Highlights from the June Meeting of the Advanced Practices Council
The infamous bank robber Willie Sutton reputedly replied to a reporter's inquiry as to why he robbed banks by saying, "because that's where the money is." The June APC meeting was held in Cambridge, Mass because that's where the relevant researchers and tech entrepreneurs were. Lynda Applegate of the Harvard Business School (HBS) invited her colleagues to address two key themes relevant to our CIO members: (1) leading change and transformation and (2) managing the future of work and talent.
LEADING CHANGE AND TRANSFORMATION
David Ager of HBS explored two change cases - one a South African bank and the other a German manufacturer of consumer products - in which new leaders transformed their organizations with impressive results. Learning and adjusting through the journey, both leaders focused heavily on two-way communication with staff at all levels and locations as well as clear performance metrics. In the German manufacturer, the CEO began by committing at a press conference to ambitious four-year financial goals for sales growth, EBIT margin and EPS, knowing that such a commitment would create needed urgency for transforming the existing complacent culture. He took the hard steps (e.g., closing plants, cutting brands, divesting businesses, reducing staffing, making a significant acquisition) to demonstrate resolve and gain credibility before tackling vision and values.
Tom Dybsky explored a third change case - a manufacturer of floor scrubbers - in which the new leaders created an innovative culture of people willing to take risks. Again, staff reductions as well as changes to structure, operating systems and process, and rewards and recognition were required. The transformed company became an incubator for innovation, such as sustainable floor scrubbers that electrify water and don't need any detergents.
A change model that has stood the test of time and multiple industries was created by John Kotter of HBS. Kotter updated his model in The Heart of Change, emphasizing that "the core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people, and behavior change happens in highly successful situations mostly by speaking to people's feelings."
MANAGING THE FUTURE OF WORK AND TALENT
Multiple interconnected forces will influence work in the future: advanced technology such as AI, augmented reality, and predictive analytics; need for new and different skills such as cybersecurity expertise and data analytics; desire for flexibility due to other commitments; gig economy; geographic inequality; and global talent mix. Untapped sources of talent are being recognized, such as women, people over 65, those without college degrees, and formerly incarcerated people. Leading-edge companies seek different skill mixes to anticipate future directions. Companies such as Akamai recognized in 2015 that its future depended on having staff with innovative mindsets and abilities. Innovation comes, in large part, from diversity. And its traditional sources of hiring - from top technical university programs such as MIT - did not supply enough qualified staff with sufficient diversity. So Akamai creates its own diverse talent through the Akamai Technical Academy: a six month intense training program for entry level skills it needed (e.g., software testing, networking, security). Candidates are college graduates in fields other than technology with diverse profiles. Over 400 applications are reviewed before about 20 participants are selected for each cohort. After the training phase, graduates become interns and then (if they meet the tough standards), Akamai employees. What are the results? Akamai Technical Academy graduates on average perform 7.1% better than employees from more traditional recruiting channels. In 2018 attrition rates among Academy graduates was 10% lower than company average.