!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Robert Burns Festival III

Epistle to a Young Friend

                                                 May –, 1786.

I lang hae thought, my youthfu’ friend,
    A something to have sent you,
Tho’ it should serve nae ither end
    Than just a kind memento:
But how the subject-theme may gang,
    Let time and chance determine;
Perhaps it may turn out a sang:
    Perhaps turn out a sermon.

Ye’ll try the world soon, my lad;
    And, Andrew dear, believe me,
Ye’ll find mankind an unco squad,
    And muckle they may grieve ye:
For care and trouble set your thought,
    Ev’n when your end’s attained;
And a’ your views may come to nought,
    Where ev’ry nerve is strained.

I’ll no say, men are villains a’;
    The real, harden’d wicked,
Wha hae nae check but human law,
    Are to a few restricked;
But, Och! mankind are unco weak,
    An’ little to be trusted;
If self the wavering balance shake,
    It’s rarely right adjusted!

Yet they wha fa’ in fortune’s strife,
    Their fate we shouldna censure;
For still, th’ important end of life
    They equally may answer;
A man may hae an honest heart,
    Tho’ poortith hourly stare him;
A man may tak a neibor’s part,
    Yet hae nae cash to spare him.

Aye free, aff-han’, your story tell,
    When wi’ a bosom crony;
But still keep something to yoursel’,
    Ye scarcely tell to ony:
Conceal yoursel’ as weel’s ye can
    Frae critical dissection;
But keek thro’ ev’ry other man,
    Wi’ sharpen’d, sly inspection.

The sacred lowe o’ weel-plac’d love,
    Luxuriantly indulge it;
But never tempt th’ illicit rove,
    Tho’ naething should divulge it:
I waive the quantum o’ the sin,
    The hazard of concealing;
But, Och! it hardens a’ within,
    And petrifies the feeling!

To catch dame Fortune’s golden smile,
    Assiduous wait upon her;
And gather gear by ev’ry wile
    That’s justified by honour;
Not for to hide it in a hedge,
    Nor for a train attendant;
But for the glorious privilege
    Of being independent.

The fear o’ hell’s a hangman’s whip,
    To haud the wretch in order;
But where ye feel your honour grip,
    Let that aye be your border;
Its slightest touches, instant pause –
    Debar a’ side-pretences;
And resolutely keep its laws,
    Uncaring consequences.

The great Creator to revere,
    Must sure become the creature;
But still the preaching cant forbear,
    And ev’n the rigid feature:
Yet ne’er with wits profane to range,
    Be complaisance extended;
An atheist-laugh’s a poor exchange
    For Deity offended!

When ranting round in pleasure’s ring,
    Religion may be blinded;
Or if she gie a random sting,
    It may be little minded;
But when on life we’re tempest driv’n –
    A conscience but a canker –
A correspondence fix’d wi’ Heav’n,
    Is sure a noble anchor!

Adieu, dear, amiable youth!
    Your heart can ne’er be wanting!
May prudence, fortitude, and truth,
    Erect your brow undaunting!
In ploughman phrase, “God send you speed,”
    Still daily to grow wiser;
And may ye better reck the rede,
    Then ever did th’ adviser!

[A brief biography of Robert Burns, born 250 years ago, is here. A Burns glossary is here]



Friday, January 30, 2009

Robert Burns Festival II

Winter: A Dirge

The wintry west extends his blast,
   And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
   The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
   And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
   And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
   The joyless winter day
Let others fear, to me more dear
   Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
   My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
   Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme, whose mighty scheme
   These woes of mine fulfil,
Here firm I rest; they must be best,
   Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want – O do Thou grant
   This one request of mine! –
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
   Assist me to resign.

[A brief biography of Robert Burns, born 250 years ago, is here. A Burns glossary is here]



Thursday, January 29, 2009

Robert Burns Festival I

To a Mouse

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
                  Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
                  Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                  Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
                  An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whiles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
                  ’S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
                  An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
                  O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
                  Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
                  Thou thought to dwell—
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
                  Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee mony a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
                  But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
                  An’ cranreuch cauld!

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
                  Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
                  For promis’d joy!

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
                  On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
                  I guess an’ fear!

[A brief biography of Robert Burns, born 250 years ago, is here. A Burns glossary is here]



Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike, 1932 - 2009

(UCLA Magazine)

"Other than Williams' recurrent appearances at the plate, the maladresse of the Sox infield was the sole focus of suspense; the second baseman turned every grounder into a juggling act, while the shortstop did a breathtaking impersonation of an open window." ("Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu," New Yorker, October 22, 1960)

The New York Times obituary is here.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Brad DeLong on the Credit Economy

With all the current discussion of government intervention in the economy, it makes sense to take advantage of opportunities to bone up on basic principles of how a credit economy works.

Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, has posted a helpful explanation of how changes in the velocity of money — the rate at which a given quantity of money moves from hand to hand as people engage in various transactions — enable the government to make investments without crowding out private investment if there are idle resources in the economy. At the moment, the quantity of idle resources is rising daily as companies continue to lay off workers.

The post is short, so one can read it at a deliberate pace in just a few minutes. It will be time well spent (as long as you don't mind the overlay of attitude in DeLong's exposition).


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Monday, January 26, 2009

The Warmth/Competence Model

In an earlier post, I discussed the work of Patricia Devine, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has shown that people can avoid acting in a prejudiced way by making a conscious effort to base their behavior on personal values that include being unbiased.

In the February 2009 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Amy Cuddy, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, reports briefly on related research.

Cuddy, with colleagues Susan Fiske and Peter Glick, professors of psychology at Princeton University and Lawrence University, respectively, has investigated how people respond to a person they are meeting for the first time.

Cuddy argues that two questions instinctively go through a person's mind at a first meeting:
  • What are this person's intentions toward me?

  • Is this person capable of acting on those intentions?
The problem is that there is also an instinctive tendency for the person doing the sizing up to assume:
  • If the new acquaintance is a warm individual with benign intentions, s/he won't be very competent to act on those intentions.

  • Conversely, if the new acquaintance is cold with not-so-benign intentions, s/he will be competent to act on the intentions.
Cuddy goes on to outline the implications of this warmth/competence model of prejudice:1
We like to assist people we view as warm and block those we see as cold; we desire to associate with people we consider competent and ignore those we consider incompetent."
The obvious problem is that plenty of people are both warm and competent, and plenty of others are cold and incompetent. We need to be ready to consider all four possibilities when deciding, for example, whom to trust and whom to build connections with.

Cuddy recommends a straightforward approach to enhancing the level of conscious thought that goes into making such judgments as whom to hire, whom to put together on teams, and how to promote retention of high performing employees. The approach has two steps:
  1. Push yourself to be aware of how you form impressions. Avoid "sizing people up on the basis of stereotypical perceptions of warmth and competence."

  2. Separate the two dimensions. E.g., consider an individual's interpersonal warmth in its own right, and do the same for the individual's technical/functional competence.
The goal is to "recognize individuals' true talents, thus avoiding the high cost of mistaken judgments."

1 Cuddy contrasts the warmth/competence model to "the prevailing psychological view of prejudice — namely, that people simply favor 'us' and dislike 'them.'" She argues that the warmth/competence model is able to explain behaviors that don't fit the alternative us vs. them model, e.g., the tendency of many people to "disrespect the elderly while feeling positive toward them."


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Job Aid for Effective Writing

The University of Missouri Extension offers a handy summary of ten principles of clear writing that provides a good refresher on basics. The principles are:
  • Keep sentences short (but also vary their length in order to avoid monotony).

  • Prefer the simple to the complex. For example, don't use the polysyllabic "utilization" if the monosyllable "use" fully captures your meaning.

  • Prefer the familiar word. Use less familiar words only when they contribute to clarity.

  • Avoid unnecessary words. (Or, as Strunk and White famously put it, "Omit needless words.")

  • Put action in your verbs. For example, writing that "So-and-so made a mistake" or even "So-and-so did the wrong thing" (active voice), is preferable to writing "A mistake was made" (passive voice).

  • Write like you talk. In my opinion, this is an especially powerful piece of advice, especially for people who are intimidated by a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper. (See this earlier post.)

  • Use terms your reader can picture. For example, instead of writing, "That meeting room is uncomfortable," try saying something like "The table in that meeting room is so big it inhibits discussion."

  • Tie in with your reader's experience. Specifically, do what you can to ensure that both you and the reader have the same understanding of terms you are using, and that you agree on the purpose of a particular piece of writing.

  • Make full use of variety. You can vary sentence length, sentence structure, and vocabulary so that "readers never think the writing is choppy or childish."

  • Write to express, not impress.
The author of this job aid explains each of these principles briefly ... and clearly ... so do have a look if you're interested in a quick review.


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Using Swivel.com to Display Data

In previous posts, I've discussed the data visualization work of Edward Tufte, Hans Rosling, and the IBMers of Many Eyes. If this subject is of interest to you, you can also investigate what swivel.com has to offer.


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Friday, January 23, 2009

How to know if your business model needs to change?

With some regularity, I find myself reading — usually with considerable interest — articles discussing how to adjust a company's business model to increase the company's competitive differentiation.

The latest item that has come my way is an article in the December 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review by Mark W. Johnson, Clayton M. Christensen, and Henning Kagermann (JCK). Johnson is a consultant, Christensen teaches at Harvard Business School, and Kagermann is co-CEO of SAP.

JCK sound a similar note to that of Julian Birkinshaw and Jules Goddard, as discussed in yesterday's post: If a company does not understand its current business model in detail, it won't be able to analyze properly the issue of whether the model needs to change in order for the company to take advantage of a new opportunity that is big and that involves a significantly different value proposition from what the company is currently offering customers.

Such opportunities entail one of the following:
  • Doing a job for customers in a dramatically better way. (JCK cite Swiffer products, which I wholeheartedly agree are a major improvement over various older cleaning tools. JCK also cite FedEx overnight delivery service.)

  • Solving a problem that has never been solved before (e.g., delivering music digitally easily via the iPod and iTunes technology combo from Apple).

  • Serving an unaddressed customer base (e.g., the Nano auto that Tata is gearing up to produce for families with very low incomes).

  • Responding to a shift in the basis of competition. (The most common example is an industry's move toward commoditization.)
JCK note that a new business model will definitely be needed when a competitor successfully challenges an established company's market position.

JCK also note that, under certain circumstances, a company's existing business model will work for developing a game-changing opportunity. (Again, Swiffer products are a prime example. Proctor & Gamble has not had to change its traditional business model in order to bring the Swiffer line to market.)

In general, the existing model will serve the new opportunity when:
  • you can fufill the new customer value proposition with your current profit formula,

  • using most, if not all, your current key resources and processes, and

  • using the same core metrics, rules, and norms you now use to run your business.
JCK argue that any business model can usefully be viewed as having four interdependent elements:
  • Customer value proposition — A statement of what "job" the company will do for a specific category of customer.

  • Profit formula — An explanation of how the company will make money from delivering on the value proposition. Consists of a revenue model, a cost structure, a gross margin model, and a planned resource (transaction) velocity.

  • Set of key resources — The resources essential for creating value and differentiation.

  • Set of key processes — The processes essential for making the production of value repeatable and scalable. Encompassed here are operational processes (which include employee training and development); managerial processes; and rules, metrics, and norms.
The first two of these four elements define value for the customer and the company. The second two define how the value will be delivered. In sum, JCK argue that
Companies will almost always need to integrate their key resources and processes in a unique way to get a job done perfectly for a set of customers. When they do, they almost always create enduring competitive advantage. Focusing first on the value proposition and the profit formula makes clear how those resources and processes need to interrelate.
Note: Previous posts on business model innovation are here (Alexander Osterwalder provides a business model schematic), here (discusses IBM's WebSphere Business Modeler software), and here (discusses an IBM report that includes a variety of suggestions for business model adjustments that can, in the right circumstances, enable deeper differentiation).


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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Misuse of Leadership Competency Models

The December 2008 issue of the Harvard Business Review contains at least one example of the annoyingly shallow material that seems to take up more of its space nowadays than in the not-so-distant past, when more of the authors had strong academic credentials (and, BTW, were allowed to use footnotes).

I'm referring to a sidebar on page 66 which cautions about "The Dangers of Competency Modeling." The sidebar is in an article by Jeffrey Cohn, Jon Katzenbach, and Gus Vlak dealing with "Finding and Grooming Breakthrough Innovators." Cohn is a consultant at Spencer Stuart; Katzenbach and Vlak are partners at Katzenbach Partners.

The sidebar tells us:
Leadership competency models can be found in virtually all major corporations. They seek to institutionalize managerial behaviors, knowledge, values, and motivations to produce steady, predictable results. They provide a common language to help supervisors and HR discuss emerging talent in the organization. These are worthy goals — but overdependence on competency models inevitably reinforces sameness rather than unity or cohesion, by eroding the conditions in which unique points of view and ultimately innovation itself can arise.

Training programs built on these models primarily teach participants how to manage within the organization as is and emphasize formal structures at the expense of informal ones. At the same time, they condition managers to minimize uncertainty and mitigate risk.

The organizational vetting process filters candidates for promotion according to well-known and widely communicated competencies that are ingrained in the company culture. As a result the field of rising stars narrows to those who most closely resemble their peers and bosses. Unique attributes and a willingness to deviate from the norm, take real risks, and embrace different points of view are not cultivated or integrated. Rather, they are slowly and methodically squeezed out of the system.
My complaints:
  • Companies do not necessarily adopt leadership competency models "to produce steady, predictable results." I believe companies effectively using such models intend for them to produce good results, defined in whatever manner a particular company considers meaningful.

  • "Overdependence on competency models inevitably reinforces sameness" is basically a truism. Smart management will not place excessive weight on how well rising talent seems to fit a particular competency model.

  • Effective training programs do not "primarily teach participants how to manage within the organization as is," nor do they "emphasize formal structures at the expense of informal ones." Obviously, a company designing leadership training should steer clear of such defective content. (For more on how companies are using social networking analysis to ensure that managers understand their companies' informal structures and intervene to optimiaze them, see here.)

  • Effective training programs do not "condition managers to minimize uncertainty and mitigate risk" in a way that defeats innovation. As indicated in my recent posts on enterprise risk management (e.g., here), the best companies are taking an increasingly sophisticated approach to risk management that identifies its purpose as helping the company achieve its goals, which presumably include innovation where appropriate.

  • As indicated in the second and fourth points above, smart companies indeed cultivate and integrate "unique attributes and a willingness to deviate from the norm, take real risks, and embrace different points of view."
In other words, Cohn, Katzenbach, and Vlak set up a strawman in their sidebar, something I dislike paying $119 a year to have access to.

[Previous posts dealing with competency models are here, here, here, here, and here.]


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Management Model Matters

In a number of previous posts, I've discussed how companies can create and assess business models. In this post, I'd like to call attention to what Julian Birkinshaw and Jules Goddard have to say in the Winter 2009 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review about how companies can and should make conscious decisions concerning what management model they use.1

Birkinshaw and Goddard define management models — ways of getting work done through others — in terms of how management:
  • defines objectives

  • motivates employees

  • coordinates activities

  • allocates resources
The first two dimensions are ends, the second two are means.

On each of the dimensions, any particular company falls somewhere between two poles, one the "tight" extreme, the other the "loose" extreme. Specifically,
  • Objectives can be set as specific goals, e.g., achieving a minimum profit rate (tight), or as higher-order goals, e.g., delighting customers (loose).

  • Motivators for employees can be extrinsic, e.g., salaries and wages (tight), or intrinsic, e.g., the inherent attractions of the work (loose).

  • Activities can be coordinated via formal policies and procedures, i.e., bureaucratically, in a neutral sense of the word (tight), or they can be coordinated informally in what Birkinshaw and Goddard call "emergent" fashion — "spontaneous coordination through the self-interested behaviors of independent actors" (loose).

  • Decisions on resource allocation can be made by managers in a hierarchy (tight), or these decisions are made via a collective intelligence process (loose).
Birkinshaw and Goddard use the above dimensions to define four general types of management model:
  • Planning model — tightly defined ends and means.

    Most suitable for:

    • Mature business, operating in a stable, predictable industry

    • Turnaround or crisis situation, where clear rules are needed

    • Leaders most comfortable acting as master architects or controllers

  • Quest model — tightly defined ends, loosely defined means.

    Most suitable for:

    • Established and growing business, with a defined competitive arena

    • Market conditions that are dynamic and competitive

    • Leaders emphasize strategy and tactics, often using sports or military metaphors; winning is everything

  • Scientific model — loosely defined ends, tightly defined means.

    Most suitable for:

    • Human-capital-intensive business, such as professional services or research and development organizations

    • Benign market conditions with plenty of opportunities, often in multiple domains

    • Leaders are understated, first among equals, looking to enable others

  • Discovery model — loosely defined ends and means.

    Most suitable for:

    • Early-stage business operating in highly uncertain, fast-changing environment; or established business seeking to rejuvenate itself

    • Competitive arena is ambiguous

    • Leaders are experimenters, open to improvisation, conversation, and mutual engagement
A key point that bears repeating is the importance of making a conscious choice of the company's management model, based on intelligent analysis of the company's circumstances. This is as opposed to moving along with unexamined assumptions concerning what management practices are optimal for the company in its current circumstances.

With conscious understanding of the company's mnagement model, it is possible to make purposive adjustments in order to strengthen the company's competitive position.

1 Julian Birkinshaw is a professor of strategic and international management at the London Business School. Jules Goddard is a fellow of the school's Centre for Management Development.


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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

The Obama Family at the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington DC on January 10, 2009

(Associated Press)



Monday, January 19, 2009

Issues to Consider when Tapping Collective Intelligence

In the Winter 2009 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review, Eric Bonabeau, CEO of Icosystem Corp., reviews what we know about the best ways to apply collective intelligence to decision making (the alternative being to depend on a small number of decision-makers who may suffer from biased thinking and/or poor information).

The techniques for tapping collective intelligence Bonabeau mentions include:
  • Information markets

  • Wikis

  • Crowdsourcing

  • Social networks

  • Collaborative software
What is especially helpful in Bonabeau's article is his discussion of specific issues one should consider when deciding if and how to use collective intelligence techniques:
  • Loss of control — Depending on collective intelligence can produce an undesirable outcome, an outcome so unpredictable that the organization is not prepared to deal with it, lack of clarity concerning who is responsible for bad decisions, and public relations problems if outsiders are involved and come up with embarrassing ideas.

  • Diversity vs. expertise — The best outcome in some situations is produced by ensuring that a wide variety of perspectives are considered. In other situations, it may be best to sacrifice diversity in order to ensure that needed expertise dominates the analysis and decision making.

  • Engagement — "... organizations must provide a continuous flow of new, enthusiastic participants to keep engagement high, or they need to provide incentives to sustain people's motivation over time."

  • Policing — to control any mischief-making or malicious input.

  • Intellectual property — An organization must both manage its own intellectual property when sharing information with those whose input is sought, and it must "determine whether and how it will assume ownership" of intellectual property that arises from ideas contributed by people outside the organization.

  • Mechanism design — The organization must answer such questions as who gets to participate, whether everyone's input receives equal weight, and whether decision making will be distributed (a number of people contribute to one decision) or decentralized (many people are empowered to make their own independent decisions).
Bonabeau summarizes his key point:
For many problems that a company faces, there is potentially a solution out there, far outside of the traditional places that managers might search, within or outside the organization. The trick, though, is to develop the right tool for locating that source and then tapping into it.
Bonabeaue also emphasizes the importance of identifying appropriate metrics and indicators for assessing the performance of collective intelligence tools the organization adopts.


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Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Impact of Social Networks on Decision Making

In a number of previous posts, I've discussed the social networking research of Rob Cross, an associate professor of management at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce.

Prof. Cross has now published Driving Results Through Social Networks: How Top Organizations Leverage Networks for Performance and Growth, co-authored with Robert J. Thomas, executive director of the Accenture Institute for High Performance Business. In the book, Cross and Thomas explain what their research has revealed concerning the impact of social networks on the efficiency and effectivenss of organizational decision making.

You can get an overview of this research by reading an article by Cross, Thomas, and David A. Light, an Accenture Institute research fellow, that appears in the Winter 2009 issue of the MIT Sloan Management Review. Illustrating their points with two case studies, the authors argue that poor decisions result not just from cognitive biases and dysfunctional small group dynamics, but also from shortcomings in the way an organization's informal networks are structured and tapped during the decision-making process.

When the researchers analyzed the networks of top-performing executives, they found an above-average number of connections "with people who bridged ties across functional lines, physical distance, and hierarchical levels." This helped avoid bias in the information the executives received, and improved the efficiency and effectiveness of their decision making.

One of the case study companies improved decision-making efficiency by correcting overcommunication — i.e., overcollaboration — among employees, a problem identified via process mapping and network analysis. The company took corrective action that included confining discussion of decisions to those who were directly involved in making the decisions, devolving authority for certain types of decisions onto more junior employees, adjusting its leadership training to support needed cultural and behavioral changes, introducing conflict resolution training, and adding proficiency in decision making to the competencies on which managers are evaluated.

The other case study company undertook a network analysis to identify where executives' networks were overloaded and where they were underdeveloped. The researchers report the executive team "learned that for framing strategic decisions, the company was fairly insular and could benefit from reaching out to more people. But for execution of decisions streamlining was absolutely critical to better performance within the group." Corrective action included individual coaching to help executives adjust their networks to eliminate gaps in the expertise they tapped while framing decisions, and revamping decision-making authority to take some of the load off the CEO and the most connected leaders.



Saturday, January 17, 2009

Training to be a US Army Food Service Specialist

Among the aspects of the military that many people are unfamiliar with is the effort put into training food service specialists.

As an example of what the US Army does to build culinary skills within its ranks, one can look at the training provided by the Quartermaster Center and School (QMC&S) at Fort Lee in Virginia.

The QMC&S US Army Culinary Arts Program has three components:
  • The Culinary Skills Training Division, which provides students at all skill levels with the hands-on portion of their instruction

  • An annual Culinary Arts Competition held at Fort Lee

  • The US Army Culinary Arts Team
The Army states the following as its aims for the Culinary Arts Program:
  1. To promote growth in the culinary profession with special attention to the tenets of modern culinary development — ability, practicality, nutrition, workmanship, economy, presentation, creativity, and concept.

  2. To continually raise the standards of culinary excellence and professionalism in Army food service training to the soldier.

  3. To provide recognition for excellence in culinary skills.

  4. To provide an incentive for competitive programs of MACOMs [Major Army Commands] in food service. Recognition is in the form of certificates, medallions, engraved plaques, and trophies.
The four-part video below (dealing with how to prepare and use aspic) illustrates both the degree of skill the most expert Army chefs are expected to achieve and the quality of training videos the QMC&S can produce.

If you'd like to see more of what the US military's culinary specialists are doing, you can browse an archive of news and training videos at the militarychefs.com website. A collection of training materials for US Navy Culinary Specialists is at the navystorekeeper.com website.


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Friday, January 16, 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine XXII: Taibbi on Friedman

Speaking up in support of logic and effective writing, Matt Taibbi takes on two of Tom Friedman's books . . .

Hot, Flat, and Crowded (Published in September 2008)

The World is Flat (published in 2005, subsequently updated and expanded)


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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 80th Birthday

Martin Luther King, Jr. on the cover
of the February 18, 1957 issue of Time

You can read a chronology of Rev. King's life here.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Risk Management Best Practices

Among the most experienced practictioners, and now consultants, in the area of enterprise risk management (ERM) is James Lam. Based on his experience, Lam offers this summary (ppt) of the "hallmarks of ERM best practices":
  • An engaged senior management team and governing board that provide organizational support and resources.

  • ERM set up as an independent function under the leadership of a Chief Risk Officer who reports to the CEO, with dotted line reporting to the governing board.

  • A top-down governance structure, with risk committees at all levels, reinforced by internal and external audits.

  • An established analytical framework that incorporates strategic, business, operational, market, and credit risks, along with hazard risks.

  • A "risk aware" culture fostered by a common language, training, and education, as well as risk-adjusted measures of success and appropriate incentives.

  • Written policies with specific risk limits and business boundaries that collectively represent the risk appetitie of the organization.

  • An adopted reporting capability that integrates key quantitative risk metrics and qualitative risk assessments.

  • Robust risk analytics to measure risk concentrations and interdependencies.

  • Integration of ERM into strategic planning, business processes, and performance measurement activities.

  • Optimization of the organization's risk-adjusted strategic initiatives along an efficient frontier.
For more detail concerning Lam's views on best practices in developing key risk indicators (KRIs) and ERM reporting, see his 2006 white paper.

[Previous posts dealing with enterprise risk management are here, here, here, here, and here.]



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Employees Need to Know about Risk Management

To round out the discussion in my last two posts of the Protiviti FAQ for enterprise risk management (ERM), I want to cite Protiviti's take on what employees should learn about their company's risk management policies and procedures. Protiviti recommends that employee ERM learning emphasize:
  • The company's risk management vision, goals, objectives and policies.

  • The company's common language and other enabling frameworks.

  • The company's processes for identifying and sourcing risk and the methods and tools supporting those processes, including how those processes compare to the COSO Enterprise Risk Management - Integrated Framework. (COSO is the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission. "Sourcing Risk" means figuring out what, at a fundamental level, gives rise to a particular risk.)

  • The self-assessment processes in place and how they are integrated with day-to-day business activities.

  • The risk measurement methodologies selected by the company and how they are used.

  • The company's priority risks and the enterprise-wide risk assessment process for keeping the risk profile up-to-date.

  • The elements of ERM infrastructure and their importance and contribution in building and improving risk management capabilities.

  • The process by which gaps in risk management capabilities are determined.

  • How to participate in established communications channels to enable the flow of risk management information within the company.

  • The company's commitment to continuous improvement and what it means to risk management, to the company's operating units, and to the individual employee.
In a recent global survey conducted by the Professional Risk Managers' International Association (PRMIA), training and top-down support were cited as the most critical factors for a successful ERM program.



Monday, January 12, 2009

The Job of Chief Risk Officer (CRO)

In the Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) FAQ described in the previous post, a question of particular interest to training and development professionals is, "What are the skill sets of the CRO?"

The answer Protiviti offers lists ten non-mutually exclusive skill sets (presented below in edited form):
  • Ability to think strategically (which must be linked with having the authority and resources to monitor the performance of risk units and risk owners on matters of significance to the enterprise as a whole).

  • Recognizing that organizations need to take risks to compete and thrive.

  • Ability to communicate and facilitate effectively.

  • Ability to organize and motivate others, who in many cases may be in more senior positions.

  • Ability to work with all levels of management.

  • Ability to project a strong presence and to interact effectively with senior management.

  • Ability to report accurately and effectively to the board of directors and its audit committee.

  • In articulating risk assessments, ability to be concise and direct in communications with top management and directors, and to field sharp questions.

  • Ability to analyze significant amounts of data and information, and to distill it to the key points that help senior management analyze risk in a given situation.

  • Ability to accumulate, summarize and interpret risk reports from business units, risk units, support units and assurance units.
Protiviti notes that previous experience in auditing, risk assessment and/or risk management is a plus for CROs.



Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Enterprise Risk Management FAQ

Protiviti, an international consultancy headquartered in California, has prepared an exhaustive set of 168 questions and answers to help interested parties, such as prospective clients, understand the ins and outs of enterprise risk management (ERM). In return for providing your contact information, you can download the 153-page pdf document, published in 2006, and browse through it at your leisure.

Naturally, the FAQ begins with Protiviti's definition of enterprise risk management, which it takes from the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO — see this earlier post):
Enterprise risk management is a process, effected by an entity's board of directors, management and other personnel, applied in strategy setting and across the enterprise, designed to identify potential events that may affect the entity, and manage risk to be within its risk appetite, to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of entity objectives.
The FAQ then proceeds to address questions in fifteen areas:
  • The fundamentals of ERM

    For example, steps a company can take to begin implementing ERM are listed:

    • Adopt a common risk language.

    • Conduct an enterprise risk assessment to identify and prioritize the organization's critical risks.

    • Perform a gap analysis of the current and desired capabilities around managing the critical risks.

    • Articulate the risk management vision, goals and objectives, along with a compelling value proposition to provide the economic justification for going forward.

    • Advance the risk management capability of the organization for one or two critical risks, i.e., start with a risk area where senior management knows improvements are needed to successfully execute the business strategy.

  • The COSO Enterprise Risk Management – Integrated Framework

    For example, the eight components the COSO framework specifies for evaluating ERM are detailed:

    1. Internal environment

    2. Setting of strategic objectives

    3. Identification of potential events (incidents or occurrences, from sources internal or external to an entity, that affect achievement of objectives)

    4. Risk assessment

    5. Risk response

    6. Control activities

    7. Information and communication

    8. Monitoring

  • The role of executive management

  • The role of the board of directors

  • The role of the chief risk officer (CRO)
    (The CRO will get focused attention in a subsequent post.)

  • The risk management oversight structure

  • The role of internal audit

  • Risk management vision and objectives

    This section includes a definition of risk appetite: the amount of risk, on a broad level, an entity is willing to accept in pursuit of value. It reflects the entity's risk management philosophy, and in turn influences the entity's culture and operating style. Many entities consider risk appetite qualitatively, with such categories as high, medium or low, while others take a quantitative approach, reflecting and balancing goals for growth, return and risk. A company with a higher risk appetite may be willing to allocate a large portion of its capital to such high-risk areas as newly emerging markets. In contrast, a company with a low risk appetite might limit its short-term risk of large losses of capital by investing only in mature, stable markets.

  • Conducting risk assessments

    This section includes an exhaustive list of pitfalls.

  • Getting started

    This section includes an explanation of what a risk-sensitive and risk-aware culture is: one in which risk management is effectively integrated with strategy-setting. In this environment, roles and responsibilities relating to risk management are clearly articulated at all levels of the organization so that managers are encouraged to portray realistically the potential outcomes of prospective transactions, deals, investments and projects. They are expected to understand and portray the full picture. For example, they must look at the downside and the upside relative to taking advantage of an opportunity.

  • Taking a process view — building capabilities

    This section includes discussions of how dashboard/scorecard reporting is used in an ERM environment, and of how continuous improvement is applied to risk management.

  • Taking it to the next level — enhancing capabilities

    This section includes a discussion of how management can use ERM to establish a sustainable competitive advantage.

  • Building a compelling business case

  • Making it happen

    This section includes an exhaustive list of pitfalls.

  • Relevance to Sarbanes-Oxley compliance

  • Other questions
By the time you work your way through the Protiviti FAQ, you will have a solid understanding of the benefits of ERM and of how it is best implemented.



Saturday, January 10, 2009

Darren Rouse on Avoiding Wasting Time When Using Twitter

As a follow-up to my first and, so far, only previous post on Twitter, I'd point to advice David Rouse offers on "How to Stop Twitter Becoming a Waste of Time." At the same TwiTip blog, Mark Hayward provides a list of Twitter do's, and Jenny Cromie provides a list of Twitter don'ts.


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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Risk Management Cycle

As indicated in yesterday's post, there is considerable depth of resources relating to risk management at the Global Association of Risk Professionals website. An item I would recommend for an overview of what is involved in establishing integrated risk management is an eighteen-slide presentation (pdf) by Scott Kwarta, Director of Advisory Services at OpenPages, Inc., that he gave at GARP's 2007 convention.

Kwarta adopts the definition of enterprise risk management (pdf) that was published by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission in 2004:
Enterprise risk management is a process, effected by an entity's board of directors, management and other personnel, applied in strategy setting and across the enterprise, designed to identify potential events that may affect the entity, and manage risk to be within its risk appetite, to provide reasonable assurance regarding the achievement of entity objectives.
The key graphic from the presentation, reproduced below, shows the risk management cycle.

Once you have the phases of the cycle set in your in mind, the details of Kwarta's presentation are easier to comprehend and absorb.



Thursday, January 08, 2009

David Einhorn on Risk Management

The Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) offers a wealth of resources at their website. As one especially topical example, I'd point to the discussion of "Private Profits and Socialized Risks" by David Einhorn that was posted on GARP's blog on June 18 of last year. Einhorn, a hedge fund manager, talks about:
  • The origins of highly levered balance sheets.

  • The trouble with Value at Risk (VaR) as a measure of risk. ("By ignoring the tails [of the risk distribution], VaR creates an incentive to take excessive but remote risks.")

  • Flawed opinions from the credit ratings agencies (e.g., Standard and Poor's, Moody's, Fitch).

  • Insufficient capital requirements for investment banks.

  • The fall of Bear Stearns.

  • Perils of a reverse-Robin Hood system, in which investment bankers benefit from profits, while generally less well-off taxpayers absorb losses.

  • The impact of the bailout of Bear Stearns.

  • A comparison of the situations of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. (Einhorn was writing before the Lehman bankruptcy; he anticipated that the company would receive a bailout, whereas, in fact, it was allowed to fail.)
Einhorn writes clearly about an important subject in which he has extensive firsthand experience, so reading his whole piece is well worth the twenty minutes or so it will take you.



Wednesday, January 07, 2009

One Thousand Cranes

To mark my 1000th post, a note about Sadako Sasaki, the girl from Hiroshima whose effort to cure herself of radiation-related leukemia by folding one thousand origami cranes became an inspiration around the world, including in the Peace Park in Seattle, where the statue below was installed in 1990.


There is also a memorial inspired by the symbolic power of Sadako's story in Hiroshima's Peace Park> This memorial was finished in 1958.


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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Epiphany 2009

(Fr. Brian Barrons, Jilin City, China)



Monday, January 05, 2009


For the twelfth day of Christmas, a performance of "Shenandoah" by Sissel Kyrkjebø from her 2004 "Sissel in Concert – All Good Things" DVD ...



Sunday, January 04, 2009

"O Holy Night"

For the eleventh day of Christmas, a 2006 performance of "O Holy Night" by Celtic Woman at Ireland's Slane Castle ...



Saturday, January 03, 2009


For the tenth day of Christmas, a 1977 performance of the West Side Story song, "Somewhere," by Julie Andrews in Japan ...



Friday, January 02, 2009

"Moscow Nights"

For the ninth day of Christmas, a performance of "Moscow Nights" by Dmitri Hvorostovsky that took place on September 9, 2006 — the last night of that year's Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall. Hvorostovsky is accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Chorus, and Singers. Mark Elder is the conductor.



Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Auld Lang Syne"

For New Year's — the eighth day of Christmas — a rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Chorus, and Singers ...