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The Challenge of truth telling in the Army profession

July 12, 2014 Leave a comment

http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1178.pdf

If a large organization like the Army which is so renowned for the quality and caliber of its leadership and integrity as difficulties with different levels of command and leaders telling the truth to each other, how much of an unseen force is the lack of candor in commercially-based organizations where there is more self-interest among individuals?
How important is it to the culture of the organization that people can tell the truth without fear of repercussions? If that’s not one of the cultural values of the organization, what are the implications going to be for large-scale transformations that require honest and open communication?
How do we break that political and cultural barrier?

commentary on managing change

May 24, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Motivation

Creating a vision

Managing politics

Manage transition

Sustain momentum

Can you crosswalk those five major activities to and AI approach?

How can AI positively affect each of those?

What can we do to reinforce new behaviors at the managerial level?

Once the speeches are over and the awards have been presented we all go back to our desk to start working, what changed is a result of our intervention?

How do we institutionalize the positive change?

reflections on Kotter’s change model and appreciative inquiry

May 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Change Management process ITIL

Change Management process ITIL (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Should organizations be looking at how to change themselves to adapt to an environment or should they look for environments in which their organization is prone to succeed and stay with what they know?
Those who believe in the latter approach, are advocates of the core competency model.
Kotter‘s model is concerned about minimizing error or avoiding it altogether. Can his model be reconciled with the positivist approach of appreciative inquiry?
Kotter’s model seems to emphasize the top-down approach through leadership, beginning with vision and having the leaders drive the change direction and change management. Only after the vision is established does he talk about communicating for buy-in. Does this bypass stakeholders for the sake of efficiency? Is there room in the Kotter model for good ideas from the bottom to dictate the direction of the organization?
Is it reasonable to expect that people at the bottom levels of the organization have sufficient strategic insight to be able to offer good advice on strategy?  In other words, is everybody’s opinion equally valuable?
In the face of resistance, how do we know when it’s time to persevere and push through or time to adapt?  One man’s persistence is another man’s stubbornness.
One of the principles of action research when it comes to making change stick is the importance of making changes in infrastructures and policies. That doesn’t seem to be part of Kotter’s eighth step. Is that an oversight?
When is innovation the enemy of efficiency? How do we know whether to prefer the new change over improving our current process through standardization and eliminating waste?

Making the Invisible Visible: Understanding Leadership Contributions of Asian Minorities in the Workplace

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

leadership

Image by Ed Gaillard via Flickr

This small quiet book on leadership deserves to become visible so that its message of quiet leadership can be absorbed into our business and political organizations worldwide.

Who are the invisible leaders? How do we make them visible?

Back up for a moment: SHOULD we MAKE them visible, or is our understanding of leadership in the Western mode, with the “Individual as Hero”, not all there is to the story?

The authors tackle the problems and opportunities of global leadership from an angle that would be seen as nontraditional by Western leaders but which addresses the reality of leadership in daily life as experienced by millions of people around the world.

Coming from a Western in military background, I’ve grown up in a leadership culture that prizes individual heroic approaches to direct action leadership. I’ve never felt like that reflected everything that needs to be said about leadership and that’s the central message of this powerful book.

Thatchenkery and Sugiyama conducted a multi-year study to examine what they call the invisible leadership style that they experienced as members of various Asian communities. What they call invisible leadership can be thought of as a cultural worldview built on the ideas that showmanship is the opposite of leadership, that what matters is teamwork and results in long time horizons that favor growth and development from the inside of the organization and that performance is examined and valued on the basis of what’s good for the team. Invisible leaders get the job done and trust that the results will speak for themselves. They value team performance, and dont expect leaders to be constantly self-promoting and trumpeting from the front.

The authors proceed to explore their sense of this phenomenon by conducting a thoroughly grounded research effort that incorporates quantitative and qualitative data and analysis using surveys, focus groups, interviews and case studies to develop their argument. It is a model of scholarly work that carefully identifies assumptions, limitations and constraints while pointing to areas of consensus and opportunities to apply their insights in the last chapter.

They’ve incorporated scholarship on the impact of culture, motivation theory, multiple models of leadership and globalization in their efforts. They examine the impacts of leadership style and philosophy on promotions, training, recognition and reward systems and considered how invisible leadership is affected by current management practices in developing metrics, management practices and counseling programs.

They carefully examined the very notion of the utility of categorizing leadership under the broad concept of “Asian”, which on the surface seems like it could be useful but which masks the very real richness and diversity that can be found in various communities of practice and social groups populated by people from India, China, Japan, Thailand, Korea etc who are living and working in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada and whose generational demographics and further complexity to the rich mélange that is their personal experience.

The study takes a cross-section of all of these personal demographic factors and adds a further dimension based on work factors like public versus private versus nonprofit institutions. No simple leadership model can do justice to such a complex sociological mixture, despite the loud proclamations of best-selling leadership book titles, and the promises of quick fix, simple formula leadership solutions. The authors findings resonate with Heifetz’s “Leadership Without Easy Answers “, and Deming’s advice to “eliminate slogans”.

The book begins what should be a long and continuing conversation to understand the real-life complexities of modern organizations and to find ways to unleash the power and quality of all our people. It suggests that organizations can begin to apply the insights of invisible leadership by asking the right questions, considering organizational policies about visible leadership, and the payoffs of supporting invisible leaders from both pragmatic and philosophical perspectives.

They carefully examine and debunk three common mental models that have plagued Asians in the United States, the UK and Canada. Asians have been variously seen as a model minority that has supposedly “made it” and shown the way for other ethnicities; as a “middle minority” without the social problems inherent in newly emerging groups but who are not quite yet co-equal with the majority and the experience of Asians as a group that is forever foreign. According to the study, these mental models are broadly perceived by Asians to affect them personally and professionally and get in the way of Asians being seen as individuals with rich personal narratives and unique circumstances.

The study examines the realities of glass ceilings in professional promotion patterns in a broad spectrum of typical organizations, relying on insights from personal interviews and government statistics to make the case. It avoids simplistic formulations and superficial conclusions and does a fantastic job of providing a rich background of context that suggests many avenues of research needed in the future.

The authors suggest that organizing around affinity groups rather than simple ethnic and social groupings can add real value to organizational dynamics. Considering the impacts of quiet leadership at all levels of the organization: strategic, operational and tactical can have powerful implications for policy and vision. They recommend organizations consider breaking with tradition of hiring outside leaders and rather concentrate more on growing their own from the inside as a way to acknowledge the power of tacit, long-term values based growth.

The authors don’t recommend a simple exchange of philosophies (“either-or”) but rather suggest that broader integration of multiple modes and perspectives on leadership will add value and robustness to organizational DNA.

I give this fine book my highest personal and professional recommendation, because it resonates for me on a personal and a professional level. It describes a style and philosophy of leadership that has gotten little to no attention in the scholarly or popular press and which I have witnessed to be enduringly effective. It treats a serious subject seriously and respects the broad diversity of opinion and scholarship that has been conducted in this area and yet finds many points of contention and new sources of information and inspiration. It’s offered in the spirit of scholarship and understanding and suggests new ways in which our global communities and people can be respected and make progress together.

experiment with housewives trading the futures during one of the most volatile weeks in the last 50 years

August 14, 2011 1 comment

Image extracted from Systems Engineering Funda...

Image via Wikipedia

the ladies traded very well, netting  2K for the week, using simple support & resistance levels, with good risk management and money management techniques.

they traded 2 indices: Russell2000 and the DJIA, at  contract per trade, with an initial risk of 250; they added some practrice tardes in some currencies later in the week fro the experience: mostly Aussie and Canadian dollars

the 3 of them around 2 laptops and 2 extra screens doing their collaboration was very instructive and motivational to the rest of the trading room.  They  were very good and learned a lot and will soon be prepared to go live, now that they have a good understanding of the platform

Blended monthly rebalancing strategy

June 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Image extracted from Systems Engineering Funda...

Image via Wikipedia

Beginning July 1st I will be shifting the 331, 631 and 333 strategies to a “Blended Monthly Rebalancing” strategy in this space.

As a result of the hard work and backtesting of many mastermind members I am satisfied that we have found a ruleset that offers improved reward:risk, and risk management.

The 3 systems we have been following here have done their job just fine, but by refining the list of ETFs to choose from,  incorporating a blend of the 3 and 6 month lookback period, and adding a  monthly moving average filter to the system I believe we have a significantly improved strategy.

I am writing up the rule set for distribution this weekend and will distribute it and a spreadsheet for implementing it to Gold and Silver members. I will continue to publish the current list of holdings in this space for the variation of the ruleset I will follow

Reflections on risk management in organizations

February 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Risk management matrix in Bulgarian. Image is ...

Image via Wikipedia

Book review notes from “Surviving and thriving in uncertainty: Creating the risk intelligent enterprise” by Frederick Funston and Steven Wagner.

Funston, F., & Wagner, S.  (2010). Surviving and thriving in uncertainty: creating the risk intelligent enterprise. Jphn Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

I was led to this book during our environmental scanning for higher education. It has a lot of insights that I want to summarize here and share because I think they are broadly applicable to all of our interests. A lot of the readings in this course are concerned with creating grand visions of excellent futures and many are somewhat less helpful when it comes to implementing a strategy to get to those visions of future. Regardless of the vision you’re striving for, one thing can be certain: you will experience risk and reward opportunities all along the way and be constantly faced with making judgments about which strategies to resource and which to terminate. One of the consistent failures of strategic planners is a failure to consider implementation and management along the way. That’s why this book on developing risk intelligence personally and within an organization is both timely and necessary.

The book comes in three parts. Part one describes the consequences of failure to conduct effective risk management. Part two describes 10 essential risk intelligence skills. Part three describes how to design risk intelligence into your organization.

I’m when you concentrate on part two: the 10 essential risk intelligence skills. The book devotes a full chapter to each of these skills beginning with the consequences of not having the skill and therefore why it’s important.

Briefly:

  1. identify your assumptions explicitly
  2. maintain constant vigilance on the risk boundary
  3. factor in velocity and momentum
  4. manage key connections carefully
  5. anticipate causes of failure
  6. verify sources and corroborate information
  7. maintain a margin of safety
  8. establish your time horizon
  9. take enough of the right kinds of risks
  10. develop and sustain operational discipline

and now for a short discussion of these:

  1. identify your assumptions explicitly: trends, themes, forecasts change with such regularity that assumptions have a shelf-life. I recommend the discipline of assumptions based planning which examines a plan before it is implemented to identify critical assumptions and their effect on maintaining the cognitive structure of the plan. It’s called identifying loadbearing members and is something that we use in military planning with great effect. Examining the assumptions includes stating why it’s necessary to make and what the justification for the assumption is. Should identify what it would take to prove or disprove the assumption. We should consider the cost of turning the assumption and the fact. We also need to know the last time the information is of value in order to program our intelligence gathering assets properly. It may be that the cost of validating the assumption is greater than the potential reward for knowing the fact and we’re better off just making our best assumption and moving on.

 

  1. maintain constant vigilance on the risk boundary: this idea resonates with the discipline of high reliability organizations (HRO), which recognizes that no plan can survive contact with reality and therefore we should position sensors at the boundaries of our plan to find out when we’re beginning to go off plan. This is the equivalent of an early warning system for adaptation.

 

 

  1. factor in velocity and momentum: this acknowledges that trends and momentum develop in human engagements and that they can shift an environment and its outcomes considerably in one direction once they begin. If you look at megatrends, there comes a time when they take on a life of their own and they dramatically shift our orientation. It may be a low probability of events at the time of planning but we must account for this phenomenon in social arenas.

 

  1. manage key connections carefully: this is a central idea of network management and net centric learning. By identifying the critical networks and the critical nodes within those networks we can find the most important intersections to focus our management and leadership attention. We can’t manage every note as if they are equal or we will neglect the ones that contribute the most to overall network performance.

 

  1. anticipate causes of failure: this is a common practice in manufacturing and automobile engineering but it can also be found in military strategic and tactical planning as well. We often develop plans based on our most optimistic estimates of what can happen because we want to reach for the brightest possible future. Identifying all the things that can go wrong and then designing a set of responses that are robust and effective will go a long way towards improving our overall success rate. In the military we call this wargaming. One of my graduate students and I are developing some ideas about peace gaming which is the same idea but applied to stability in nationbuilding operations. The central idea is the same. Just as we need creativity in the initial inspiration for a new  plan we also need to have creativity and identifying the potential fault lines.

 

  1. verify sources and corroborate information: in special forces operations, when we’re trying to assess the quality of information we assign it to different measures: reliability of the source and the probability that it’s true. When you rank each of these on a five-point scale you begin to get an appreciation of how vulnerable we may be too low quality or incomplete information. This is a concern for mammals with pattern matching brains which will tend to  use confirmation bias to give extra weight to things that confirm our beliefs. The process of fact checking and crosschecking its robustness to her strategies.

 

  1. maintain a margin of safety: I seen this one a lot especially in my financial management business when we are studying investment or trading opportunities and we have gathered all the facts that we can and we decide how much insurance we need to take out on our position for those variables that are beyond our awareness and or control. Calculating margins of safety that are effective is one of the most artful and important judgments leaders can make. Just within the financial markets we see a seasonality to risk in which some cases a 10% protective stop is sufficient to guard our capital against extreme events, whereas at other times you need 50%. Risk and volatility in the markets changes like the weather and in broader business climates it is the same.

 

  1. establish your time horizon: this is what good engineers do when they’re designing solutions that must be able to perform within standards for a set period of time. Sometimes we think are solutions are going to be timeless and then we get surprised when they begin to fall apart through time. Establishing your talk time horizon really describes how long your particular solution or strategy must be good for and it helps you focus on the kinds of threats and opportunities that will arise inside of that timeframe.

 

  1. take enough of the right kinds of risks: in the financial markets we say that the only sure bet in the market is that if you don’t play you’re going to lose. If you leave your money under your mattress you can bet that it will soon become worthless based on the grinding losses of inflation. The only way to stay ahead of inflation is to participate in growth, which comes with a set of potential risks based on your implementation strategy. The right kinds of risks are the ones that can be effectively described, measured, managed and accounted for and which offer opportunities for greater rewards on an expected basis. The right kinds of risks can be thought of as businessman risks rather than gambling. I find this risk management skill to be the absolutely essential skill for equity traders in the capital markets. With it, everything else can be trained; without it it’s only a matter of time until the trader explodes.

 

  1. develop and sustain operational discipline: this scale is concerned with turning these habits of mind into automatic behaviors and routine parts of every operation. It makes a nice segue to part three of the book which describes how risk intelligence might manifest in the typical organization. Checklists, procedures, failsafes, two man rule, redundancy by design, inspection programs, anticipatory maintenance: all of these things go into creating a culture of discipline risk intelligence.

 

This is an excellent book that incorporates a lot of good thinking about risk and reward that is applicable to a wide range of disciplines.