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Updates from McKinsey

Redefining the role of the leader in the reskilling era
To enable continuous learning, leaders will need to think and act differently.
By Lynda Gratton, Joe Voelker, Tim Welsh and David Rock – ontinuous learning in the workplace must become the new norm if individuals and organizations want to stay ahead. This places more demand than ever on leaders to take on a new role they might initially find unfamiliar—that of learning facilitator-in-chief.

It’s harder to learn new things as an adult; the pain of making mistakes doesn’t roll off as quickly as it might have when we were younger. So how can leaders foster an environment of psychological safety where employees are supported but still productively challenged? The members discussing this problem concluded that part of the solution may be for leaders to dial up their levels of empathy and humility and focus more on enabling the best in their people, rather than commanding it from them.

When we think about reskilling, our minds immediately go to the idea that you do a program or a course, something concrete that upskills you. Actually, for most people, their capacity to reskill comes from the job itself. So the crucial role for leaders is to be thoughtful about the way they design jobs, how they allow their people to move across different types of positions at the company, and allowing those employees to build their skills and forge a navigable path.

Because for most people, it’s likely that the job they’re in now will not exist in the future—or at least not in the same form. So leaders need to provide ongoing momentum for people to use their agency to decide for themselves, “What am I going to do next?

To give employees the insights they need to make informed decisions, it’s also important for leaders to help people in their organization understand what’s happening in the world—maybe not in 30 years’ time, but certainly in three years’ time. Data show clearly that people want some sort of insight about where they might be going in their organization and what role they might play in it or not. Leaders need to be transparent and honest about those changes, engaging in an adult conversation about what might realistically happen in the future and how it could affect employees. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Four ways governments can get the most out of their infrastructure projects
Best practices can help governments invest in infrastructure that expands the economy and better serves the public.
By Aaron Bielenberg, James Williams, and Jonathan Woetzel – Infrastructure—for example, transportation, power, water, and telecom systems—underpins economic activity and catalyzes growth and development. The world spends more than $2.5 trillion a year on infrastructure, but $3.7 trillion a year will be needed through 2035 just to keep pace with projected GDP growth.

National, state, and local governments are devoting increased amounts of capital to meet these needs, and for good reason. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that infrastructure has a socioeconomic rate of return around 20 percent. In other words, $1 of infrastructure investment can raise GDP by 20 cents in the long run.

Gains from infrastructure are fully realized, however, only when projects generate tangible public benefits. Unfortunately, many governments find it difficult to select the right projects—those with the most benefit. Furthermore, infrastructure can provide social and economic advantages only when the capital and operating costs can be financed sustainably, either by the revenues a project generates or by the government sponsor. Too many projects become an economic burden and drain on finances when a government borrows money for an undertaking and neither its revenues nor its direct and indirect economic benefits adequately cover the cost.

Our framework includes four key best practices to help modernize decision making for infrastructure and to improve its social and economic impact. Each step is enabled by and contributes to a consistent, fact-based process for identifying and executing infrastructure projects. The first step—ensuring that projects yield measurable benefits—lays the foundation for all the rest.

  1. Develop projects with tangible, quantifiable benefits
  2. Improve the coordination of infrastructure investments to account for network effects
  3. Engage and align community stakeholders to promote inclusive economic and social benefits
  4. Unlock long-term capital

Consistent, transparent assessments are required to determine if infrastructure satisfies the elements of our framework—whether a project offers robust public benefits, is compatible with other projects and appropriately aligned with the community’s objectives, and uses the best long-term financing available. Thus, governments may have to invest in capabilities to evaluate the benefits of projects and commit themselves to transparent evaluations that include the necessary checks and balances.

Governments should assess their institutional capabilities against the framework’s elements, such as mapping current processes to develop infrastructure projects from concept to operation.

Can the government complete a structured quantification of public benefits?

Is there a way to assess the portfolio as a whole in light of the debt-management strategy? more>

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Updates from McKinsey

How Gulf companies can overcome the five biggest challenges to their digital transformation
By Dany Karam, Christian Kunz, Jigar Patel, and Joydeep Sengupta – By now, most companies in the Gulf region understand the necessity of going digital. After all, 82 percent of the region’s population already owns smartphones.

Yet despite this awareness, progress on digital transformations among companies in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has been limited, at best.

Some companies have tested the waters, while others have moved more aggressively but haven’t scaled their programs. Many companies, however, are still sitting on the sidelines wondering how to move from strategy to action.

Almost no GCC companies have reached the end goal where analytics drives everything they do, agile operations and a culture of failing fast are the norm, and a mature and flexible technology stack is available to continually evolve offerings.

Regardless of where a company stands now, Gulf executives need to act quickly to move their organizations to the next level. Based on our work with incumbents in the Middle East and across the globe, we have identified five of the most common challenges GCC companies face when trying to go digital, as well as strategies for overcoming them and dramatically increasing the chances of success.

It’s understandable that Gulf executives would be reluctant to hit the go button on digital transformations. These efforts are largely new to the region, require considerable capital expenditures, and can lead to very different ways of working. You can’t transform only a little. Leading financial-services companies, for example, spend more than 4 percent of their revenues on digital transformations (with some spending as much as 9 to 12 percent). And digital transformations can go on for at least five years, with a breakeven point that can be one to four years away. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Why your next transformation should be ‘all in’
By Chris Bradley, Marc de Jong, and Wesley Walden – Business transformation programs have long focused on productivity improvement—taking a “better, faster, cheaper” approach to how the company works. And for good reason: disciplined efforts can boost productivity as well as accountability, transparency, execution, and the pace of decision making. When it comes to delivering fast results to the bottom line, it’s a proven recipe that works.

The problem is, it’s no longer enough. Digitization, advanced technologies, and other forms of tech-enabled disruption are upending industry after industry, pressuring incumbent companies not only to scratch out stronger financial returns but also to remake who and what they are as organizations.

Doing the first is hard enough. Tackling the second—changing what your company is and does—requires understanding where the value is shifting in your industry (and in others), spotting opportunities in the inflection points, and taking purposeful actions to seize them. The prospect of doing both jobs at once is sobering.

How realistic is it to think your company can pull it off? The good news is that our research demonstrates it’s entirely possible for organizations to ramp up their bottom-line performance even as they secure game-changing portfolio wins that redefine what a company is and does. What’s more, “all-in” transformations that focus on the organization’s performance and portfolio appear to load the dice in favor of transformational results. By developing these two complementary sets of muscles, companies can aspire to flex them in a coordinated way, using performance improvements to carry them to the next set of portfolio moves, which in turn creates momentum propelling the company to the next level.

If you want to see where you’re going, it’s best to start with a point of reference. Our choice, the power curve of economic profit, came out of a multiyear research effort that sought to establish empirical benchmarks for what really makes for success in strategy. To create Exhibit 1, we plotted the economic profit (the total profit after subtracting the cost of capital) earned by the world’s 2,393 largest nonfinancial companies from 2010 to 2014.

The result shows a power curve that is extremely steep at both ends and flat in the middle. The average company in the middle three quintiles earned less than $50 million in economic profit. Meanwhile, those in the top quintile earned 30 times more than the average firm in our sample, capturing nearly 90 percent of all the economic profit created, or an average of $1.4 billion annually. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

How to develop soft skills
As today’s skill shift accelerates, it is essential that organizations enhance and expand development initiatives for business longevity.
By Julie Avrane-Chopard, Jaime Potter, and David Muhlmann – As automation and artificial intelligence dramatically change the nature of work, employees must fine tune the social and emotional abilities machines cannot master. To encourage this behavior, employers must adjust the ways they assess, educate, train and reward their workforce on soft skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

Soft skills, which are commonly defined as non-technical skills that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others, are vital to organizations and can impact culture, mindsets, leadership, attitudes and behaviors. These skills fall into the following categories:

  1. Advanced communication and negotiation skills
  2. Interpersonal skills and empathy
  3. Leadership and management skills
  4. Entrepreneurship and initiative-taking
  5. Adaptability and continuous learning skills
  6. Teaching and training skills

A key difference among today’s large-scale skill shift and those in the past—including the transformative transition from agriculture to manufacturing—is the urgency for workers who exhibit these capabilities.

Developing required soft skills and ensuring employees, and in turn organizations, are set up for success isn’t as simple as popping in a training video. Instead, companies must change their employees’ processes and behaviors—a much harder task.

Assessment is an important first step. Sizing the soft skill gap proves particularly challenging, since they typically lack systematic evaluation and certification mechanisms. HR departments must be equipped with a framework that codifies soft skills and defines their respective evaluation criteria.

For example, several European firms are employing “stepping stone” initiatives to build a digital platform to help workers evaluate their soft skills, know their strengths and development needs, gain access to specific trainings, and get certified.

Effective reskilling requires blended learning journeys that mix traditional learning, including training, digital courses and job aids, with nontraditional methods, such as peer coaching. One retail giant has distributed over 17,000 virtual reality headsets that immerse employees in unfamiliar situations, such as their first Black Friday sales day, and is training them in new tech, soft skills and compliance.

People naturally operate based on incentives—they do what is rewarded. To encourage people to not only begin their soft skill learning journey but to continue with it, rewards and incentives are critical. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Building new businesses: How incumbents use their advantages to accelerate growth
By Matt Banholzer, Markus Berger-de Leon, Ralf Dreischmeier, Ari Libarikian, and Erik Roth – For large companies, building new businesses is essential for growth and reinvention. The key to success? Combining the strengths of an incumbent with the agility of a start-up.

With each passing day, established companies encounter valuable opportunities to grow and innovate—along with intense competition, which has made it harder than ever to stay on top. The companies listed on the S&P 500 index have an average age of 22 years, down from 61 years in 1958. One factor that sets winners apart is their ability to build successful new businesses repeatedly. According to our research, six of the world’s ten largest companies might be called serial business builders, having launched at least five new businesses during the past 20 years, and two more of the ten have built sizable new businesses.

This isn’t a coincidence. Established companies possess talent, funds, market insights, intellectual property, data, and other assets that can give their new businesses a decisive edge over stand-alone start-ups. Providing access to an existing customer base, for example, can lower the cost of acquiring customers and speed their uptake, thereby putting the new business on a faster growth trajectory. When established companies develop the ability to integrate their assets with tech-enabled business models, they can continually generate new businesses.

Doing so well requires four elements: strong CEO sponsorship, carefully structured relationships between the parent company and its ventures, the discipline to fund new businesses as they test and validate their ideas, and a skillful business-building team.

Business building is no longer a choice: it is an essential discipline that lets incumbents counter disruptive challengers and sustain organic growth. New businesses can also serve as proving grounds for agile and design thinking, so an incumbent’s executives can gain exposure to these practices before introducing them to core businesses. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

How purpose-led missions can help Europe innovate at scale
By Ilan Rozenkopf, Pal Erik Sjatil, and Sebastian Stern – Europe is at an important economic inflection point. The continent has the required assets for future prosperity, including leading economically in worldwide sectors such as automotive and pharmaceuticals, and is making progress in important innovations that will help it compete. Nonetheless, European business faces a challenge that is eroding its economic position relative to other global powers: building new leading clusters or companies that can innovate at scale. Addressing this challenge is vital to the continent’s economic future.

We suggest building on Europe’s economic strengths and social capital to tackle the challenge. European business leaders should raise their sights and set new ambitions, both for their own organizations and for collaboration across private and public sectors on fundamentally important projects for the future. Building on a concept originally proposed by Professor Mariana Mazzucato, we call these “missions”—bold and inspirational initiatives to collaborate at scale on socially and economically important topics capable of attracting public support.

This approach can help Europe address its innovation challenge in its own distinctive way, marshalling resources and harnessing ideas and diverse cultures in a set of common ambitions. It could also compensate for structural disadvantages relative to China and the United States, such as a comparatively fragmented domestic market and a less cohesive system of government action.

In sum, missions offer a significant opportunity for European business leaders to take an even stronger lead for more innovation at scale in Europe. Fostering ambition-led collaboration enables scaling of disruptive innovation and proven ideas in a way that leverages Europe’s strength in diversity and, thus, the harmony underpinning its social market economy. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

Managing and supporting employees through cultural change in mergers
By Becky Kaetzler, Kameron Kordestani, Emily O’Loughlin, and Mieke Van Oostende – Mergers create vast organizational anxiety about the future: in most cases, the operating model and culture will change dramatically for one or both merging companies. These changes go far beyond a new name and senior leadership; they challenge the core of an organization’s identity, purpose, and day-to-day work. Even small tactical changes, like new expense policies or cafeteria options, can rattle employees. Anticipating and addressing these “organizational emotions” can set the foundation for seamless, effective integration. Failing to anticipate and address them can lead to poor business performance, a loss of critical talent, and the leakage of synergies.

Merging companies must shift the day-to-day behavior and mind-sets of their employees to protect a deal’s sources of value, both financial and organizational, and to make changes sustainable.

One basic problem is management’s tendency to focus mostly on changes that would directly help to capture a deal’s value targets while largely ignoring those required to maintain and enhance the company’s health. Organizational design, for example, is always top of mind in the early stages of merger planning, but companies often sidestep cultural differences until difficult issues come to light. At that point, the base business will already have suffered, top talent may already have looked for external opportunities, and the capture of synergies may have become more difficult.

A holistic, effective integration program should proactively address the full scope of changes your employees will experience in an integration. Managing through this kind of effort involves two broad tasks: embedding cultural changes and managing operational ones. more>

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Updates from McKinsey

How smart choices on taxation can help close the growing fiscal gap
The growing fiscal gap has policy makers in a difficult position. Swift action in a few areas can help them improve the operational efficiency of fiscal systems.
By Aurélie Barnay, Jonathan Davis, Jonathan Dimson, and Marco Dondi – Governments around the world have implemented a range of fiscal and debt measures to fund policy initiatives over recent decades. As a result, tax revenues as a proportion of GDP have risen four percentage points across Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries since 1980. However, many governments remain inadequately funded. Despite higher tax revenues, spending is rising faster than income, leading to widening budget deficits and higher levels of debt.

Four distinct trends are playing out: increasing automation in the workplace, leading to pressure on employment; the evolution of global trade through the proliferation of e-commerce and digital business, raising questions over cross-border taxation; rising self-employment; and an aging population. Each of these could further widen the fiscal deficit in the years ahead. Moreover, we see all four accelerating, placing policy makers in an ever-tightening fiscal bind.

Basic economics provides two options for balancing the books: either increase revenues or decrease spending.

The bottom line for governments is that there are no easy answers. Whether they seek to increase taxation or boost efficiency, they are likely to face headwinds. Still, decisive and rapid action is essential to optimize tax collections and keep pace with an inevitable rise in demand for services.

Tax revenues in OECD countries have risen slightly over the past 35 years. However, spending has risen more, leading to widening deficits that governments have bridged with debt. OECD tax revenues were 34 percent of GDP in 2017. Because of tax deficits and the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, the average ratio of gross debt to GDP rose from 66 percent of GDP in 1995 to 88 percent in 2017.

Sources of tax revenue have remained stable over time. Over three decades, personal income and consumption together accounted for 82 to 89 percent of revenues. The biggest single contributor was payroll and income tax, accounting for 50 to 55 percent of revenues (even though the contribution of personal income tax declined by nearly 7 percentage points). Consumption and excise duties remain little changed at 32 to 34 percent of revenues.

More people are working for themselves, either as a contractor to several companies or a single company. This emerging gig economy accounts for an estimated 28 percent of EU and US employment. The proportion would rise to 46 percent if everyone had their preferred working arrangement, according to MGI research.

However, the gig economy creates challenges for tax authorities. First, independent workers are generally less compliant than their employed peers, and in some countries are required to pay less taxes. Evidence from the US suggests that workers subject to limited information reporting, such as the self-employed, have an around 50 percentage point lower rate of tax compliance than traditional workers. There are also ongoing legal debates in some jurisdictions over whether gig economy workers are employees for the purposes of worker classification and social security contributions.

Governments can close the widening gap between revenues and expenditures in a variety of ways through tax revenues, nontax revenues, and spending optimization. In addition, some governments are either implementing or considering approaches based on monetary finance.

The gap between government revenues and spending has widened and is likely to continue to do so. The onus, then, is on tax authorities to act now. more>

Updates from McKinsey

A transformation in store
Brick-and-mortar retail stores need to up their game. Technology could give them significant boost.
By Praveen Adhi, Tiffany Burns, Andrew Davis, Shruti Lal, and Bill Mutell – Now should be a great time in US retail. Consumer confidence has finally returned to pre-recession levels. Americans have seen their per capita, constant-dollar disposable income rise more than 20 percent between the beginning of 2014 and early 2019.

Yet despite the buoyant economic environment, many brick-and-mortar stores are struggling. In the last three years, more than 45 US retail chains have gone bankrupt.

Yet rumors of the physical store’s death are exaggerated. Even by 2023, e-commerce is forecast to account for only 21 percent of total retail sales and just 5 percent of grocery sales. And with Amazon and other major internet players developing their own brick-and-mortar networks, it is becoming increasingly clear that the future of retail belongs to companies that can offer a true omnichannel experience.

Retailers are already wrestling with omnichannel’s demands on their supply chains and back-office operations. Now they need to think about how they use emerging technologies and rich, granular data on customers to transform the in-store experience. The rewards for those that get this right will be significant: 83 percent of customers say they want their shopping experience to be personalized in some way, and our research suggests that effective personalization can increase store revenues by 20 to 30 percent.

Several new technologies have reached a tipping point and are set to spill over onto the retail floor. Machine learning and big-data analytics techniques are ready to crunch the vast quantities of customer data that retailers already accumulate. Robots and automation systems are moving out of factories and into warehouses and distribution centers. The Internet of Things allows products to be tracked across continents, or on shelves with millimeter precision. Now is a great time for retailers to embrace that challenge of bringing technology and data together in the offline world. more>

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