set off alarms and bells.

It may be prudent to look at your risk management solutions in place.  Are they all about detecting and alarming or is there sufficient focus on Adoption?  Can your organization act and decide when alerted?  And while simulated events as tests are valuable, you cannot be complacent with just that strategy.  An easy leisurely stroll out of the building that allows a quick smoke break and chat during a fire drill is not quite the same under exacting conditions when each individual’s life depends on their actions. So, you still want the free excellent, sophisticated data security system? Or, would you rather develop an Adoption plan first?

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Does Your Brain Have More Gray Matter or White Matter? And Why the Heck Should You Care?

Before we answer the above questions, let’s start with a few more.  Have you ever wondered how you make decisions?  Would you like to know so that you can improve your decision making ability?  Would you like to know how your group/organization makes decisions and take some action to improve their decision making capabilities – if you could?

Would you prefer that decision makers (From Black Rock Blog):

 ”Focus more on long term goals OR short term metrics?”

“Be thorough and take time OR be more impulsive?”

“Recognize their shortcomings and seek more information and help OR assume they know everything?”

Consider rights of others and be more cooperative OR not worry about that and focus on the task?

Be more inquisitive and see more solutions OR depend on rules, regulations and traditional ways of doing business?

Utilize Cooperation, Collaboration and Consensus-building to make better decisions and more effectively execute decisions OR ummm not?

 If you were leaning more to the left of those questions and want more of those qualities in decision makers, then it’s important that you know the following about these types of decision makers (From Harvard Business Review):

  •  They have 15% of gray matter compared to their counterparts(Gray matter equals information processing capabilities)
  • They have 10 times more white matter than their counterparts(White matter equals connecting the dots between the information produced by the gray matter)
  • The cord connecting the left and right sides of their brain is 10% thicker!!

And in case you were wondering why you should care, here are some corresponding business results (From Science Daily):

  •  Boards with high representation from such decision makers experience a 53% higher return on equity, a 66% higher return on invested capital and a 42% higher return on sales (Joy et al., 2007).
  • Having just one such decision maker on the board cuts the risk of bankruptcy by 20% (Wilson, 2009).
  •  When such directors are appointed, boards adopt new governance practices earlier, such as director training, board evaluations, director succession planning structures (Singh and Vinnicombe, 2002)
  • They make other board members more civilized and sensitive to other perspectives (Fondas and Sassalos, 2000) and reduce ‘game playing’ (Singh, 2008)
  • They are more likely to ask questions rather than nodding through decisions (Konrad et al., 2008).

 It would be very simple if I gave you an easy way of identifying such decision makers and then bringing them into your organization and making sure that their special attributes were being utilized in decision making?  Or, if there were an easy way of identifying these types of decision makers in your organization and then promoting them to make sure you were getting better decision making?  Or, making sure that all your teams have enough representation of these types of decision makers to ensure that teams are making better decisions and executing them more effectively?  We all wish life were that simple, don’t we?  Those that follow us regularly or have been through Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U” with us will quickly remember the significance of decision making as a competency in organizations and why we spend so much time on it.  We have been doing extensive research and writing about decision making and other strategic competencies as being fundamental to the success of organizations.

Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you about another attribute that these types of decision makers share and it might important to note.  They are homogametic.  They are women.

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Is your Organization the Next Dinosaur?

I recently sent my daughter’s resume to a prospective employer and was quite surprised when he expressed concern about the fact that she  had a number of jobs with different companies (Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Jeffries etc.).  I didn’t react to it but suddenly realized that there was quite a generational gap between the people doing the hiring and the candidates.  It is becoming painfully obvious to hiring managers that the values associated with work and career are radically different today than they were – and companies wanting a competitive advantage had better pay attention to that.

“Wall Street Fights to Keep Young, Restless Analysts” was a recent headline (of an article that points out that Wall Street no longer attracts or retains its top talent – what used to be the dream job of every kid coming out of college (including my daughter and son – both have left the financial industry for the same reasons-no work life balance and meaningless work).  The article uses Goldman as an example but the phenomena is true across the industry.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • “High achievers hand over the keys to their lives to do repetitive, simple work
  • Goldman realized that many were taking their training and leaving
  • They reduced the work week from 100 hours to 75 (huh?)
  • Consultant suggested that analysts get to rank their bosses to identify toxic managers
  • Percentage of candidates headed to Wall Street from top schools has been declining steadily
  • “These banks often recruit top talent, treat them like crap after investing quite a bit of money in training them and continue to do it year after year”

Adam Grant (professor at Wharton) who has been very active on this issue predicts that “If Wall Street doesn’t change, it will be the next dinosaur”.  Imagine an industry that had people planning their entire academic careers to ensure that they got in,  now facing a crisis of epic proportions that may endanger its very existence.  And all because they have not adapted and changed their Talent Management practices to ensure that the very thing that led to their success (a permanent, superior talent pool) does not disappear.  How many people want to enter an industry where the first few years are expected to be miserable?

We worked on a very similar problem for one of these financial firms when they were having a significant problem even attracting graduates to their booths – forget about getting them hired.  It was quite a struggle to get executives to understand that the bank’s name on the booth was no longer good enough to attract talent.  We had to revamp their entire hiring process but most importantly come up with a very creative on-boarding process and a very aggressive retention program (mentors, self- selected job rotations etc. etc.).  They had lines forming up at their booths and a phenomenal success rate in attracting and retaining top talent. 

Gone are the days when graduates line up at the door because of the name.  Successful Talent Management programs are having to fundamentally change their approach and thinking around the entire employment lifecycle.  Meaningful work content is as important as meaningful compensation.  The opportunity to get ahead is balanced by an opportunity to sleep (“by the end of their two years, they just want some sleep”).  Working on the weekend conflicts with having a social life and finding a mate.  Organizations that embrace this new reality will have people lining up and therefore enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.

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