Search This Blog

Friday, April 6, 2018

Talent Wins

These are my initial notes after reading the book "Talent Wins: The new playbook for putting people first" written by Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey. All the text is owned by the authors/publishers and these are my favorite snippets from the book, I do not claim ownership of any content.

  •  Most executives today recognize the competitive advantage of talent, yet the talent practices their organizations use are vestiges of another era. They were designed for predictable environments, traditional ways of getting work done, and organizations where lines and boxes defined how people were managed. As work and organizations become more fluid - and business strategy comes to mean sensing and seizing new opportunities in a constantly changing environment, rather than planning for several years into a predictable future - companies must deploy talent in new ways. In fact, talent must lead strategy.
  • Questions on CEOs minds today:

-          Are my company's talent practices still relevant?
-          How can we recruit, utilize, and develop people to deliver greater value to customers?
-          How do our practices make us better than the competition?
-          How can I be sure that I have the right approach to talent and the right HR to drive change?
-          Do I gather best of my team/assets into a single team abutting your opponent's weak spot?
-          Do you spread them widely to distribute risk?
-          Do you emphasize your strongest sectors?
-          Are your best people all gravitating toward a certain trend, and should the company steer that way?
-          Who are your future leaders?
-          What companies are wooing you best employees, and what does that tell you about your industry’s direction?
-          Who is holding back the creation of more business value, and why?
-          Why are some of your businesses positive or negative outliers, and how much of that performance is attributable to the executive you have put in place?
-          Does compensation match performance? How might specific personnel changes affect the bottom line?
  • Talent is even more than strategy, it is what creates value.
  • Traditionally, companies that reallocated financial capital aggressively from one division to another, based on market opportunity and performance, were worth 40% more after fifteen years than companies that had been relatively passive. [Think this is the motivation for digital transformation efforts?
  •  Deploying human capital is very different from deploying financial capital. Dollars and Euros will go where you send them - and they won't complain. People, on the other hand, want to have a say in their fate.
  • A two-by-two: On one side of the vertical axis list the issues relating to business performance; on the other, organizational concerns. Above the horizontal axis note things that are going well; below, things that aren’t

  •  Getting the people who manage those resources in the same room with you is the only effective way for you to link the company’s financials with the people who produce them.
  • Top executives must dissect past events to understand the root causes of a business’s failure or success.
  •  Talent consideration must be a critical part of every important decision.

  • Talent technology: Software applications that elevate your ability to identify, recruit and support talent both inside and outside your company. Without a strong, effective, and supportive core at the top, a thorough sense of your most valuable talent, and the digital tools that any modern company must have, your transformation will fail.
  • To * Talent * Strategy * Risk[Disruptive framework] from Total Shareholder Return [Organic Growth]
  • In most corporations, everything – work, decision making, compensation, career paths, even who gets the best computer – follows a vertical path. But hierarchy can isolate and bury talent. Instead, a people-first company relies on the work of small, cross-functional teams that come together, disband, and reform as suits the nature of their work. Flattening the organization creates speed.
  • Bring people and numbers together.
  • Value creators aren’t necessarily inventors of new products, great strategists, or those most adept at ascending corporate ladders. Whatever their position, they are people who get to the heart of issues, re-frame ideas, create informal bonds that encourage collaboration, and make the organization healthier and more productive. Often, these are veterans whom newcomers turn to for advice on how to advance through the organizational cross-sections.
  •  If the company’s value agenda was to increase earnings from $600 million in EBITDA to $1 billion, while shifting the multiple from 8x to 10x – how would such a message translate to various levels?
  • According to a McKinsey study, one pharma CEO who decided to spread a message about change via the company’s informal influencers needed only 2.3 steps to reach an employee, versus the 4.5 it would have taken through traditional channels. This means your message moves faster, without the degradation of an extended game of “telephone” and “email”.
  • Suggestions can come from anyone in an employee’s network… At it’s core, the approach depends on continuous dialogue and share accountability.
  • The biggest problem: cleaning up old databases that have different formats and inconsistent information is a time sink.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Consulting Related

Consultants are there to listen, not to talk.

When the study has been sold, the team assembled, and the preliminary research done, the real work can begin. Brainstorming is the sine qua non of strategic consulting. It’s what the clients really buy. Let’s face it. Most large, modern corporations are chock full of intelligent, knowledgeable managers who are darned good at day-to-day problem solving.

The most important ingredient for successful brainstorming is a clean slate. There’s no point calling a meeting if you’re just going to look at the data in the same old way. You have to leave your preconceptions and prejudices at the door of the meeting room.

Business problems are like mice. They go unnoticed until they start nibbling your cheese. Just building a better mousetrap will not make the world beat a path to your door. People who don’t have mice won’t be interested—until the mice show up; then they need to know you have the mousetrap.This might sound like the musings of a Zen monk (or perhaps a management consultant from California). But sometimes the right way to sell your product or service is not to barge into your customer’s home with a bunch of free samples.Just be there, at the right time, and make sure the right people know who you are.

It sounds extreme, but in a way, to be a successful consultant,you have to assert yourself. Very often, you’ll be in a situation where you just have to assume that you can do something, or talk to someone, or get access to some bit of information, even though you may not have the explicit authority to do so.

There’s an old saying that no matter how good you are at something, there’s always somebody better. This is as true in business as it is anywhere else. Find out what the best performers in the industry are doing and imitate them. Often,this is the quickest antidote to poor performance.

First, and obviously, what are the questions to which you need answers? Write them all down in any order. Second, and more important, what do you really need from this interview? What are you trying to achieve? Why are you talking to this person?
1) Have the interviewee’s boss set up the meeting.
2) Interview in pairs.
3) Listen; don’t lead. Ask open ended questions; avoid yes/no questions
4) Paraphrase, paraphrase, paraphrase. Gives interviewee chance to add information
5) Use the indirect approach. Be sensitive to the interviewee’s feelings.
6) Don’t ask for too much. Stick to your interview guide.
7) Adopt the Columbo tactic.Once the interview is over, everybody becomes more relaxed. The interviewee’s sense that you have some power over him will have disappeared. He is far less likely to be defensive, and will often tell you what you need or give you the information you seek on the spot.
Remember that, for many people, being interviewed about problems in their job or business can be unnerving. You have a responsibility to be sensitive to their fears. It’s not only the right thing to do; it makes good business sense too.

Include some to which you know the answer. This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s really very useful. On questions of fact, asking a “ringer” will give you some insights into the interviewee’s honesty and/or knowledge. For complex issues, you may think you “know” the answer, but there may be more than one; you should find out as many as possible.

Research Tips:
Start with the annual report: Message to Shareholders/Chairman's remarks
Look for outliers - Things that are especially good or bad.
When you get back to your office after interviewing someone,take the time to write a thank-you letter. It’s polite and professional, and could pay you back in unexpected ways.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Rebels and Transformation

As an independent consultant the biggest challenge I face is inability to see the big picture and being patient towards building a logical workflow that involves people, process and technology.
Due to the lack of patience clients often resort to "distress sourcing": simply defined as "sourcing of all my distresses to a vendor" or finding a technology that will take over the communication issues that are part of your people problem.
I came across the following paragraph while reading a book on spirituality:
"The people who cannot rebel ask for guidance, want to be followers. Their psychology is that to be a follower relieves them of all responsibility: the guide, the master, the leader, the messiah become responsible for everything. All that is needed of the follower is just to have faith, and just to have faith is another name of spiritual slavery" - The Rebel
I believe the above paragraph aptly summarises the issue. The following are some interpretations I made out of above excerpt.
  • Organization which love buzzwords in the boardroom but have not assessed the cultural fabric of their organization look for guidance from consulting firms/vendors. Which in itself is a fast way of learning; provided that the people have ability and motivation to learn. 
  • Some of the organisations I have worked with focus on hiring resources with exact skill set rather than evaluating learnability. This then poses a threat for their ability to cope with changes.
  • Before starting the journey of being a rebel/transformation/change it is very critical that an organization knows clearly the "for what?". That is, for what are they taking a particular journey. 
  • I usually find that the management to be very clear about their goals for starting a particular journey. The real challenge is downward communication to the people in the trenches and ability of people at each level to translate the bigger goal in their own goals (a.k.a. metrics/KPIs/KRAs)
If you agree with the above two then I am sure you agree with a change/transformation journey to have the following four actors and not just the vendor with a contract:
  • The Guide: The vendor or the consulting help who is hired to avoid the usual pitfalls and help morph the change as a transformation and not a trial.
  • The Master: The internal owner trusted by the management for her/his judgement and who in turn banks on the learnability of the people in the organization and steers the transformation.
  • The Leader: I believe that it is not just one person who is the leader but the complete management team. The role of the leaders is to make sure that they prepare their own divisions and teams to digest the change.
         This not only gives their own divisions and teams the confidence to accept the change but also gives the master ability to have small failures and course correct open heatedly the change that will work for the people in the organization. This allows for a way to adapt the change that fits right into the current processes and works for the people. This also avoids an implementation of the blueprint as suggested by the vendor.
  • The Messiah: Most people think that an evangelist plays this role or even worse some people outsource this responsibility, thinking that it can be quantified in person-hours.
       I believe that its not merely the responsibility of certain individuals to become the messiah. It is the responsibility of everyone in the organization to become the messiah of the change and thus welcome the transformation. When everyone in the organization welcomes a change it makes every other colleagues life easier and thus the organization assimilates the change much faster.
If you expect to embark on a journey of transformation and expect the vendor make it happen by themselves then you are forcing your people becoming a slave of the change.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Learning so called Hadoop: where to start?

It is confusing what book to read, what tutorial or courses to take. Right now the system has been split in different modules. Picking material on Hadoop will often straight away take you to HDFS and MapReduce/Yarn and programming. This can be confusing for analyst community as you are trying to learn more about analysis and not system/infrastructure maintenance.

So then the question is where does an analyst start? In my opinion you can look at the following blocks and start on any query tools.

In the current Hadoop ecosystem, HDFS is still the major storage option. On top of it snappy, RCFile, Parquet and ORCFile could be used for storage optimisation. Core Hadoop MapReduce released a version 2.0 called Yarn for better performance and scalability. Spark and Tez as solutions for real-time processing are able to run on the Yarn to work with Hadoop closely. Base is a leading NoSQL database, especially when there is a NoSQL database request on the deployed Hadoop clusters. Swoop is still one of the leading and matured tools for exchanging data between Hadoop and relational databases. Flume is matured distributed and reliable log-collecting tool to move or collect data to HDFS. Impala and Presto query directly against the data on HDFS for better performance.

So if you are an analyst like me then Hive, Pig, Impala, Presto, Sqoop and HBase can be a good flow to start taming the beast. Just like in the good ol days you can become an analyst first and then depending on your interest in infrastructure and admin side you can jump into other systems.

To start learning Hive - one needs to install it. So I would recommend following this URL (this one is the best of the couple available out there)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Customer Loyalty

What does loyal customer mean?
  - Someone who makes repeat/regular purchases
  - Someone who purchases across product/service lines/categories
  - Someone who refers others
  - Demonstrates immunity from going to competition.


  • R: Recency
  • F : Frequency
  • M: Monetary Value
And then Customer Life Time Value (LTV)

Value Pyramid of Customers/ Where is the opportunity to create loyal customers?
  • Know your best customers: Who buys high order value? Who is a repeat buyer?
  • What is the expected value in your segment?
  • What is it about your service and product right now that makes the customer buy?
  • Where does top percentage of your revenue come from? (Ticket size, geo, category, sub-cat, brand)
  • What are they buying, When are they buying, How are they buying?
  • When looking at top buyers - do look into returns and other data silos.
  • Has the value of purchase/order value grown over the time?
  • A) What are their unsolved problems? B) What are their headaches? C) What keeps them up at night?
  • Make it easy for them to try or buy your new products and services.
  • Are you doing Birthday/New Year promotions card? Do you use this opportunity to force feedback?
  • "What is one thing we could have done better?"
  • Seek out employee feedback. Make sure you empower employees.
  • Communicate the vision of promotion to the front line.
Create such a visualisation:

Total Revenue                         80% of Revenue
XXXX                                      0.8R

CUST ID         REVENUE        80% REVENUE
8                         R                        0.8R

Friday, March 11, 2016

Strategic Planning: Steps

These are notes from my scribe. Wont make sense to most readers who have reached here randomly. If they do - well and good!

Steps involved in strategic planning

Communicate and prepare
       - Announce process
       - Identify resource -> set out the work they do

Meeting #1
      - Explain process
      - Work on the content
                 - SWOT
                 - Mission
                 - Vision
                 - Principles
                 - Goals
                 - Strategic filters

Homework Assignment
       Comeback with which initiatives they are going to work on

Meeting #2
     - Why everyone rated the initiatives the way they did as per the strategic filters
     - Initial prioritisation list
     - Initial Owners assigned

Homework Assignment 2
      Analyse high priority
            - Market Validation
            - Financial Analysis
            - Execution Considerations

Meeting #3- Resource Planning
      - Validate priorities
      - Identify resource
      - Allocate resources

Resource Matrix: Initiative| Cost| Resource

Tools for analysis
- Five Forces

Good matrix: