Communication, detecting fraud, and how the big boys play

Appearing in In The Black magazine, September 2019

 

Lead the Room
B
y Shane Michael Hatton
Major Street Publishing, $29.95

Lead the RoomGood leadership is built on effective communication, says consultant and presentation specialist Hatton. This does not simply mean standing up in a forum, although public speaking is an essential skill that can be used as a framework for communication at all levels, including with peers, superiors and teams. At the heart of communication is the confidence and credibility that comes with knowing yourself and your narrative: Hatton calls this ‘positioning’, or how other people place you in their mind.

Connected to this is the value you can offer to others. This is the section of the book where the public speaking framework is developed, and Hatton examines a range of techniques to communicate with a clear message and a memorable edge.

Outstanding communication involves a constant process of self-improvement, review and feedback. It should be an holistic endeavour, says Hatton. Don’t think of a speech or a conversation as an end but as a platform for further thinking.

Hatton unpacks his points with straightforward practicality. He also offers personal anecdotes which are illustrative rather than indulgent. The book might not be (and does not pretend to be) the final word on leadership and communication but it is a good place to start.

 

Detecting Accounting Fraud Before It’s Too Late
By Oriol Amat
Wiley, $79

It is unfortunate that a book like this is needed but the reality is that accounting fraud happens far too often. Amat, a Spanish academic specialising in the field, has pulled together a huge number of cases where large-scale fraud has occurred and uses the evidence to provide warning signs for auditors, investors and managers.

The most common frauds relate to the mis-pricing of assets and debts, incorrect estimation of income, and deficiencies of risk information. Often, they are hidden by unexplained complexity, changes in accounting criteria, or odd transactions within a corporate group. Figures that are radically different to industry norms signal problems. Amat suggests several ratios that are good indicators that something is amiss.Accounting Fraud

The people associated with fraud usually lead lifestyles out of proportion to their legal income although, interestingly, they are often reluctant to go on holiday. Senior officers who are engaged in fraud will aggressively reject any scrutiny because, they say, they are making money for the company and its shareholders.

In fact, many company leaders who are secretly cooking the books are hailed as corporate heroes – right up to the moment when it all comes crashing down. So if something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

 

Goliath’s Revenge: How Established Companies Turn the Tables on Digital Disruptors
By Todd Hewlin and Scott Snyder
Wiley, $46 

Old dogs can, it seems, not only learn new tricks but can learn them very well. Hewlin and Snyder, who between them have worked in start-ups, established companies, consulting and research, look at the experience of giants like Cisco, General Motors, and Mastercard to discover how they beat off challenges from tech-based disruptors. Not only did they survive, they emerged stronger than ever and reclaimed market share lost to smaller competitors.

Big companies have crucial assets, such as deep pools of talent and access to innovation networks. Capital reserves and solid customer relationships mean they can leverage new technology, so long as the leaders are willing to re-think the business model. Technologies like AI, robotics, and blockchain can often be incorporated by large corporates but they must be willing to move fast and accept the reality of disruption. Beating disruptors can also entail watching them carefully and adopting some of their techniques.

Hewlin and Snyder distil this into a set of rules for cultural and operational changes, and they include templates and checklists to identify problems and monitor progress. They underline the importance of getting the right people on board, finding suitable metrics, and pursuing new growth options. Not easy, but it can be done.
Goliaths Revenge

 

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Good enough, good thinking and good design

Appearing in In The Black magazine, August 2019

 

Ish: The Problem with Our Pursuit for Perfection and the Life-Changing Practice of Good Enough
By Lynne Cazaly
Woodslane, $25, 252 pages

ishAt first glance this book appears to be merely enjoyably eccentric but a deeper look shows that it has some interesting, important points to make. Cazaly, a business adviser and facilitator, believes that a key problem with the modern world is the search for perfection, and it is making us both stressed and unproductive. In most cases that we encounter, she says, it is fine to be good enough – good-ish, in a word.

She is not saying that we should do everything (or anything) in a slapdash, half-hearted way. Instead, we should invest some time working out what our real priorities are, and which things need to be done perfectly. In fact, if we constantly search for perfection, whether in choosing what shoes to buy or writing a memo, we will probably accomplish very little. In business, it can make more sense to put the Minimum Viable Product version into the marketplace and improve it in later iterations than wait until every bug is fixed. Learn, evolve, and accept that every creative process has its shortcomings.

So do less but choose the right things to do, and how to do them. It might not be a perfect message but it is, well, quite good enough.

 

How Could This Happen? Managing Errors in Organizations
Edited by Jan Hagen
Palgrave Macmillan, $95, 292 pages

Hagen, a Berlin-based academic who specialises in error analysis, has brought together a wide-ranging collection of essays looking at how mistakes occur in organisations and, perhaps more importantly, what can be done to prevent a recurrence. The first part provides a series of theoretical examinations, looking at how rigid business culture can prevent the proper reporting of problems – the Fukushima reactor disaster is an example. Some analysts look at the requirements of effective reporting systems, including people at the operational level knowing they can report concerns without fear of retribution. Strict hierarchy systems, with the person at the top assumed to be infallible, also need to be broken down.How Could This Happen

Several essays look at the Crew Resource Management system now used in the aviation industry, which has dramatically reduced the incidence of errors. Other essays examine changes in medical diagnoses, where a team-based approach has proven effective. The best place to start developing an error reporting system is with early training, as an interesting piece on the Israeli Air Force shows. There also needs to be a mechanism for clear-minded analysis of the causes of the error in the first place.

We all make mistakes, says Hagen. The real issue is what we learn from them.

 

Exceptional Leadership by Design: How Design in Great Organizations Produces Great Leadership
By Rob Elkington, Madeleine van der Steege, Judith Glick-Smith and Jennifer Moss Breen
Emerald Publishing, $57, 311 pages

This collection of essays covers a great deal of ground but the common theme is that outstanding leadership is the result of a deliberate process of thinking about how to do the job. The place to start is defining the problem to be solved, and then marshalling the necessary personal and organisation resources. A leader has to be willing to honestly evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, and must be humble enough to ask for help when it is needed. Several essays make the point, drawing on examples and anecdotes, that great leadership is not about individual charisma but about collaboration, the building of relationships, and ongoing learning. This last point is critical: an exceptional leader has to design their job to include self-reflection and feedback.

An important contribution argues that a good way to find solutions is through prototyping. Small-scale test runs, gaming, and extended thought exercises can be useful tools, as long as there is honest follow-up and analysis. Prototyping can even show that you are asking the wrong question, and re-framing is called for. Again, the leader has to accept that they might not have all the answers. And acceptance of that might, in the end, be the most crucial lesson of all.

Exceptional Leadership by Design

Brains and boards

Appearing in In The Black magazine, June 2019

 

Master Your Mind: Counterintuitive Strategies to Refocus and Re-energize Your Runaway Brain

By Roger Seip and Robb Zbierski

Wiley, $39, 256 pages

Master Your MindA recurring image in this book is that little wheel that pet hamsters run on: faster and faster but never going anywhere. Too often, say workplace trainers Seip and Zbierski, people confuse busyness with productivity, and long hours with focus. Master Your Mind underlines the value of slowing down, taking time to reflect, and saying no when it is appropriate to do so.

It sounds easy but for many people working fast and hard has become a habit. Even when they see themselves getting stressed and making mistakes they continue, often in the belief that it is the way to compete with everyone else. Seip and Zbierski cite a solid body of research showing that stress leads to poor decisions, although they are careful to not get carried away with neuroscientific jargon. They provide some tests to establish whether there is a need to slow down and they offer advice on how to do it. Regular conversations with oneself to develop mindfulness and set priorities are also useful.

If the idea of doing less in order to do more seems counter-intuitive it makes sense when it comes to quality and sustainability. Going nowhere fast is not a good career path. Ask the hamster.

 

Best of Boards: Sound Governance and Leadership for Nonprofit Organizations (2nd edition)

By Marci Thomas and Kim Strom-Gottfried

Wiley, $50, 256 pages

Being a board member of a not-for-profit organisation is a difficult proposition: tough decisions, considerable legal responsibilities and (usually) no remuneration beyond the feeling of doing something important and worthwhile. This book aims to help people new to NFP boards, whether they have experience with for-profit companies or are coming fresh to the field.

Thomas and Strom-Gottfried cover a great deal of ground, from understanding NFP financial statements to pushing through a change program. There is a framework for effective oversight, with one of the most useful tools being a template for resolving disagreements between the board and senior management.Best of Boards v2

The authors illustrate their points with interesting anecdotes and examine the legal and ethical questions that arise in connection with NFPs. They also emphasise that for a board the great enemy is complacency. The time when you are congratulating yourself for having solved all the problems is the point where you should start to look at the next wave of issues.

A problem with the book is that it is designed for NFPs operating within the US system of regulation, reporting and compliance. But this is a small point, and there are many valuable lessons here on effective governance and sound strategic thinking.

 

Thriving in the Gig Economy: How to Capitalize and Compete in the New World of Work

By Marion McGovern

Career Press, $30, 224 pages

McGovern was working to bring freelancers and employers together before the term ‘gig’ was coined to describe a new way of working, so she is well-placed to talk about the advantages and pitfalls. She looks at the equation from both sides, and some of the most important chapters deal with how companies can effectively utilise specialised, short-term contractors.

As for freelancers, she notes that the most successful ones see themselves as a brand to be framed, strengthened, and leveraged. They must be willing to market themselves, constantly upgrade their skills, and stay abreast of technological developments. Having a system for handling the practical business of getting paid is also essential.

McGovern identifies people who are returning to the workforce after an extended break or after retirement as a growth trend for the gig economy. It might be as an Uber driver or as an interim CEO but it is important to have the right mindset and to know where you can add value.

This is a useful, interesting book. It is hard to argue with McGovern when she says that the development of the gig economy is going to continue. She offers good advice on how to ride the wave.

Gig economy

 

Downloadable research

 

Resilience

Professor Jill Klein, who directs the Resilient Leadership program at Melbourne Business School, believes that setbacks can provide crucial lessons if approached with the right mindset. Whether the setback relates to failing to receive a promotion or dealing with an organisational restructure, she advises a focus on three questions: why did it happen, what does it mean, and what can I do?

This approach helps to clarify what is in your control and what is not, as well as identifying weaknesses that might be remedied. It also puts you in a positive frame of mind, so you can focus on the future rather than the past.

To read the essay and related material go to:

https://1.mbs.edu/news/A-resilience-expert-explains-how-to-pick-yourself-up-after-a-setback-at-work

 

Trends

AccentureA major study from Accenture, Are Your Ready For What’s Next?, aims to identify the critical technology-related issues that will drive the next three years. The key trends are:

–         DARQ – distributed ledger technology, artificial intelligence, extended reality, and quantum computing – as the next source of differentiation and competitiveness

–         a new level of interactiveness that will create a “tech identity” for every consumer

–         technology-driven work capabilities alongside employees’ existing skills, requiring new methods of work

–         enhanced avenues of “ecosystem collaboration” that open new opportunities but also raise security threats

–         empowered consumers that expect customised and on-demand experiences.

Download the full study or a ‘short read’ version from:

https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/technology/technology-trends-2019

 

CFOs

Chief Financial Officers who speak in the same style as a company CEO and seldom offer differing viewpoints are likely to earn more and move up faster, according to a study by the Jones Graduate School of Business of Rice University and the University of Miami Business School. The research examined CFOs in 2,384 US companies, looking at “language style matching”, an unconscious form of imitation based on the use of terms like “I”, “we” and “us”.

But the study authors noted that even though imitative CFOs did personally better than others, in the M&A area their companies did less well than the average.

For the complete study go to:

https://phys.org/news/2019-02-ceo-cfos-higher.html

 

Hiring

In a useful TED Talk, Priyanka Jain examines the new hiring landscape. As the head of a consulting firm that uses neuroscience, algorithms and AI tools to make hiring decisions more effective, she draws on her experience to provide advice on how job seekers should structure applications. She suggests a move away from the traditional dot-point resume in favour of a focus on distinctive abilities and personal qualities.

Jain also explains how a new generation of psychometric testing tools are being used to measure creativity and suitability, resulting in better fit and a win-win situation for the company and its employees.

To watch, go to:

https://www.ted.com/talks/priyanka_jain_how_to_make_applying_for_jobs_less_painful

 

Keeping it real

Even the best-laid plans often fail to survive their first encounter with reality, and Charles Vandepeer, a former intelligence officer in the Royal Australian Air Force, is interested in why. In an insightful essay, Self-Deception and the ‘Conspiracy of Optimism’, he looks at military operations that have failed due to over-assessment of one’s own abilities and under-estimation of the opposition.

Business disasters often stem from the same pattern of group-think. A leader who wants to combat this has to actively encourage dissenting views, even if it means going outside the usual circle of advisers. Confidence is necessary but arrogance is a sure path to failure.

To read the essay Self-Deception and the ‘Conspiracy of Optimism’ go to:

https://warontherocks.com/2019/01/self-deception-and-the-conspiracy-of-optimism/

 

Victim/Victor

The Rise of Victimhood Culture: Microaggressions, Safe Spaces, and the New Culture Wars

By Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning

Palgrave, $65, 278 pages, ISBN 9783319703282

How did it come to this? When did it become, on the campuses of many upscale US universities, almost impossible to say anything without someone taking offence and initiating legal action through an office set up for the purpose? How is it that professors can be applauded for saying that they want to see a “white genocide”? When did hate-crime hoaxes become acceptable, even desirable?

Campbell (Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University) and Manning (Associate Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University) have collected a vast body of research on the subject – at considerable professional cost, it should be said – and have come up with some answers. They track the spread of the new culture of victimhood through universities and into broader society, and believe it began about ten years ago, when a new generation entered university life.

These teenagers had been continually told by their affluent, left-wing parents that they were “special snowflakes”: unique, beautiful and fragile. Years of helicopter-style parenting had given them the impression that they had the right to never be offended or challenged, and that their country was characterised by an evil history and a fearful present. To be subjected to an idea that you didn’t like was an insult, and that made you a victim. If you were, or saw yourself, as a member of a minority, then your victim status automatically became much higher.

And thus the idea of the micro-aggression was born. The key to it was that the content of any comment from someone outside one’s own circle was less important than the interpretation placed on it, and the interpretation was usually that the comment was racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise offensive. Campbell and Manning note that even the phrase “on the other hand” was condemned (‘ableist’, apparently).

University administrations responded by setting up administrative bodies to hear complaints and pronounce sentences. These tribunals quickly extended their reach, equating what might have been a minor slight or a simple misunderstanding with actual violence. Hard evidence was not required: Campbell and Manning cite several cases where tribunals found a student ‘guilty’ of rape on campus even though police had established the accusations to be untrue.

From a sociological perspective, the culture of victimhood might be compared with the earlier culture of dignity, which was marked by self-restraint, forbearance, and quiet courage – and, when it came to issues such as racial equality, a sense of reciprocity and fairness. But all that was seen as hopelessly, dangerously outdated. The new mentality was about a war between the enlightened few – the ‘woke’ – and the rest. No quarter, no respite. Haters got to hate.

The key enemy of the victimhood movement was, inevitably, the older white male, always depicted as privileged, racist, misogynist and stupid. An army of media commentators agreed. But Campbell and Manning provide a poignant, anonymous quote from one of the snowflakes’ targets:
I am very lower middle class. I’ve never owned a new car, and I do my own home repairs as much as I can to save money. I cut my own grass, wash my own dishes, buy my clothes from Walmart. But oh, brother, to hear the media tell it, I am just drowning in unearned power and privilege, and America will be a much brighter, more loving, more peaceful nation when I finally just keel over and die.

And this is why over 62 million people voted for Donald Trump. Cause, meet effect.

One of the most telling chapters of the book deals with the rise of hate crime hoaxes. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election there was a dramatic rise in the number of people saying they had been attacked by Trump supporters. However, many of the claims turned out to be simply fabricated. Campbell and Manning examine about a dozen cases, and a journalist called Andy Ngo has compiled a list running into the hundreds.

Presumably, being the target of an attack gives a person in the victimhood culture more status, and fits into a larger anti-Trump narrative. The problem with this is that there simply aren’t enough white racists to go around – if there were, there would be no need to invent them. (In fact, the statistics suggest that the number of real hate crimes is falling. The only growth area is attacks on Jews by members of the ultra-militant Nation Of Islam – something which is largely ignored, as it does not fit into the paradigm of black people as helpless victims of white racism.)

It says much that the celebrity of Jussie Smollett, the mid-level actor who recently staged an attack on himself by Trump supporters, has grown since his claims were revealed to be falsehoods. In victimhood culture, a hate-crime hoax is not a dishonest trick but a sign of true commitment to the cause. Well, fakers got to fake.

Campbell and Manning are not optimistic about the situation getting any better, although they discuss the possibility of victimhood culture burning out – there are already signs of it consuming itself in a “purity spiral”. On the other hand, they see the more likely outcome being that it will continue to grow and mutate, causing an even greater backlash. The result will be a more polarised, antagonistic society.

It takes no great effort to see the patterns described in this book in Australian society, as victimhood culture spreads from universities into the media. At present, Australia seems to be running a few years behind the US trend, but this book is a signpost of what might be coming. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Rise of Victimhood Culture

Fast growth, CFOs, and a graceful exit

Appearing in In The Black, May 2019

 

Blitzscaling: the Lightning-fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies

By Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh

HarperCollins, $35, 288 pages

BlitzscalingHoffman is the co-founder of LinkedIn as well as the former COO of PayPal, and Yeh has written extensively about start-ups, so between them they bring a great deal of experience to bear on the issue of rapid growth. They see four essential components for exponential transformation: building networks that allow for easy entry of new customers; finding a niche which will allow for an eventual transition into the  mainstream marketplace; picking distribution channels which have an in-built capacity for scaling; and looking for high gross margins to provide funds for re-investment.

Hoffman and Yeh do not pretend that speedy growth is easy, and they provide plenty of examples of failure. They also note that many of the companies that achieved massive size changed their strategy several times, as the marketplace and the company evolved. At the same time, speed is crucial, even if it means sacrificing efficiency. Be willing to experiment, they say, and be equally willing to admit it when you make a mistake and a new course if needed.

All this is presented in a clear, balanced way, thankfully free of tech-hype. Whether you have big plans or are interested in how giants grew, there is fascinating material here.

 

The Traits of Today’s CFO: a Handbook for Excelling in an Evolving Role (2nd edition)

By AICPA and Ron Rael

Wiley, $79, 160 pages

The CFO job has always been a challenging one, straddling strategic management and financial functions. Rael, a leadership consultant who has studied the role from many different angles, believes that in the future it is only going to get harder, with the CFO needing to add technological expertise and coaching acumen to the toolkit. This book lays out how the various new skills can be integrated with the traditional demands, explaining how the role is changing. Rael covers a great deal of ground, punctuating the book with self-diagnostic tests as well as good illustrative examples. He believes there are ten critical skills for the CFO and the book systematically unpacks each one. Most chapters include a ‘best practice’ section which links theory with everyday problem-solving.9781119548232 cover.pdf

If anything, the CFO role is becoming less about finance (although a high level of number-crunching ability is still mandatory) and more about collaboration, communication and soft-skills leadership. One telling suggestion: the CFO should spend at least a quarter of their time out of the office, talking with investors, suppliers, peers and people in non-financial roles.

It adds up to a useful package, as well as an insightful commentary on the evolution of financial management.

 

Business Exit Strategies: Family-owned and Other Businesses

By Frederick Lipman

World Scientific, $90, 164 pages

Knowing how to make a graceful departure is difficult in any circumstances, and particularly tough when a business is involved. Lipman, an adviser and author, has provided an interesting guide to make the process easier, covering circumstances ranging from a small enterprise to a large corporation.

There are many pitfalls – in fact, Lipman devotes the first two chapters to common mistakes – but most can be overcome with careful planning and an eye to market conditions. If the business is being sold then there must be comprehensive, audited financial accounts available, and any outstanding legal disputes should be settled. If the business is to be passed on to family members then the procedures should be clear, and the role of the founder, if any, codified and agreed.

Lipman devotes a long section to the tricky issue of valuation, noting that the right time to sell a business is when it is on a growth path, not when decline has set in. Another exit option is to take the business public, which can work well but is a much larger project than a direct sale.

The book also looks at letters of sale and non-disclosure agreements. Useful advice, when it comes time to leave the stage.

Business Exit Strategies

 

Downloadable research

 

Value add

Even those companies that have already embraced business analytics often have difficulty understanding how they are adding value to the company’s activities. In a collaborative project, the Melbourne Business School and A.T.Kearney have published the ‘Analytics Impact Index: Understanding the value of analytics and how you can improve performance’ to provide benchmarking and guidance. Building on comprehensive survey data, it includes the Value Index, a tool for assessing the contribution of analytics to total profit; and the Maturity Index, which offers a framework for the comprehensive assessment of a company’s analytics practices and processes to help achieve value.

Download from:

https://analyticsimpactindex.mbs.edu/

 

Disruption

‘Navigating a World of Disruption’ is a briefing note prepared by McKinsey for the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos, focusing on both the value-creating opportunities and the intense competitive challenges of the digital era. It provides data showing that those organisations that have been quick to utilise AI and analytics technology are doing well, while the performance gap between these organisations and others is growing quickly.

At the global level, China and India continue to dominate growth figures but a number of new players, mainly in the Central Asian and South-east Asian regions, are poised for breakthrough levels of growth.

Download from:

https://www.mckinsey.com/Featured-Insights/Innovation-and-Growth/Navigating-a-world-of-disruption

 

Banking on it

Singapore-based research firm J.D. Power has released a summary of its Australia Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, providing a ranking of financial institutions and pointing towards areas which need to improve. It revealed that 42 per cent of Australian customers of major banks, and 24 per cent of customers with other financial institutions, do not trust their bank.

The study was based on responses from 4,730 customers. Westpac ranked highest among the major banks, performing well in the account information and account activities factors. In the non-major banks category, ING performed best.

The study also identified strong growth in mobile app usage for personal banking.

Download the summary at:

https://www.jdpower.com/business/press-releases/2018-australia-retail-banking-satisfaction-study

 

Visual aids

The Reserve Bank provides a wealth of information, and material from its monthly pack of charts is particularly useful for inclusion in reports and presentations, as well as for general at-a-glance background. The charts include information on the global economy, growth in Australia, housing credit growth and credit growth by sector, interest rates, trends in the business sector, consumer sentiment, the outlook for inflation, and key banking indicators.

The pack is updated monthly and is released on the first business day of each month. Supplementary information can be obtained from other parts of the RBA site.

Download from:

https://www.rba.gov.au/chart-pack/

 

Looking ahead

In a thought-provoking TED Talk Gunjan Bhardwaj, described here as a “complexity specialist”, examines how artificial intelligence and blockchain have been used in the German health system to gather and analyse unprecedented amounts of data. The information ranges from drug test results to patent applications to patient treatment records, with AI being used to integrate disparate information into useful material. Blockchain technology has been utilised to capture the results of lab tests and in-progress research while allowing for the protection of intellectual property. Even for those not in the health sector, the address underlines the variety of applications that these technologies are finding.
Watch at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/gunjan_bhardwaj_how_blockchain_and_ai_can_help_us_decipher_medicine_s_big_data/

 

 

 

 

Good questions, boss management

Appearing in In The Black magazine, April 2019

 

Questions Are the Answer

By Hal Gregersen

Harper Business, $27, 336 pages

Questions are the AnswerAs Director of the MIT Leadership Center, Gregersen has a special interest in why some business leaders are exceptionally successful. After conducting over 200 interviews he reached the conclusion that they ask the right questions. They do not ask many but they are good ones, capable of dissolving barriers to creative thinking and guiding the pursuit of new solutions. Drawing on this research, he explains how questions  can be structured to get to the core of an issue while pointing the way to clear action. A good question is a paradox: completely surprising yet entirely obvious.

While the research dealt with senior people Gregersen emphasises that active questioning is effective at any level of leadership. He examines the idea of the “question burst”, a team meeting centred around asking questions about an emerging challenge. The process usually leads to some innovative thinking and at least a few ideas worth further development.

The best questioners make an effort to find information and views outside their comfort zone. Breaking out of the bubble requires an effort but is needed for a fresh perspective. Good questions also require humility. Finding the right question, after all, is about accepting that you don’t know what you don’t know.

 

Cybersecurity Program Development for Businesses

By Chris Moschovitis

Wiley, $71, 225 pages

This book is written for business owners and executives whose education did not include cybersecurity, and as a result they do not know how to communicate with the company specialists. Moschovitis clearly knows a great deal about the field but he also knows how to explain the issues without undue techno-babble. He emphasises that there is no silver-bullet cybersecurity defence; the point is how to make good business decisions about what can be done to minimise risks and mitigate damage. He guides the reader through basic concepts without talking down to them, steadily progressing to risk evaluation and asset protection. He also explains what should be in an incident response plan and offers advice on cybersecurity training for employees and managers. Cybersecurity Program Development

The later chapters deal with cyber threats affecting machine learning, cloud computing and blockchain. There is also an important section on trends in regulation, essential from both governance and decision-making perspectives.

If read from cover to cover the book provides a comprehensive overview. However, it is structured so that readers can choose what is most relevant to them (although the first third is for everyone). It allows executives to not only know what questions to ask but to understand the answers as well.

 

Manage Your Boss

By Jonathan Vehar

Centre For Creative Leadership, $31 (e-book), 55 pages

This e-book is a short read but a pithy one, explaining how to manage upwards to minimise misunderstandings and friction. Vehar specialises in the design of business education programs and he believes that it is up to the person in the subordinate position to actively manage the relationship. This means finding out the preferred communication methods of the boss, how closely they want to oversee their reports, their methods for resource allocation, and how much information they wish to share. In each case it is up to the subordinate to adjust their working methods accordingly, although Vehar suggests ways to communicate to the boss when more direction or assistance is needed. It is generally more effective to approach the boss with a clear list of suggestions rather than vague open-ended questions.

Manage Your BossThere are numerous checklists that can help define, guide and develop the relationship, as well as interesting anecdotes. Along the way Vehar notes that your boss is usually obliged to look upwards to their own boss. The concluding chapter provides a four-step framework for discussions: pluses, opportunities, issues and new thinking. It is a straightforward, practical system, and a good way to build the trust that the relationship requires.

 

 

 

Downloadable research

A guide from Deloitte, Forecasting in a Digital World, underlines the extent to which advanced maths and machine learning have changed forecasting. The guide explains the basics of algorithmic forecasting and examines cases where the new tools have provided predictions that have been more accurate and timelier than traditional methods of data compilation and spreadsheet analysis.

forecastingThe key figure is the CFO, who is responsible for assembling and leading a team of people who understand both the business environment and the technology. The CFO also has the task of integrating the forecasts with the company’s strategic processes, including at the board level.

Download from:

https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/finance-transformation/articles/crunch-time-6-forecasting-in-digital-world.html

 

 

In a TED Talk that mixes insight with humour, entrepreneur Chieh Huang explains how micromanagement leads to exhausted, dissatisfied employees and kills innovation. In fact, most senior managers are aware, when questioned, that micromanagement is counter-productive. Their attempts to do it usually stem from a desire to re-engage with ‘real’ work rather than managing managers.

He explains how managers have to understand their role, and step away from their instinct to micromanage. This entails an acceptance that employees might occasionally fail. Any short-term costs, however, are certain to be outweighed by increases in productivity and innovation.

View at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/chieh_huang_confessions_of_a_recovering_micromanager

micromanaging

 

A new report by McKinsey, Megadeals: How Data and Analytics Can Dramatically Boost Success, discusses how business analytics can be used in large, complex deals. There is often a reluctance to apply data-based methods to big deals but the report authors believe that by drawing on multiple data sources – customer-relationship management, enterprise resource planning, sales reporting, and external data – it is possible to create rich datasets that can provide important insights.

Analytics can also provide early warning of possible problems and enhance risk management. Although the report focuses on large deals the authors believe that the processes can be used on deals of any type and scale.

Download from:

https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/megadeals-how-data-and-analytics-can-dramatically-boost-success

 

 

Hays Specialist Recruitment has released its Jobs Report for the period to June 2019, looking at the trends of skills in demand within the areas of commerce, professional practice and the public sector. While there is considerable diversity across the areas a common theme is an increasing demand for an understanding of analytics and cloud computing.

Graduate job applicants with these skills should provide details of their qualifications, and people who are seeking promotion or to change jobs should emphasise any upskilling they have done in these areas. This is to show that that they are both competent with the new fields and are willing to undertake continuous improvement.

Download from:

https://www.hays.com.au/report/accountancy-finance—commerce-industry-695

https://www.hays.com.au/report/accountancy-finance—professional-practice-931

https://www.hays.com.au/report/accountancy-finance—public-sector-375

 

 

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has released the Australian Government cybersecurityInformation Security Manual to help organisations protect their information, networks and systems from cyber threats. The guidelines within the ISM are based on the experiences of the Centre and the Australian Signals Directorate.

The ISM is aimed at Chief Information Security Officers, Chief Information Officers, cyber security professionals and IT managers. The guidelines discuss both governance and technical concepts, with chapters on equipment management, database management, system hardening, outsourcing and data transfers. The entire document can be downloaded or individual chapters can be selected. A useful Security Assessment Aid is also available.

Download from:

https://acsc.gov.au/infosec/ism/index.htm

Transformation, cyber-threats, and better selling

Appearing in March 2019 issue of In The Black magazine

 

Leading Transformation
By Nathan Furr, Kyle Nel, and Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy
Harvard Business Review Press, $50, 256 pages, ISBN 9781633696549

Leading TransformationHuman beings, say the authors of this book, are inherently resistant to change. Especially in a corporate setting, getting employees to understand the necessity of change, and then leading them through it, is a massive but essential undertaking. Furr, Nel, and Ramsøy – respectively: an executive who has guided numerous transformation programs, a neuroscientist interested in how thinking develops, and an academic specialising in change theory – have developed a program that has been successful in cases as diverse as Google and Pepsi, and they explain their points through these examples.

The program involves three steps: envisioning the possible, breaking down resistance, and prototyping the future. The same old same-old is not going to work but there has been success through bringing in science-fiction writers and rap artists to help conceptualise new thinking. The aim is to develop a forward-looking strategic narrative: not just thinking outside the box but building a different structure entirely.

Because the cases vary the process is not always easy to follow, but the authors provide many insights along the way. There are also three interesting appendices, about transformation in one’s own life, building an origin story, and – radical but surprisingly enlightening – the key messages of the book presented as a graphic novel.

 

Digital Resilience: Is Your Company Ready for the Next Cyber Threat?
By Ray Rothrock
HarperCollins, $18.50, 256 pages, ISBN 9780814439241

The bad news, according to cyber-security expert Rothrock, is that every company is going to be attacked through its computer systems at some time – if it hasn’t been hit already, whether it knows it or not. He believes that it is impossible to protect against every threat, although he offers good advice on ways to minimise the chances of a successful attack, with software packages and better employee training. The real key is to develop resilience, which means being able to effectively respond to attacks and quickly return to business.Digital Resilience

A digitally resilient company has prevention and detection systems in place, distributes information across networks, trains and tests employees, runs frequent system tests, and has a team dedicated to the task of building resilience. There might even be a ‘resilience scorcecard’ to provide guidance to managers. None of this is cheap but, given some of the scary cases that Rothrock looks at, worth the expenditure. He also includes a useful chapter on how senior executives can get up to speed on digital resilience, getting past the idea that security investment is a cost to be begrudged.

The book focuses on the US environment but that is not a problem. In the world of cyber-threats, there are no borders.

 

How Clients Buy:  A Practical Guide to Business Development for Consulting and Professional Services
By Tom McMakin and Doug Fletcher
Wiley, $42, 272 pages, ISBN 9781119434702

Many accountants, business advisers and financial planners are very good at helping others develop their companies but less effective when it comes to building their own. The problem, says McMakin and Fletcher, consultants who specialise in this field, is often that they are trained to do their job rather than sell it. They offer a wide range of advice, especially in the areas of effective self-promotion and relevant advertising. But they strongly counsel against the hard sell. Sustainable and profitable relationships are built on a foundation of trust and mutual respect.

McMakin and Fletcher see seven elements in a client’s decision to purchase professional services, and they unpack each element in detail. There are tools and tactics to help you through each step, and the book is organised with an admirable clarity.

How Clients BuyA critical issue is to understand exactly what a client is looking for and how it should be delivered. Do not over-promise, say McMakin and Fletcher; it is a sure way to lose a client’s trust. They also provide tips on how to retain existing clients and even expand the services provided to them, and examine the important question of costing. It adds up to a useful, very readable package.