Tag Archives: Leadership

Democracy’s biggest challenge is information integrity

By Laura Thornton – As the world watches the United States’ elections unfold, the intensity of our polarization is on display. This election was not marked by apathy. On the contrary – citizens turned out in record numbers, some standing in lines all day, to exercise their franchise with powerful determination and the conviction of their choice.

What is notable is how diametrically opposed those choices are, the divergence is not only voters’ visions for America but perceptions of the reality of America. It has long been said that Americans, like citizens elsewhere, increasingly live in parallel universes. Why is this? I believe quite simply it boils down to information.

While there are ample exceptions and complexities, in one universe, people consume a smattering of different news sources, perhaps one or two newspapers, some journals, television and radio broadcasts and podcasts. Many of the sources are considered left-leaning. These Americans tend to hold university degrees and vote for Democrats.

The other universe includes those who primarily get their news from one or two sources, like Fox News, and rely on Facebook and perhaps their community, friends, and family for information.  They lean Republican, and many are not university educated — the so-called “education gap” in American politics. The majority of Republicans, in fact, cite Fox for their primary source of news, and those who watch Fox News are overwhelmingly supportive of Republicans and Trump.  Both universes gravitate toward echo chambers of like-minded compatriots, rarely open or empathetic to the views and experiences of others.

There are obvious exceptions and variations. The New York Times-reading, educated Republican holding his nose but counting on a tax break. Or the low-information voter who votes Democratic with her community.

In the two big general universes, sadly the divide is not just about opinions or policy approaches.  They operate with different facts.  As Kellyanne Conway, former Trump advisor, famously put it, “alternative facts.” more>

Updates from McKinsey

Managing the people side of risk
Companies can create a powerful risk culture without turning the organization upside down.
By Alexis Krivkovich and Cindy Levy – Most executives take managing risk quite seriously, the better to avoid the kinds of crises that can destroy value, ruin reputations, and even bring a company down. Especially in the wake of the global financial crisis, many have strived to put in place more thorough risk-related processes and oversight structures in order to detect and correct fraud, safety breaches, operational errors, and overleveraging long before they become full-blown disasters.

Yet processes and oversight structures, albeit essential, are only part of the story. Some organizations have found that crises can continue to emerge when they neglect to manage the frontline attitudes and behaviors that are their first line of defense against risk. This so-called risk culture is the milieu within which the human decisions that govern the day-to-day activities of every organization are made; even decisions that are small and seemingly innocuous can be critical. Having a strong risk culture does not necessarily mean taking less risk. Companies with the most effective risk cultures might, in fact, take a lot of risk, acquiring new businesses, entering new markets, and investing in organic growth. Those with an ineffective risk culture might be taking too little.

Of course, it is unlikely that any program will completely safeguard a company against unforeseen events or bad actors. But we believe it is possible to create a culture that makes it harder for an outlier, be it an event or an offender, to put the company at risk. In our risk-culture-profiling work with 30 global companies, supported by 20 detailed case studies, we have found that the most effective managers of risk exhibit certain traits—which enable them to respond quickly, whether by avoiding risks or taking advantage of them. We have also observed companies that take concrete steps to begin building an effective risk culture—often starting with data they already have. more>

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3 Keys to Engineering Success

Although success can be defined in different ways by different people, there are three very specific keys to engineering success.

By Jacob Beningo – Every engineer and engineering team wants to be successful. Success can be defined in many different ways whether it is meeting a deadline, making a customer happy, or completing work within the budget. Whatever the definition of success is, there are three keys to successful engineering, and they aren’t necessarily technical.

Success Key #1 – Maintaining Discipline

Related: 50 Top Private Engineering Firms of 2020

The first key to success is that even under the toughest conditions, discipline needs to be maintained. This isn’t a military thing, it’s common sense. I see a lot of teams that when things start to get tough, corners recklessly start getting cut. The loss of discipline creates additional problems that further get in the way of delivering and quickly become a self-feeding doom loop that wastes time and kills budget.

Maintaining discipline for success must be done at more than one level at the company. First, individual developers need to agree that no matter what pressure is put on them, they will follow their processes, perform their due diligence, and not allow themselves to decay into wild west programming. Individual developers form the foundation and if they crack, the whole project is going with them. Second, the collective team needs to agree that they will maintain their discipline no matter what. Everyone working together will help ensure that they are successful. Finally, the company management team needs to be on-board and understand that while there may be a fire today or a critical delivery date, the team has to maintain the discipline to make the delivery successful. All three levels of the business need to be on board.

In my experience, engineering success comes down to much more than technical prowess. It comes down to having and maintain discipline. It requires carefully managing expectations to deliver what is needed when it is needed not by overpromising and under-delivering. Perhaps most importantly, to have long-term success, it requires having fun doing whatever it is that you do and with the people you are doing it with. more>

Updates from McKinsey

From defense to offense: Digital B2B services in the next normal
After playing a crucial role in adapting service operations to COVID-19 disruptions, digital and analytics can help B2B service companies emerge stronger in the post-pandemic reset.
By Guy Benjamin, Markus Forsgren, and Nicolas Guzman – In the wake of COVID-19, service organizations have faced the difficult task of balancing the immediate need for new safety measures and additional resources against the longer-term need to manage the recovery. Yet despite the vulnerabilities the pandemic exposed in their operations, some service companies are starting to redefine business-as-usual, allowing them to find a new path through the next normal.

Forward-looking leaders are rethinking how they run their service operations, with digital front and center. Digital and analytics (DnA) played a critical role in addressing the multitude of challenges that arose at the start of the crisis. It also shed new light on the transformative power of DnA to reimagine and transform a services business across three major areas: sales, delivery, and support.

For any individual organization, the extent of the digital transformation will naturally depend on the specific changes required to adapt the current operating model and leverage cutting-edge technologies. But what the most advanced businesses have in common is that they’re using DnA to develop solutions that make their operations not just safer, but stronger.

Companies that were early adopters of digital to improve their service delivery were better equipped to react with speed and plan proactively, both of which are essential to thrive during a recovery. An analysis of performance during and after the 2008 global financial crisis shows that companies that proactively planned not only managed the crisis better, but also grew disproportionately in terms of market share and value creation during the following years. more>

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How Leaders Can Regain Trust in Untrusting Times

By Gregory P. Shea – Google employees protest an attempt to silence their activism. Facebook employees stage a virtual walkout. Amazon employees protest over workplace safety, and a company vice president resigns over their firings. Employees at Target and Walmart protest as well. Print and broadcast media struggle with various policies, and prominent journalists resign at the The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times. The Washington Post reports on research findings that the COVID-19 pandemic will undermine trust in government for decades.

Isolated data points? Maybe. A sign of the times? Perhaps. Regardless, leaders should take note.

First, leadership is a relationship. No relationship, no leadership. One or more people allow another person to influence their behavior in a manner or direction that the other wishes. That influence can and does come from a wide variety of sources. But regardless of source, no such relationship means no followers, and no followers means no leaders and no leadership. As one Wharton Executive Education participant put it: “We refer to a person who sets the direction for our travel as a ‘leader.’ We refer to a person traveling without followers as ‘a bloke out for a walk.’”

Second, societal and organizational elites have, for decades, chiseled away at their relationship with followers. Systematic shredding of long-standing “do your job, keep your job” cultures in the last 20 to 30 years of the 20th century eviscerated the psychological contract between employer and employee, even as employers complained about the remarkable demise of employee loyalty. Since 1978, CEO pay has increased 1,000%, compared with 11.9% for average workers. CEOs now make 278 times as much as the average worker, up from 20 times in 1965. Trust in government has fallen from about 70% to under 50% over the same period.

Few visible elites paid any appreciable price in the wake of the financial crisis (unlike after the S&L crisis of the 1980s and 1990s), and those who did were frequently seen loading up their wagons with gold before heading out of town and into “retirement.” more>

Updates from McKinsey

Bias busters: Avoiding snap judgments
Despite their best intentions, executives fall prey to cognitive and organizational biases that get in the way of good decision making.
By Tim Koller, Dan Lovallo, and Phil Rosenzweig – The board of a mining company thinks it’s time for a new CEO, one who understands the increased role of technology in the industry and can inspire the next generation of mining leaders. The hiring committee has a few internal candidates in mind—namely, the heads of the copper, nickel, and coal divisions.

All three have similar years and types of industry experience and comparable P&L responsibilities. But the front-runner in the minds of many on the committee is the head of the copper division. After all, copper has contributed the most to the bottom line over the past few years, while the other divisions have been lagging. It must be because the unit head is a tech-savvy people person, with a good understanding of industry trends, they reason. “Seems like a no-brainer,” the head of the hiring committee notes.

But how can the board be sure that it is picking the best candidate for the top job?

These distortions don’t apply only to company performance; the halo effect can also alter how we view individual performance. That’s what happened in the case of the mining company. The front-running CEO candidate’s division had performed well in large part because of a significant spike in the price of copper, something over which he had no control. Yet the halo of high profits shined on the business-unit leader, the hiring committee’s initial impressions of him stuck, and he was appointed CEO.

Much to the board’s dismay, the new CEO did not demonstrate either skillful use of technology or strong leadership, two capabilities that were critical for this role. Early in his tenure, the company incurred billions of dollars in losses. more>

Nuclear Weapons Are Getting Less Predictable, and More Dangerous

By Patrick Tucker – On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to discuss, among many things, the prospect of a new, comprehensive nuclear-weapons treaty with Russia and China.

At the same time, the Pentagon is developing a new generation of nuclear weapons to keep up with cutting-edge missiles and warheads coming out of Moscow. If the administration fails in its ambitious renegotiation, the world is headed toward a new era of heightened nuclear tension not seen in decades.

That’s because these new weapons are eroding the idea of nuclear predictability.

Since the dawn of the nuclear era, the concept of the nuclear triad — bombers, submarines, and intercontinental ballistic missiles — created a shared set of expectations around what the start of a nuclear war would look like.

If you were in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado and you saw ICBMs headed toward the United States, you knew that a nuclear first strike was underway. The Soviets had a similar set of expectations, and this shared understanding created the delicate balance of deterrence — a balance that is becoming unsettled.

Start with Russia’s plans for new, more-maneuverable ICBMs. Such weapons have loosely been dubbed “hypersonic weapons” — something of a misnomer because all intercontinental ballistic missiles travel at hypersonic speeds of five or more times the speed of sound — and they create new problems for America’s defenders.

“As I stand here today, I don’t know what that solution set looks like,” Gen. Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at an Air Force Association event in April. “If you’re going Mach 13 at the very northern edge of Hudson Bay, you have enough residual velocity to hit all 48 of the continential United States and all of Alaska. You can choose [to] point it left or right, and hit Maine or Alaska, or you can hit San Diego or Key West. That’s a monstrous problem.”

This makes it harder for U.S. leaders, in the crucial minutes before a potentially civilization-ending nuclear strike, to understand just what kind of weapon is inbound. more>

What’s Great Power Competition? No One Really Knows

By Katie Bo Williams – More than a year since the new National Defense Strategy refocused the U.S. military away from counterinsurgency and back towards the country’s greatest strategic competitors, some policy and strategy experts say the Pentagon hasn’t yet figured out how to “compete” with Russia and China.

In fact, it hasn’t even settled on a definition for the “competition” in “great power competition.”

The uncertainty has left former officials scratching their heads about how, specifically, the Defense Department plans to counter China and Russia beneath the threshold of armed conflict. It also appears to be pulling the Pentagon’s policy planners beyond their traditional purview of fighting and winning wars.

“The NDS has two pieces to it: it says you have to compete with China and Russia and prepare for conflict with China and Russia,” said Mara Karlin, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development. “Those are different. The way you would manage and develop your force is different depending on which one you are biasing towards.” more>

Updates from ITU

AI for Good’ or scary AI?
By Neil Sahota and Michael Ashley – Some futurists fear Artificial Intelligence (AI), perhaps understandably. After all, AI appears in all kinds of menacing ways in popular culture, from the Terminator movie dynasty to homicidal HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Though these movies depict Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) gone awry, it’s important to note some leading tech scholars, such as George Gilder (author Life After Google), doubt humans will ever be able to generate the sentience we humans take for granted (AGI) in our machines.

As it turns out, the predominant fear the typical person actually holds about AI pertains to Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI).

Specialized, ANI focuses on narrow tasks, like routing you to your destination — or maybe one day driving you there.

Much of what we uncovered when cowriting our new book, Own the A.I. Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition, is that people fear narrow task-completing AIs will take their job.

“It’s no secret many people worry about this type of problem,” Irakli Beridze, who is a speaker at the upcoming AI For Good Global Summit and heads the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, told us when interviewed for the book.

“One way or another, AI-induced unemployment is a risk we cannot dismiss out of hand. We regularly see reports predicting AI will wipe out 20 to 70 percent of jobs. And we’re not just talking about truck drivers and factory workers, but also accountants, lawyers, doctors, and other highly skilled professionals.” more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

Public disclosures help hold politicians accountable
By Rebecca Stropoli – A common problem in democracies is that, once elected, politicians may fail to address the needs of their constituents, especially the poorer ones. But is there a way to empower the electorate by holding officials accountable for their actions?

MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee and Harvard’s Nils Enevoldsen, Rohini Pande, and Michael Walton examined the effect that publicizing politicians’ records had on electoral results in the 2012 municipal elections in Delhi, India. They find that being issued public report cards caused politicians to shift their spending priorities.

With more than 18 million people, Delhi is the world’s second-largest city, behind Tokyo. Poor people living in slums form a significant share of the Delhi population. Slum dwellers, in fact, account for an electoral majority in many of the city’s 272 single-member wards, each of which elects a councilor to the municipal government every five years.

The anticipation of media reports did influence the policies of politicians representing poorer areas, the findings suggest. Councilors in high-slum wards whose report cards were published shifted their spending priorities to better match the needs of their constituents.

The “effective spending” on the needs of the poor by these councilors over two years increased by about $5,000 on average, or more than 13 percent, Enevoldsen says. more>

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