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Archive for February, 2010

Five Monkeys, a Banana, and Corporate Culture

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Feb.28, 2010, under Short Blogs

Five Monkeys, a Banana, and Corporate Culture

 
 
 
 

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

 

 

Harlow’s classical Animal Psychology experiment is used as an analogy to explain the creation and maintenance of corporate culture, rules, regulations, and processes, that keep on living in the organisation collective action, even after the original reason for introducing them is all forgotten or becomes irrelevant. It is the story of five monkeys, a banana, and the creation of powerful corporate culture

Some credit for this post goes to Ndidi Egwuatu, who was a delegate on a recent workshop and reminded us of  Harlow’s ‘Monkeys Experiment’

I have recently took part in a series of ‘mystery shopping’ visits to branches of an international organisation. The purpose of the visits was to appreciate the customer experience, identify consistent negative experiences, and look to turn these round. One of the most common observations was the rigid compliance with procedures and processes that created a tragic experience for the customer, and drove them away from the organisation. It is common to find in many established organisations such practices. At the most basic level examples include rejection of an application form of a potential customer, simply because the form was completed in blue ink rather than black, or it was completed in regular rather than block capitals. This phenomenon reminds us of one of the classical animal psychology experiments by Harry Harlow of the five monkeys and the hanging banana.

In Harlow’s experiment (which would not pass any ethics committee nowadays), five monkeys were put into a regular monkeys’ cage, with a banana hanging high on a rope from the roof of the cage (outside the reach of the monkeys). The researcher then put a step ladder enabling the monkeys to reach the banana. However, whenever one of the monkeys attempted to climb and reach for the banana, ALL monkeys were sprayed with freezing ice cold water. After few attempts, they all learned the association between reaching for the banana and the group collective punishment of being sprayed with freezing ice cold water. If they want to stay warm and dry, they better not reach for the step ladder. From now on, none of the five monkeys tried to reach for the banana anymore. There was no need for the water treatment from that point on.

At this stage the researcher replaced one of the five monkeys with a new monkey. The new monkey, not aware of the icy water treatment, tried to reach for the banana. Within fraction of a second the other four monkeys pounced on him and beat the hell out of him – again and again, till he stopped and did not try anymore. Note, that icy water treatment was not used anymore. The same process was repeated, one of the four monkeys who experienced the original icy water treatment was replaced by a new one, and again all the monkeys beat the new monkey to submission. Finally, the cage was populated by five monkeys of whom none have experienced the icy water treatment. The experimenter then introduced a new monkey to the cage. When this monkey tried to reach for the banana, all five monkeys jumped on him and beat the hell out of him. None of these monkeys knew about the collective punishment of icy water, none knew why they are not allowed to get the banana, but somewhat along the way they learnt that reaching for the banana is not allowed. They become the guardians of this rule without knowing its purpose.

The same happens in organisation. A rule, a regulation, or a procedure, is introduced for a reason. However, after a while, the reason for it is forgotten, but the rule, regulation, or procedure stays. Nobody knows why they are following it, but they all do. Take the blue ink – black ink example that results in loss of customers. Sometime in the past, this regulation was introduced, probably because when photocopied or axed, blue ink was not as clear as black ink. However, technology has moved fast since then. Nowadays we have colour photocopiers and the quality of fax is not affected by ink colour. It doesn’t matter anymore if the ink is blue or black, yet the original regulation is still there, resulting in client loss for no real reason.

So next time you work with an organisation that tells you – “sorry, we cannot do that – we have to comply with a regulation that says…” — tell them about the five monkeys and the banana.






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Pelé or Maradona?

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Feb.12, 2010, under Short Blogs

Pelé or Maradona?

 
 


 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

 

 

 

Pelé or Maradona? — Probably the biggest ever debate among football lovers. The first led teams of ‘magicians’ to three World cup wins, equated the name of Brazil with football and established Brazil as the greatest ever football nation. The other won the 1986 world cup single-handed (literally, some might say). This blog builds on this timeless comparison to explore common issues in assessment for high level roles.

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Pelé or Maradona? — Probably the biggest ever debate among football lovers. The first led teams of ‘magicians’ to 3 World cup wins, equated the name of Brazil with football and established Brazil as the greatest ever football nation. The other won the 1986 world cup single-handed (literally, some might say). While all football fans refer to Brazil 1970 as the greatest ever football team with the likes of Tostao, Rivalino, Jarjinio, Gerson, and Carlos Alberto complementing the brilliance of Pelé; hardly anybody can name any Argentinean player who played alongside Maradona in 1986.

So who is greater, the team player who elevated a team to become the best team ever, or the individualistic genius, who demolished any opposition in his way with only a limited support of a mediocre and unmemorable team mates.

Pelé or Maradona?

If you are not sure, play the YouTube videos to see them in action

 

Difficult questions, but the difficulty may arise because these are the wrong questions to ask. Maybe we should ask: Can we restructure our operations to accommodate both candidates? or What set of skills would complement best the current capability we have in our business? Who is better, doesn’t help. They are both good. They will both deliver results.

Would Pelé of 1970 could have won the 1986 world cup with the mediocre Argentinean team? Would the individualistic capabilities of Maradona have complemented the magic of 1970 Brazil? We could only speculate. Nevertheless, the talent questions we focus on in business are always contextualized. We have seen too often business ‘A’ players, turning mediocre or becoming a liability once moved from one environment to another.

To avoid these issues, at ClearWater we have devised a methodology that helps to differentiate between true ‘A’ players, and one-hit wonders. Between those who are guaranteed to succeed wherever they are placed and those whose success is a case of being ‘the right person, in the right time’. We call it, ‘Mastering Complexity’ -- Click here to learn more.






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BE DiFFERENT Creation Process

by Roy Osing on Feb.07, 2010, under Friends of ClearWater

BE DiFFERENT Creation Process

Roy Osing
Brilliance for Business
To link to Roy’s web-site click here.
To learn more about his book, click here

 

This post combines three short blogs from Roy Osing, answering three questions of the four questions in the creation process of BE DiFFERENT. The final part (4th question, will be posted shortly). Stay tuned for the final question: How to build your Strategic Game Plan…. the elevator speech of your strategy!

HOW BIG do you want to be?

Traditional strategy-building methodology typically begins with an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It then moves on to developing an overall strategic direction. Objectives and action plans are struck. Finally the expected financial results are produced. They are the output of the strategy-creation process.

In my experience, the financial results get scrutinized by the top executive and often get modified as the CFO and CEO decide they simply aren’t aggressive enough. Sound familiar? As a result, higher growth and financial numbers are driven out of the tabled strategy rather than adjusting the strategy to deliver more aggressive financial results.

This is a huge mistake. Assuming that the assumptions behind the plan are reasonable and acceptable, forcing more aggressive numbers from a strategy without increasing strategic risk is a fool’s game. The expected higher performance numbers will not happen.

The BE DiFFERENT Practice is to treat growth and financial expectations as inputs to the strategy-building process. Do you want to grow top line revenues 25% over the next 36 months? Or would you be satisfied with growing at 10%? Clearly the former target would require more resources and would entail greater risk than the more modest scenario.

In addition, the character of the strategies would be different. The 25% growth strategy would require a different set of actions than the 10% incremental option. For example bolder growth expectations might require new markets and strategic partnerships that might not be necessary under a modest growth plan. The bolder the plan the more you have to move away from organic growth.

So declare right up front the growth and financials you intend to achieve and THEN develop the strategy to deliver them. And if you have been growing at 10% don’t expect doing more of what you have been doing will be good enough to deliver on a 25% plan. It won’t happen. You will have to be more creative, more aggressive and be more accepting of more risk. If not, suck it up and be prepared to stay with your 10% strategy.

WHO do you want to SERVE?

The second step in the BE DiFFERENT strategy creation process is to decide on the customers you intend to serve. Can they generate the growth you are expecting? You may have the competencies they require but if they don’t have the latent potential to meet your HOW BIG objectives, should you be chasing them? You can, and it may feel good, but unfortunately you might fall short of your financial goals..

HOW BIG should determine WHO to SERVE.

There’s no such thing as a bad customer; its just that some are better than others. Examine the customer groups that you currently do business with. Given the current economic realities, can they deliver to your new financial expectations? Are their market characteristics appropriate to give you the growth you want? Apart from demand factors, what about the competitive environment – is it intense or are there opportunities to enhance your market position?

Carefully evaluate your options and choose the customer segments that can deliver you BOTH the growth you need as well as leverage the competencies of your organization.

Here are some factors to consider in evaluating which customers to dedicate your efforts to:
- customer groups in which your customer share position is low. If you currently have a small percentage of their total business you have a good growth potential.
- look at markets that are currently growing in the double digits and where you have an advantage over others.
- geographically defined segments which have easy access at relatively low cost
- high lifetime value customer clusters where investments will provide healthy returns over the long term. 

What do you do with customer groups you currently serve but can’t serve your growth and financial needs? Be prepared to walk away from them. You have to let them go in favour of focusing on the few choice segments that will provide the return on investment that you need.

HOW will you compete and WIN?

 The answer to the HOW to WIN question dries a stake in the ground in terms of how you will differentiate yourself from your competitors and beat them handily.

And it follows the WHO to SERVE question. You are looking for uniqueness relative to the customer groups you have chosen to target and not the market generally. This is very important. If you have chosen customer groups ‘A’ and ‘B’ for example, then you will be trying to differentiate yourself from others vying for the attention of these two groups specifically. You will be searching for ways of delivering what these two groups want in a more compelling and special way than anyone else attempting to do the same thing.

Answering the HOW to WIN question involves in-depth competitor analysis: Who are they; what are their strategies? How do they differentiate? What is their value proposition?

As a practical (but difficult) way of determining your DiFFERENT competitive position, I have talked in my book and my blogs about the only Statement. The only statement which in my view is the ultimate manifestation of a unique competitive position in the marketplace reads:
‘We are the only ones that…’

This is not a task for the faint-of-heart. Engage your team in the task. It involves looking at every nook and cranny in your organization for opportunities to separate yourselves from the pack – brand, service, product, product support, and how you leverage technology are some examples of where you can look.






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What’s Wrong with Ability Tests

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Feb.02, 2010, under Short Blogs

What’s Wrong with Ability Tests

 
 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

One of the main disappointments in our profession is the current state of commercial Ability tests. After nearly 100 years since the first intrduction of ‘scientific’ measurements of intellectual capacity, you would have expected something much better than what we currently have.

I do not challenge the available ability tests in terms of their technical capacity – i.e., my criticism is not to do with questions of quality of normative data, nor it is about the validity and reliability of the measures. I take these for granted. What has been frustrating me for the last 25 years of my practice as a business psychologist is the limited output we gain from an ability test.

Most tests requires participants to spend close to an hour responding to demanding test items; yet, the final outcome in most cases does not amount to more than single figure – normally a percentile score comparing the performance of the test taker to that of a norm group (e.g., ‘you score above 63% of the norm group). This is a far cry from the rich output and interpretations you get from a personality inventory. No wonder that the British Psychological Society differentiates between Level A certificate of competence in occupational testing (ability tests) and Level B certificate that is dedicated to personality instruments. Relatively to personality instruments – there is not much to say about ability tests outcomes.

Do not get me wrong – I am not challenging the value of ability tests, and I am not suggesting that they should be replaced by ‘more-value-for-money/effort’ personality instruments. What I am opening to discussion is the frustrating state of affairs of limited output we get from ability tests.

The closest attempt to enrich the output of an ability test that I am aware of is the work of Robert Hogan with the HBRI (Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory). The test provides two scores – Strategic Reasoning and Tactical Reasoning. These are combined to create an overall critical reasoning score. Hogan provides an interpretation of each of the two individual scores (e.g., what are the implications of scoring 78% on Strategic Reasoning) as well as a very simple 2×2 classification into a 4-type typology based on the interaction between the two scores. As such, the report is far more informative than the typical practice of providing a single score. Yet, there is so much more that can be obtained from the available data.

The followings are some possible ways to utilise ability tests better:

  1. Wrong versus poor answers: The raw score on an ability test is made of the number of correct answers. An answer to a question item can be either ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’. Yet, the multiple choice approach used with the traditional psychometric approach does not differentiate between a wrong answer that is by far the worst option from a wrong answer that is closest to the correct answer. Consider the following simple example. A test item might be: ‘Glove’ is to ‘Hand’ as ‘Sock’ is to ____ (a) Shoe; (b) Arm; (c) Leg; (d) Foot; (e)Cupboard. Although only answer ‘d’ is correct, some of the answers are closer to it than others. Choosing answer ‘e’ indicates less ability than choosing answer ‘c’. Yet, the dichotomous scoring system of tests will view both answers as equal.
  2. Time to complete test: Most ability tests are time limited. Two candidates that take the same test and get the same number of correct answers will be considered as equal. Yet, if one took only 20 of the 40 minutes to complete the test; whereas the other took 40 minutes, there is obviously some difference in the ability of these candidates.
  3. Percent of correct answers:  Two candidates that took the same test and got the same number of correct answers will be considered equal. Yet, one may have attempted only 60% of the test items, where the other completed all items. There is a difference in the ability of the two candidates, but this is ignored when interpreting the results.
  4. Level of complexity: The work of Elliot Jaques suggested 8 levels of complexity of mental processes that are hierarchical, yet conceptually different from one another. Yet, most tests do not differentiate among levels of difficulty or complexity, and cluster all items together for scoring purposes. Thus, the interpretation of someone who scores highly on divergent thinking items and poorly on convergent thinking items should be different to someone who had a different pattern of scores. Yet, under the single score system; if the total number of correct answers is the same; both candidates will be viewed as equal.
  5. Interaction among sub-scores: Some tests provide sub-scores based on content (different to complexity and difficulty from the previous point). E.g., we get a breakdown of verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and abstract reasoning;  or a breakdown of strategic reasoning and tactical reasoning. Most test publishers leave it at that. Hardly any considers the interactions among the sub-scores. This is very different in personality assessment where the ability to interpret the interaction between two factors is considered far more valuable that the interpretation of the simple main effect of each of the two factors.

So, what I am looking for is an ability test that will provide me with richer information than simply telling me how the individual scored in comparison the norm group.

This frustration, led me to spend the last three years developing an ability test that utilises these ideas and provides rich and valuable output.  I called the final test Intellecto ©. You can find more about it on by clicking on the image to the left. To see an example of the output from it click here.






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