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.

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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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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Don’t Waste Any More Money on Training in 2015

trainingdollarsIt’s more than just a play on words – if you ask any senior leader what they are getting from their training investments, you will get a very frustrated response.  Yet at this time of the year, everyone is trying to figure out where to spend their training dollars.  I have a simple piece of advice – save your money and spend it on something else-unless you know the answers to the following Key Questions.  And if you are an alumnus of Strategic Sourcing/Supply Chain “U”, these will look very familiar…

What competencies do you need to meet your objectives? You would be surprised at how many organizations waste money on training without understanding the causal link between their organizational competencies and their ability to meet their objectives.  Hint:  If most of your training is in negotiating better deals with suppliers you may want to think again.

When will you need those competencies?  Remember that there is a significant lead time involved in developing competencies.  You cannot send someone to a cross cultural orientation class and send them off to India to develop a new supply base there.  So, if you need that Indian supply base in two years, it may be time to started developing those competencies now.

Do you know if you are going to “rent”, “build” or “rent to build” (TMG preferred model)? You must identify your critical competency gaps and have an overall strategy for each of them.  Are you going to hire consultants(rent), are you going to train people and provide them with the infrastructure-tools, processes, templates etc.(build) or are you going to have a hybrid model where your consultants are charged to help you deliver results as well as build internal capability.

Are you focused on just the functional competencies?   A trap that many organizations fall into is to focus on the “technical” or “functional” competencies not realizing that the Strategic (erstwhile soft skills) are actually far more critical and have a much more causal relationship with meeting objectives.

Are you clear that training does not deliver competencies, only Adoption does?  All research points to the fact that unless adults immediately apply (adopt) what they learn, retention drops to zero very quickly.  Additionally, any value to the organization from the new skills only occurs if and when the new skills are applied.  While both those points may seem very obvious, they are almost always missing from most training programs. TMG alumni will remember this as the Adoption Bridge.  Do you have an Adoption plan that will convert training into competencies?

Are you focused on organizational competencies – not just individual?  Many organizations send people off to training as individuals or in small groups and wait for the Organizational competency to rise.  Organizational competency is a factor of many elements – common process and tools, common training in teams, availability of tools, templates etc., an opportunity to share and learn etc, etc..  To impact Organizational competency you need to move towards Communities of Practice.

Have you thought about the other elements of a Competency Based Talent Management strategy?  While it is great that you are investing in competency development, to really maximize your return, you should also be looking at how you recruit, measure, reward, and develop people.

If you are trying to determine what to do with your training dollars this year, you may want to start by asking yourself some of these questions.  You may also want to make sure that your leadership team is also on the same page.  If you would like some help, we have a few very elegant and powerful tools that we would be happy to loan you to help you to get at some of these issues on your own.

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What does the Future Hold- the Science Fiction of the Past? Or, Do you Know what a Dongle is?

aiThis post has nothing to do with supply chain/strategic sourcing – explicitly.  What I do want to share are some data points around technology with you and have you think about what 2015 and beyond looks like.  In the near future, we will post a blog of our annual “walk around” with senior executives to see what they are concerned about and  share some of our current thinking with them.

  • A dongle is a small “appliance” that fits in your hand, is powered by your smart phone and can detect major diseases like syphilis and AIDS and costs $34(sure to go down over time or be subsidized).  The potential impact on mortality rates will be huge.
  • Cars can easily be taken over and controlled by very simple hand held devices – while you are driving.
  • Britain just approved the creation of a human embryo from 3 different parent’s DNA to help eliminate certain diseases.
  • ….also bringing along the fear of “designer babies” that only the very rich can afford.  You may have seen Gattaca where Ethan Hawke buys superior genes to improve his chances for space travel.  There was even a comparison to a “super race” on a comedy show.
  • Virtual golf in your basement puts you in the middle of a very realistic experience and you know what the Wii can do.  Now combine that with something like hololens from Microsoft.  The ability to experience augmented reality in an incredibly real way is here….
  • …which reminds me of a movie from a long time ago – Westworld-that has suck in my memory.  Yul Brynner is an augmented character in an immersive vacation spot but the augmented reality goes haywire and he gains the ability to actually kill Richard Benjamin (a real person).
  • Drones are now being used for disaster relief management, wildlife management, better crop planning, water management and things that we are only starting to identify…we of course know where the technology came from and it’s original use.
  •  If you have been the subject of any telemarketing recently, chances are that you were being subjected to “cyborg telemarketing” – not talking to a human.  This is not a recorded voicemail that you listen to – you actually may have gone through a 5 minute conversation thinking you were interacting with a human….
  • ….and we all remember what cyborgs are capable of – “I will be back”(Terminator) or even Iron Man with Robert Downey Jr.
  • Driverless cars are going to be at your local dealer soon or available to taxi you back and forth (Uber, Google etc.) thus reducing accidents and traffic jams.
  • Employees in Sweden are now being inserted with chips so that they don’t have to swipe ID cards – apparently a major convenience.
  • The predictive power of big data is immense and still being developed and the benefits are only now starting to trickle in…
  • …and it’s also being used to identify potential trouble makers long before they have ever done anything or even thought about doing anything.  Did you see Tom Cruise in The Minority Report?

The confluence of all these technologies is definitely happening and it’s happening at a far more rapid rate than any of us may be aware of.  Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Stephen Hawkings and many others have been sounding the alarm, “AI  is a potential menace to humankind with super-intelligent machines that could run amok”.  A lot of science fiction may magically have supernatural predictive powers or they help shape the imagination of the imaginers who go on to imagine scientific and technological advances.  Some things to ponder about as the new year starts – some food for thought if you will, things to contemplate and muse about as you are sipping a libation or even to get into a heated discussion with someone.


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