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An Organisation Risk Pendulum

In crime, fraud, Risk Management on September 9, 2017 at 7:17 am

“Risk is often misinterpreted as a bad thing; however, it is not. Business needs risk to grow and thrive. Understand it, take risks which help you fulfilling your purpose. The key question remains how to balance risk pendulum in the organizational life”.

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If your company offers a unique product, any risk which provides a value to the product or customer is worth considering, however, the proportion should not be increasing 50% risk for a minuscule value to the customers. Think twice whether you are capable of handling enhanced risk for value creation. If you are unable to handle it, build capacity and then take the proportionate risk. On the other side, some risks are inherent in the business. For example, fraud risk. You will be surprised to know that fraud risk is often considered strategic risk. Tightening of controls in the business may be considered as a constraining activity in short-run but imagine in the long run, employees say that these frauds happened under the nose of senior management and question their integrity? What is the relevance of board, risk management team, auditors and audit committees in such instances?

A country with negligible crime rate (i.e. Dubai) attracts high investments while a country (i.e. Nigeria) with relatively very high crime rate has to struggle in inviting investors. Do controls play a positive role in business? Yes, it not only reduces the risk but also provides efficiency to the business with a potential of strategic advantage.

Many of us heard that after 2008 crisis, some large organisations are reluctant to take further risks. Does it mean they are over-matured and declining, or markets are exhausted, or they have just become risk averse for some period? This shows how a crisis impacts the speed of the Organisational Risk Pendulum. When the speed is low, what these organisations do – sit idle, focus on weakest links in organisational process or improve their strength in one or two core domains or simply learn from others mistakes. Over and above this, some companies wait for the crisis to occur because they are expert in dealing with crisis situations. For example, Business Continuity experts get maximum business after a crisis. Enterprise Risk Management and Risk Governance experts do the same, many consulting and credit rating companies take over the customers and markets. A more generic example is a doctor. When a pandemic spread in the society, doctors suddenly become highly in demand. It is clear that investment in risk management enhances the organisation capacity to maintain the speed of organisational risk pendulum during the crisis while it provides confidence to retain the speed in normal and volatile market situation.

Another key question arises How to drive your organisation at a speed to maintain an equilibrium between the risk of riskiness and risk of safety? What is right – Riskiness, stability, survival?

I believe all are important as Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) by definition maintains a balance in downside and upside of risk and uncertainty and considers all risks holistically. Knowing your organisational risk at integrated level provides a strategic direction to the company. Don’t wait. Know what you don’t

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Why Management practice is not practical?

In Management on July 24, 2017 at 5:31 am

Practice is a practice that is different from theory. Many of us argue that learning concepts are distinct from its application during practice. In this blog, I will discuss three arguments of practice discussed by academics, industry leaders and my own observation.

Theory and practice

Idea 1: Manager as coordinator and integrator

An academic will define coordination, and integration would be as good management practice for a manager. It does not matter how many hours an employee work. What is important – how a manager is integrating the unique abilities of its employees to achieve the goal. In fact, the success of a manager depends upon how he/she turns people talent into performance. In Physics, a force is called work when there is a displacement of the point of application in the direction of the force.

Idea 2: A Manager as ‘implementer’

Jack Welch (CEO, GE) believed to be a gatekeeper in transmitting the ideas to his managers by choosing right people, rightly compensated and channelizing their energy to implement the idea.

“If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings—and put compensation as a carrier behind it—you almost don’t have to manage them.” – Jack Welch

 Idea 3: A Successful Practical Manager

 In fact, when I returned after completing my PhD from University of Edinburgh, I found that practice requires impractical people. I argue that a short term thinking believes in practical management while a long-term approach leads to a sound management practice. Good management practice is not possible until senior management reward creativity by rightly compensating managers and establish an open and proactive culture.

Contrary to this, a new word for practical is unethical. In large organisations, rules and policies are set by the board of directors. This led managers to reject those projects which fall out of the scope of company’s policies. A practical manager will manipulate the language and may accept all the projects. He may show higher sales in short run and receive the bonus. In long-term also, that manager will gain as the consequences of accepting the projects will be faced by his/her successors. Very soon, rules will remain in paper and manipulation of language in a contract will become management practice. Competitors will also follow and may make it as the industry norm. If everybody is making some mistakes, it is nobody’s mistake.

P-O-L-C framework of management supports managers to respond to the challenge of creative problem solving.

Is something missing in this framework. I observed that management practice in general substantially differ from practical management. Ethics and risk management are important for managers. Ethics support in the decision making of what is right and what is wrong while risk management guides on the consequences. Surprisingly, both are not included in management curriculum at many places considering them as not practical. Planning, organizing, leading and controlling in normal market situation is easy however, it is very challenging in turbulent markets. We need reformist, leaders, veterans who can think, act and implement good management practices.

Corporate practices are full of such issues and to understand these practices, one has to be in business to learn how to do business. Another example could be word ‘professional’. Professionals are the people who are subject matter experts, have undergone specialised training and have capabilities for independent decision making. They are expected to demonstrate ‘ethical code of conduct’. With my current engagements in an Asian market. I found that many people talk about:

“Now a days’ doctors and lawyers have become professional”

I asked them that these doctors and lawyers are professionals from a long time, what’s new about it. They were pointing out the wrong definition of professionalism. From professionalism, they mean ‘unethical’. In this situation, everyone bears the losses due to some short-cuts are taken by others. Management as a practice will not survive until we don’t avoid unethical decision making under the umbrella of being ‘practical’.

How governance works in practice !

In corporate governance on April 25, 2017 at 11:28 pm

 

Corporate-Governance

Establishing good corporate governance is a new desired objective for corporates. I am curious to explore how it works in practice. From institutional theory perspective, large institutions should become isomorphic over time. Another contradictory perspective is ‘how institutions differ from each other’. Simply put, there are three types of institutions: shareholder-focused, management-focused and stakeholder focused based on three prominent theories: agency theory (focus on shareholder), managerial hegemony theory (focus on management) and stakeholder theory (focus on stakeholder) respectively. I found issues with all three types of corporate governance during practice. My key question is: What should be the focus of Corporate Governance during practice?

Management-focused

When CEO has control over all management information and he/she reveals the minimal information to board. In such case, CEO has power to influence board decision making.  Enron is an example for this type of leadership. The major issues for Enron bankruptcy were lack of good corporate culture and adherence to poor corporate governance standards. When a high-performance company is not thinking about its employees’ welfare and development rather it conceals the frauds/misconducts in the race of the achievement of targets, the outcomes are different. This type of company often does not believe in investing in risk management. Several projects are delayed and from CEO to workers, all are working hard to deliver projects on time. Workers are paid overtime salaries, executives enjoy high bonuses, celebrations take place, awards are won, agents receive trips to Australia and Thailand and shareholders are provided high dividend. Is this approach good?

Shareholder-focused

In another company without board approval, even small decisions are not taken. All information is revealed to board, practically board is flooded with ambiguous information and clueless about what to do, how to do with a notion to safeguard their own position. Employees are indulged in monotonous work for decades, tired of filling same forms, similar reports and same weekly meetings with boss. Shareholder value maximization is the major agenda. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is a recent example for this where decision for investment in IT is side-lined for years to maximise profits of shareholders in short term. In this situation, board is not concerned for management issues rather they want getting thing done. Executives work as agents for shareholders and their representative board. Delay in decision making or no decision making is one of the challenge of such organisation. To implement a single decision which is a non-priority issue for board may take years in execution. Operation losses, errors and delays become deep rooted in such culture. Adaptation, innovation and change in process and systems become very challenging for implementation.

Stakeholder-focused

In my research on large institutions, I observed that organisational values are deep rooted in large institutions. Plethora of new management approaches have been adopted to provide high value to stakeholders in short term and long term: Total Quality Management, Employee empowerment, Continuous improvement, reengineering, kaizen and team building. Value based management (VBM) provides value to all stakeholders upon which entire metrics can be built. In this method, value of company is determined by its discounted cash flows and companies like to invest capital at returns that exceed its cost of capital. VBM has influenced companies’ major strategic and operational decision making. Now my questions arise: what is the long-term value of communication, informal meetings, networking, and risk management? Fraud could result due to operational negligence and it may cost first year $500. It can easily be ignored by board and management as it is not worth value discussion. Next year, it becomes $5000, it is discussed within management. Third year, it is deeply penetrated and costed $500000. Now board, regulator, media, credit rating agencies, shareholders, customer and you name any other stakeholder suddenly become worried. It shows, values are not only financial in nature rather, values are ethical and professional. It also guides dos and don’ts.

I believe in these three types of organisations that there is misalignment between management and governance. If management performance is simply not evaluated based on the targets given, rather than it should also be based on following ethics, corporate governance code of conduct, good organisational culture, employee and team development, a part of the problems can be reduced. Another approach could be rather than giving annual targets and predicting long term targets, company can set vision for achievement of long-term goals and break down it in yearly targets with greater degree of flexibility or believe in continuous learning. Remember, vision without implementation has no value. Share goal, collaborative working and team efforts can be linked to performance in new era where governance and management will work together to achieve organisational goals. I feel still many questions remain unanswered. Kindly share your thoughts what you feel as good governance during practice.

Do you walk the talk or talk the walk? What is right for you?

In General on January 24, 2017 at 3:08 am

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Fig: Walk your talk, but not in opposite direction

When you talk the walk, you follow a famous scientist Gene Woolsey, Known as Dr Robert. E.D, Woolsey (late eminent professor from Colorado), described how it is effective and warned for its consequences. He defined: “a pencil is crutch, a calculator is a wheel chair, a computer is an ambulance” instead of using your brain to analyse the issues. In practice when you talk about your walk, you define your own ways and discuss what would be your future course of actions. You as a leader, put forward your vision, business context and ideas for future. It is not the market who is defining you, it is you who is defining the market. The question arises when a problem is analysed what should be first few steps and how it relates to talk the walk and walk the talk.

There is no short cut to problem solving for a leader without understanding what the problem is and how it is originated. If the problem in a state/city such as Delhi or Beijing is pollution, why this is so, how long this problem persists? Follow up is with pondering about alternative and choosing the most appropriate one for implementation. Reliability of leadership is evaluated on the basis of how a leader walks the talk ‘whatever a leader speaks should be reflected in his/her actions’. If leader talks about action but does not implement them, he/she can be easily admonished for not walking the talk.

 Another saying is if you are going to ‘talk the talk’ which we usually see in elections, public expects ‘walk the walk’. The actions should speak louder than work and the practices the leader preach.

What do you do?

          You talk the walk (Innovation, new actions and vision to resolve problem)

          You walk the talk (Keep value of your words and promises of taking actions)

          You talk the talk (Speak to build the confidence of public and series of actions)

          You walk the walk (Work, work and work without speaking what you have done)