We are starting to get back to work: ‘WFH’ (Working From Home), for some possibly one of the biggest challenges in their management career, managing remotely, and for those leaders who have adopted a micromanagement leadership style and approach to management, your eyes are possibly now ‘eyes wide open’ with a reset button to see that micromanagement can damage the work environment and that it is a result of unhealthy communication skills.
Today’s leaders are faced with a unique challenge – staying calm in the face of a pandemic and mounting a response befitting to the level of threat the company is facing.
Any crisis is characterized by two traits – unpredictability and uncertainty. It is the mark of a true leader to not dwell on yesterday’s developments but to look ahead and plan for a more secure tomorrow.
A predefined response plan is always less effective than assessing the real threat and taking measures to minimise.
Micromanagement is one of the most hated management flaws in business today. We have all heard the term and are familiar with it, at least theoretically. But how do you tell when you’re becoming a micromanager, and how do you step back from that place?
Trust more, control less
Micromanagement is a destructive way of leadership. It can destroy trust, morale, and you could damage your line of communication. You can get disengaged employees and then creativity will drop.
Employees’ self-esteem will then drop as well and over time, their performance. All in all, you become a large contributor to a hostile and dysfunctional work environment.
The traditional hierarchy of an organization might not be effective in containing or managing the crises.
Senior execs need to be ready to offer more responsibility and liberty to make decisions to their network of teams. The members of these network of teams have the updated information necessary to direct the crisis response of an organisation.
It is the responsibility of the senior leaders to ensure that they offer the responsibility to the correct people, who can correct crises.
With the evolution of a crisis, the team leaders may need to appoint more decision-makers from the network of teams or replace the ones affected by the situation.
Having a plan to appoint new temporary leaders among the network of teams during an unpredicted emergency can perpetrate confidence among the employees and promote the deliberate calm that can keep operations running irrespective of the location.
Most out-of-the-box or disruptive ideas are badly handled by a bottom-up resource allocation process.
It is top management that has to ask, “Is there a technology under development that looks inferior or uncertain today but will undermine our business from beneath once it is properly developed?”
The notion of a top-down strategic process depends upon central control of all steps in that process.
That level of control almost never exists in a large organization — quite the reverse: at the same time that corporate staff is beginning to plan for and roll out initiatives, operating managers invariably are already acting in ways that either undercut or enhance them.
Each leader develops techniques, procedures, and processes to accomplish their art.
Seen as tools in a toolkit, they use each one when the situation dictates to generate trust, produce a vision, or motivate a subordinate to deliver their goods. In this vein, micromanagement is nothing more than another tool in your toolkit. You use it when the situation dictates.
When there’s a high-value, critical project underway in your area of responsibility you do not have an option of failure.
Fulfilling Expectations of Superiors. Call it self-preservation. Call it pandering. I call it ‘smart’. Micromanagement sometimes needs to be deployed to satiate superiors who themselves wield micromanagement as their normal operating mode.
The following keywords are fundamental to leadership and organisational effectiveness:
Trust is a key component to drive employee engagement. Have faith in your employees and leave them room to perform. You will soon see an increase in productivity. Trust will also give you valuable feedback, as micromanagement leads to employees shutting down the lines of communication.
You spend a lot of time micromanaging, is it worth it? Could you be better at time management? Should you focus on growth strategies instead of being detail-oriented?
When you micromanage you are shutting down lines of communication. Your employees will stop talking to you in fear of becoming micromanaged. Laying low will become a strategy in your office, resulting in no communication, no engagement, no growth, and you will not have enough information to do your own job effectively.
Implement Trust, Free Time and Communicate
Crafting strategy is an iterative, real-time process; commitments must be made, then either revised or stepped up as new realities emerge.
In my career, I have had to tolerate a chief executive who was a bully. I was forced to accommodate a chief executive who was a caretaker. I had to adjust to a chief executive with a big ego. I had to abide a chief executive who took credit for my ideas.
But I was never able to tolerate, accommodate, adjust to, or abide a chief executive who was a micromanager.
Micromanagers make up for their total lack of imagination by deflating ideas and creating chaos over minutiae. Leadership inspires freedom, not serfdom.
Employees must be free to think, to talk, to act, to suggest, to solve, to invent, to dare, and even to interrupt.
No one is really managing a company successfully by shuffling numbers. Anyone can draw new organizational charts. Anyone can recite business-school maxims, ratios, formulas, and percentages.
It takes a leader to manage people – and skilled people to make a successful company. Even football coaches who call all plays from the sidelines allow their quarterbacks the freedom to change the play at the line of scrimmage. Why shouldn’t chief executives?
The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.
Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.
To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.
At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.
But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.
If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.
Final thought, leaders need to focus on behaviour to transform culture – instilling new cultural characteristics requires a shift in values, mindsets and behaviours. Leaders need to model, acknowledge and recognize the behaviour that drives the desired cultural change.
To summarize, leaders are at the forefront of driving the cultural transformation within an organization.
Undoubtedly, every employee plays a crucial part in the process but ultimately it is the leaders who have the ability to set standards and a foundation for change and growth.
A great quote by John Stoker:
“Authority — when abused through micromanagement, intimidation, or verbal or nonverbal threats—makes people shut down & productivity ceases.”
The current COVID-19 pandemic is presenting business leaders with some very difficult decisions.
COVID 19 is not alone on the list of world event’s and its easy to forget the legacies of the past that have shaped our world. World history is filled with disasters, and most of them come with extremely high death tolls.
This list looks at the top 12 disasters:
1. Shaanxi Earthquake 1556
2. Tangshan Earthquake 1976
3. Antioch Earthquake 526AD
4. Haiyuan Earthquake 1920
5. Aleppo Earthquake 1138
6. Hongdong Earthquake 1303
7. Hiroshima Nuclear Detonation 1945
8. Nagasaki Nuclear Detonation 1945
9. Spanish Flu 1918
10. Asian Flu 1957
11. Sept. 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks
12. SARS 2003
The Worst Disasters on Earth have been truly devastating, and they go to show that no matter how impressively we build our structures, Nature wins out in the end.
Every disaster has things to teach us.
Looking back at a decade in which superstorms, wildfires, disease outbreaks, and monster earthquakes have taken unimaginable tolls all over the planet, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of the problem.
But learning the lessons of every disaster, every time, is important. Every time, the world can respond more effectively – drawing from past experiences and avoiding past mistakes. As extreme weather worsens, people’s understanding of a disaster’s scope and effect can evolve as well.
Isaac Newton was in his early 20s when the Great Plague of London hit. He wasn’t a “Sir” yet, didn’t have that big formal wig. He was just another college student at Trinity College, Cambridge.
It would be another 200 years before scientists discovered the bacteria that causes plague, but even without knowing exactly why, folks back then still practiced some of the same things we do to avoid illness.
In 1665, there was a version of “social distancing” – Cambridge sent students home to continue their studies. For Newton, that meant Woolsthorpe Manor, the family estate about 60 miles northwest of Cambridge.
Without his professors to guide him, Newton apparently thrived. The year-plus he spent away was later referred to as his annus mirabilis, the “year of wonders.”
In London, a quarter of the population would die of the plague from 1665 to 1666. It was one of the last major outbreaks in the 400 years that the Black Death ravaged Europe.
Newton returned to Cambridge in 1667, theories in hand. Within six months, he was made a fellow; two years later, a professor.
Resilience is the process of being able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress. This stress may manifest as family or relationship problems, serious health problems, problems in the workplace or even financial problems to name a few.
Developing resilience can help you cope adaptively and bounce back after changes, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
To be resilient means to bounce back from a challenging experience.
Research has shown that resiliency is pretty common. People tend to demonstrate resilience more often than you think. One example of resilience is the response of many Americans after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.
Persistence is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. And believe me- the Universe will test your commitment to your goal. You develop yourself and learn new lessons, you face challenges and obstacles, but the payoff comes when you refuse to give up.
Have you heard that anything worth having is worth working for? It’s true. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs. There are tons of examples of underdogs or heroes of ours who persisted, stayed on course, and met or even exceeded their goals.
Let’s look at some examples.
• NASA experienced 20 failures in its 28 attempts to send rockets to space.
• Tim Ferriss sent his breakthrough New York Times bestselling book 4 Hour Workweek to 25 publishers before one finally accepted it.
• Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke 5 times before he founded Ford Motor Company.
• Walt Disney went bankrupt after failing at several businesses. He was even fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and good ideas.
• Albert Einstein was thought to be mentally handicapped before changing the face of modern physics and winning the Nobel Prize.
• It took Thomas Edison 1,000 attempts before inventing the light bulb. His teachers also told him growing up that he was too stupid to learn anything.
• Lucille Ball was regarded as a failed actress before she won 4 Emmys and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors.
• Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted.
• American author Jack London received 600 rejections before his first story was accepted.
• Vincent van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, though today, his works are priceless.
• Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team for not being good enough.
• J. K Rowling was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, and a single mom, who went to school while writing Harry Potter. Rowling went from needing government assistance to being one of the richest women in the world in a 5-year span through her hard work and perseverance.
Persistence as with resilience, determination and purpose is the quality of continuing steadily despite problems or difficulties. It is one of the qualities of high achievers. The longer you stay committed to a task or goal, the more likely something good will happen for you. Some of my most difficult situations preceded tremendous breakthroughs.
Persistence is one of several vital characteristics of successful leaders. Driven by an indomitable spirit, successful leaders never give up on their dreams of building a viable business. There is no impediment too great. This unflagging attribute is a key characteristic of triumphant business builders.
Purposeful Driven Leaders tackle bewildering and potentially catastrophic situations. They possess courage, hope and a deeply held belief that they can survive the moment and continue to prosper.
Personal strength, greatness, self-confidence, maturity and wisdom are by-products gained through unfathomable adversity. It has been said that men become great mariners when sailing on troubled waters, not calm seas. The same axiom applies in the business world.
Serious hardships may be financial in nature. They might also be employee-, client-, vendor-or investor-based. They may arise through human error or market conditions. I can see, in my mind’s eye, the depressed face of a purposeful leader who can’t make payroll or has just lost a substantial client. I can sense an owner’s profound frustration upon learning a product has failed and there is a lawsuit to manage.
We can empathize with a founder’s pain when there has been a fire, theft or betrayal. Consider the emotions felt with the death of a spouse or key employee. These occurrences are severe, somewhat common, and require a powerful and thoughtful response.
We need to have more gratitude for the amazing opportunities that are born from disasters and world events.
On a final note, the first step in becoming innovative is accepting that the world around us needs to change, sometimes because of unexpected and unprecedented events, and believing that we as individuals must take initiative to make that change happen.
It requires ongoing learning and an open mind with a willingness to see the world in new ways. Upon such realization, one must develop an unshakeable mental toughness for the long haul.
Changing the way we live or do business requires imagination and creativity. And that requires staying curious about the world. The less we’re wrapped up in our current situation or thinking, the more we notice about the world.
Even Einstein famously declared that he had “no special talent beyond being passionately curious,” which means there is no better avenue to cultivate creative work aside from impassioned curiosity.
Taking unconventional paths requires taking risks for a greater reward (financial or otherwise). It takes courage to act differently than others might. Innovative people tend not to dwell on things, but are decisive – the unknown does not paralyze them. They invest in their own capabilities and plough forward to create access where there is none. This brings us back to the need for mental toughness, because many times those risks don’t pay off right away.
Connecting the dots between the access one already has and the access one needs, coupled with the traits described above, allows us to survive and thrive.
As Walt Disney once said:
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”
Recently, I watched a highly recommended film called ‘Limitless’, a 2011 American science fiction thriller film directed by Neil Burger and written by Leslie Dixon. Based on the 2001 novel ‘The Dark Fields’ by Alan Glynn, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Abbie Cornish, Robert De Niro, Andrew Howard, and Anna Friel.
Eddie Morra is a struggling author in New York City. His girlfriend Lindy, frustrated with his lack of progress, breaks up with him. Eddie encounters Vernon, the brother of his ex-wife Melissa, who gives Eddie a sample of a new nootropic called NZT-48.
On the drug, Eddie discovers he has acquired perfect recollection of everything he has ever read and refined interpersonal skills. As he swallows a pill, he is being yelled at by his landlord’s wife.
With his new power he calms her down, helps her with her homework and sleeps with her. His new power enables him to make significant progress on his book.
The next day, the effects having worn off, he brings his pages to his publisher, who praises them. Eddie seeks out Vernon for more NZT-48, but while Eddie leaves to run some errands for Vernon, Vernon is murdered by someone searching for the drug.
Eddie locates Vernon’s supply and begins ingesting pills daily. With its effects, Eddie improves his entire lifestyle, appearance, sex appeal, and social circle, and finishes his book.
While enjoying his new life, Eddie has an epiphany; in order to achieve the plan he derives from his epiphany, he decides to focus his talent on investing in order to raise capital.
Eddie quickly begins making large returns on the stock market and borrows $100,000 from a Russian loan shark, Gennady.
He is hired at a brokerage firm and resumes his relationship with Lindy. Eddie experiences what he refers to as a “time skip”, a momentary lapse in memory.
Eddie’s success leads to a meeting with finance tycoon Carl Van Loon, who tests him by seeking advice on a merger with Hank Atwood’s company. After the meeting, Eddie experiences an 18-hour party-hopping time skip. The next day in a meeting with Van Loon, Eddie sees a news telecast that a woman has been murdered in her hotel room. Eddie recognizes her as the woman he slept with during his time skip and abruptly leaves the meeting.
Eddie experiments with NZT-48 and learns to control his dosage, sleep schedule, and food intake to prevent side effects. He hires a laboratory in an attempt to reverse-engineer the drug, an attorney to keep the police from investigating the death of Vernon or the woman, and two bodyguards to protect him from Gennady, who is threatening him to obtain more NZT-48.
On the day of the merger, Atwood falls into a coma. Eddie recognizes Atwood’s driver as the man in the trench coat and realizes Atwood is on NZT-48.
While Eddie participates in a police lineup, his attorney steals Eddie’s whole supply of pills from his jacket pocket. Eddie enters into withdrawal, and while Van Loon questions him about Atwood’s coma, Eddie receives a parcel which is found to contain the severed hands of his bodyguards.
He hurries home and locks himself in, before Gennady breaks into Eddie’s apartment, demanding more NZT-48. Gennady flaunts his abilities while injecting himself with NZT-48. As Gennady threatens to eviscerate him, Eddie grabs his own knife and kills Gennady. Eddie then consumes Gennady’s blood in order to ingest the NZT-48 in the blood. This gives Eddie the mental abilities of the drug once again, and Eddie is able to kill the remaining henchmen. He then meets with the man in the trench coat, surmising Atwood employed the man to locate more NZT-48. Once Atwood dies, the two recover Eddie’s stash from his attorney’s apartment.
A year later, Eddie has retained his wealth, published a book, and is running for the United States Senate. Van Loon visits him and reveals he has absorbed the company that produced NZT-48 and shut down Eddie’s laboratory and both acknowledge that Eddie will likely become President of the United States one day so Van Loon offers Eddie a continued supply of the drug in exchange for Eddie assisting his ambitions.
Eddie tells Van Loon he has already perfected the drug and weaned himself off of it, retaining his abilities without side effects.
This all made me think beyond current limits and borders, and question will AI rise up and take over, what if humans become superhumans without AI?
Does anyone recall the Trachtenberg speed system of basic mathematics?
The Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is a system of mental mathematics which in part did not require the use of multiplication tables to be able to multiply. The method was created over seventy years ago.
The main idea behind the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics is that there must be an easier way to do multiplication, division, squaring numbers and finding square roots, especially if you want to do it mentally.
Jakow Trachtenberg spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and to escape the horrors he found refuge in his mind developing these methods. Some of the methods are not new and have been used for thousands of years.
Multiplication is done without multiplication tables “Can you multiply 5132437201 times 4522736502785 in seventy seconds? One young boy (grammar school-no calculator) did successfully by using the Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics.
So, with human intelligence, why do we need AI, deep learning or machine learning?
It is a fact that humans have gradually discovered many additional recurring shapes and patterns in nature, involving not only motion and gravity but also electricity, magnetism, light, heat, chemistry, radioactivity and subatomic particles.
These patterns are summarized by what we call our laws of physics. Just like the shape of an ellipse, all these laws can be described using mathematical equations.
Equations aren’t the only hints of mathematics that are built into nature: there are also numbers. As opposed to human creations like the page numbers in this magazine, I’m now talking about numbers that are basic properties of our physical reality.
For example, how many pencils can you arrange so that they’re all perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to each other? The answer is 3, by placing them along the three edges emanating from a corner of your room.
Where did that number 3 come sailing in from? We call this number the dimensionality of our space, but why are there three dimensions rather than four or two or 42?
There’s something very mathematical about our universe, and the more carefully we look, the more math we seem to find. So, what do we make of all these hints of mathematics in our physical world?
One of the last subjects Stephen Hawking wrote was not as widely reported as perhaps it should have been.
The physicist, who had previously warned about the potential threat artificial intelligence posed, more recently suggested that humans faced an even greater and more immediate threat.
Sometime in the foreseeable future, he said, the human race could divide into two: those with an average intelligence level by today’s standards and those with super intelligence. The latter breed will have bodies improved by genetic engineering and brains improved by artificial intelligence (AI).
These “superhumans”, as they are called, will be relatively few in number, but will pose a serious threat to normal humans.
If “Super Humans” exist in future, the super-intelligent might be few in number because genetic engineering of humans’ brains and bodies will be very expensive, and only the very wealthy (or wealthiest) will be able to afford it.
The result will be the gradual consigning of most humans to the role of a subservient class, less healthy and less intelligent than the others. In a few generations, the superhumans’ progeny will begin to inherit the enhanced traits and, so, medical intervention to engineer those enhancements will become less necessary.
Some experts believe AI is a serious threat because machines will eventually become conscious, develop more sophisticated brains than humans, and decide humans are dispensable.
Yet despite such warnings about AI, nobody knows if machines will ever become conscious, indeed nobody really knows what consciousness is.
The idea of machines becoming smarter than humans and threatening the human race is pure speculation and most experts believe it’s unlikely to happen this century, if at all.
The creation of superhuman beings, however, is less speculative. Already, humans can be improved by genetic engineering and most experts accept that greatly improving the human brain’s cognitive abilities by both genetic engineering and electronic implantation will happen sooner than most people think.
Hawking suggests that anticipated advances in genetics will enable people to acquire improved memory and intelligence, as well as improved disease resistance and longer lifespans.
Talking about “Super Humans”, two solutions floating across the internet are: To give every person the same chance to become superhuman.
The second is to ban the technology.
Neither of these solutions will work. The first one is simply not practical, not affordable and could be the biggest threat for the human race.
The later one will just stop human evolution. History is not reassuring on either count.
The common take-home message is that we often feel we have to strive for more in a commercial way, by buying things, getting a job that will pay us more money or moving to a bigger house in a better place. But if you look at people who are denied these things because they’re locked in, you realise that there are other, perhaps deeper ways to find happiness.
Thomas Jefferson declared that “the pursuit of happiness” was a universal right. But how can you define happiness? Is it material or spiritual—or genetic?
Final thoughts: Can we all be superhuman? Or are the rest of us condemned to remain mediocre?
Finally, we cannot all be superhuman, and I do not find that to be a depressing conclusion because I think we can learn from the things these people have accomplished and advance further forward and make ourselves happier in our lives and do a little better.
There are ways of managing without being superhuman, that will still improve your happiness and day-to-day existence. Even if we know we’re not going to be superhuman, we can all improve and benefit from purposeful knowledge.
In today’s scientific world we have evidence that proves the importance of attitude and specific proven actions we can take to manage our attitude. We all know that being happy today is a daily challenge.
Between our personal daily struggles, the challenges of those we are close to, and the hardships that are happening globally, it’s easy to fall to a place of sadness.
And yet we still yearn and often times work towards a feeling of true happiness, purpose, self-acceptance and inner peace, which is pure elation.
A great quote by Ellen Key – Swedish Writer:
‘Unless one believes in a superhuman reason which directs evolution, one is bound to believe in a reason inherent in humanity, a motive power transcending that of each separate people, just as the power of the organism transcends that of the organ. This reason increases in proportion as the unity of mankind becomes established.’
In today’s ever-changing threat landscape, it is more important than ever to use a cyber hygiene routine to help prevent hackers, intelligent malware, and advanced viruses from accessing and corrupting your company’s data.
Cyberattacks are growing in both frequency and impact. The repercussions of security mistakes often end up being headline news and can cause significant harm to the victim organisation.
However, there is a perception that only big, global, corporations are at risk and, as a result, thousands of attacks against the Small-Medium business sector go largely unreported. Most successful attacks leverage well-known security problems.
Reporting from the UK Government’s CESG (the part of GCHQ tasked with protecting the nation) indicates that around 80% of cyber attacks4 are the result of poor cyber habits within the victim organisations. To address this, a cyber hygiene strategy should be implemented which emphasises the importance of carrying out regular, low impact security measures.
James Comey – Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation once said ‘We face cyber threats from state-sponsored hackers, hackers for hire, global cyber syndicates, and terrorists. They seek our state secrets, our trade secrets, our technology, and our ideas – things of incredible value to all of us. They seek to strike our critical infrastructure and to harm our economy.’
This will minimise the risks of becoming a victim of a cyberattack or spreading the impact of a cyberattack to other organisations. In this context, cyber hygiene should be viewed in the same manner as personal hygiene and, once properly integrated into an organisation will be simple daily routines, good behaviours and occasional check-ups to make sure the organisations online health is in optimum condition.
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Simon Rycroft, who is the CEO and CoFounder of CRMG (Cyber Risk Management Group), an expert company in the field of providing cybersecurity and information risk consultancy services.
Simon is passionate about cybersecurity, his career spans over 23 years. Most recently Simon held leadership roles at the Information Security Forum (ISF) as Head of Consulting and Global Account Director. In particular, Simon played a leading role in growing the ISF’s Consultancy business, steering it from its inception to become a multiple award-winning cybersecurity practice. Simon’s expertise spans both subject matter and operational management. Core areas of specialism include cyber risk management and assessment, information security governance and benchmarking.
Simon is going to talk to us across the importance of basic cybersecurity hygiene and the 5 inalienable truths
At CRMG we don’t have an aversion to the array of highly impressive products and services that compete for the modern CISO’s budget. As an example, the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in speeding up an organisation’s targeted response to a new breach is exciting. Where once a team of analysts might scramble to understand the implications of a piece of malware found on the corporate network – and err on the cautious side when deciding whether to advise pulling the plug on critical business systems – increasingly sophisticated tools can now instantly determine (and execute) exactly what containment measures are needed without bringing the organisation’s operations to a screeching halt.
However, irrespective of the pace of technological advances that increase our firepower in combatting the cyber threat, there remain a number of inalienable truths that mean we can’t ignore the importance of ‘basic cybersecurity hygiene’. Here are ‘5 truths’ that explain the point.
Truth #1: Don’t forget it’s still all about the information
There’s a reason why those of us who’ve been kicking about for a while in the cybersecurity industry used to call it ‘information security’. ‘Cybersecurity’ is no more than ‘information security’ on the steroid we know as the Internet.
Just because the Internet introduced new threats, attack surfaces, and accelerated the ability of nefarious entities (individual, corporate or nation-state) to cause untold mayhem, the underlying principle hasn’t changed. IT’S STILL ALL ABOUT THE INFORMATION.
Since the dawn of mankind, information has accrued value for its owner. Information is a competitive advantage. Information is intelligence about our customers that enables us to sell services to them without incurring undue risk. Information is the blueprint for the self-driving car that can tell the difference between an elderly lady about to cross the road and a traffic bollard.
Information is the finer detail of the due diligence activity on which our next investment round is predicated. Information is a commodity no less valuable than hard currency, and in many cases, it’s way more valuable.
Truth #2: Not all information is created equal
Assuming you accept Truth #1, it follows that it’s only worth getting out of bed to protect the information that you’re really bothered about. If you have no means by which you can value the information on which your organisation thrives (assuming you don’t have an infinite information protection budget), you might as well pack up and go home.
The information you’re really bothered about is entirely a subjective matter of course. That’s why purchasing off the shelf cyber products and services – without understanding whether you’re genuinely focusing on what matters – runs the risk of being the equivalent of buying up the entire stock of Fortnum’s ground floor on 22 December just because the in-laws are popping round for a mince pie and a sherry on Christmas Eve.
Truth #3: Sometimes what YOU think doesn’t matter
Sometimes, the decisions you make as to whether it’s worth protecting (or not) the information your business holds might just not be up to you. Something as simple as building a database of phone numbers and e-mail addresses of those you think might be interested in your services will, of course, incur the wrath of regulatory bodies if said database doesn’t meet the requirements of data protection regulations.
Depending on your native industry and target market, you may be subject to regulatory requirements that are completely beyond your control, irrespective of the information you hold or the value you attach to it. And more often than not, these regulations will require baseline information security measures to be in place. No ifs, no buts. That’s the nature of compliance.
Truth #4: Information has a nasty habit of seeping all over the place
Think of information as water that trickles throughout the arterial canals and rivulets of your organisation. Well channelled and protected, it enables the business to thrive. Leave a sluice gate open inadvertently and – to mix metaphors – you’re toast.
Pinning down exactly where information resides, and protecting it only in the locations in which you THINK it SHOULD reside, is a very tricky business. Even more so when you take today’s complex ecosystems of supplier relationships into account – introducing the possibility that your network of arterial canals and rivulets extends into places way beyond your control.
If you fail to apply a baseline level of protection throughout the entirety of your organisation (and its sphere of influence), you’ll run a significant risk that information seeps out via channels you just didn’t envisage and didn’t protect.
Moving on to another analogy, ghosts really DO exist in the information world. Even if you think you’ve disposed of information at the end of its useful life, the chances are that traces of it will still exist in multiple locations throughout the organisation. How can you be completely sure that staff haven’t created copies of information that you just don’t know about, and that these copies still don’t exist? Without the consistent implementation of baseline information security practices throughout the entirety of your organisation, you’ll likely be exposed.
Truth #5: The Robots ain’t taking over any time soon
The cyber workforce is still some way off. While AI is showing massive potential in all sorts of contexts, the human being as the ultimate decision-maker in our businesses isn’t going anywhere fast. For the most part, this is reassuring, not least because most of us aren’t likely to be put out to pasture just yet by a new workforce of indefatigable, infallible robo-colleagues.
The implication? Fallibility. Glorious, old-fashioned, human nature. Business decision-making tempered by human conscience. All good, until someone makes a glorious old-fashioned mistake, at which point you might wish that a robot had been in charge.
Did that procurement manager really mean to share a dump of the entire customer database with that unvetted supplier? Ouch. The point here is that, along with information, PEOPLE still represent most organisations’ greatest asset. The problem is that, on the flip side, people also represent most organisations’ greatest weakness.
Given that we’re not yet able to implant chips behind the ears of employees to regulate reckless decision-making, we come back to the importance of basic security awareness.
The articulation of meaningful, responsibility-riddled messages that resonate with staff, resulting in people refraining from doing bad things. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not easy either.
As your business matures you will inevitably turn to technologies to assist you in keeping your information safe and away from prying eyes. Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology is a great example. Well implemented, DLP can prove a great asset in preventing important information from filtering outside the organisation without you knowing about it.
BUT – unless such solutions are supported by a consistent foundation of straightforward, well-understood, information security good practices – you’re taking a huge risk. This is why no CISO can afford to ignore basic cybersecurity hygiene. And if this argument doesn’t persuade you, your regulators most probably will.
So, what specifically are we referring to when we talk about basic cybersecurity hygiene? Here are just some baseline good practices. Just to add context, they are related back to the 5 truths:
Truth #1 (Don’t forget it’s still all about the information)
If you haven’t done so recently, embark on an information discovery exercise. At its simplest, this might start with a simple map of your key business processes and information systems that support them. Don’t forget to explore instances where information is shared between systems/functions and – just as importantly – to identify where information is shared outside the organisation.
This activity doesn’t have to be sophisticated (at least at first). You just need to come away from it with a high level of confidence that you understand what information lives in your organisation, where it lives, and who interacts with it.
As a tip, it can be really useful to run this exercise as a workshop that includes both technical and business people (or a series of workshops if your organisation is large or dispersed).
You’ll be surprised at what can get unearthed… did you have any inkling that Mervyn in Accounts routinely does a monthly .csv export of all employee data and shares it with your outsourced benefits management provider via a cloud drive that goes nowhere near your protected corporate network?
Truth #2 (not all information is created equal)
Once you have your basic map of what information lives where in your organisation, it’s a good idea to have a crack at valuing it in some way. This might be as simple as identifying what information your business can’t function without.
By implication, everything else will be slightly less important. Once you understand the relative value of different information types or systems, you’ll then know where information protection efforts should be focused – because the realities of business economics tell us that in most cases it just isn’t possible to apply the same level of protection to absolutely everything throughout the organisation.
By the way, possibly without knowing it, by this stage, you’ll have worked through the first steps of a basic information risk assessment (but we’ll save that for another day).
Truth #3 (sometimes what YOU think doesn’t matter)
This is all about regulatory compliance. All sorts of businesses face all sorts of compliance requirements. The point here is that you must take the time to understand exactly which laws and regulations you’re required to comply with by virtue of your business activities and the information you hold.
While highly regulated sectors (such as Finance, Insurance and Healthcare) have been used to managing compliance requirements for many years, there’s a whole new generation of businesses that have only really been forced to start taking notice of compliance because of GDPR. Once you know what regulations you’re required to comply with, you’ll then need to understand EXACTLY what measures you’re required to have in place to comply with them.
If you don’t spend money on consultancy anywhere else, this is one area where it’s probably a good idea to call in an expert to help you.
Truth #4 (information has a nasty habit of seeping all over the place)
Notwithstanding any beefed-up protection you apply to your most important information, you still need to implement a baseline set of security measures throughout the entirety of the organisation. This includes things such as:
• Developing a straightforward information security policy that is accessible by every employee and which clearly states exactly what is required by staff to protect the information handled throughout the business
• Making sure that all employees are aware of their information security responsibilities (more on that below)
• Liaising with key suppliers/partners to ensure they are operating to a minimum, defined, information security standard
• Keeping all systems patched and up-to-date, and checking this routinely
• Ensuring all systems and end devices are installed with up-to-date anti-malware software
• Only providing staff with access to systems if they really need it (when you do provide access, make sure that access rights aren’t excessive – and don’t forget to revoke them once they’ve moved to a different function or left!)
• Encrypting particularly sensitive information (remember that even if personal data isn’t critical to your business’ success, you’re still required by law to apply strict controls when storing or handling it)
• Maintaining backups – and testing them periodically
• Implementing business continuity and disaster recovery procedures (even if they’re basic) that support ‘business as usual’ as far as possible in the event of an incident
• Working with a credible third party to undertake a periodic penetration test of your systems – and making sure any recommendations are applied
• Having specialist support available on speed dial if something does happen that you can’t manage yourself!
Truth #5 (the Robots ain’t taking over any time soon)
Good information security awareness is critical to any business these days, and you just can’t afford to skimp on it. So, think about the basic information security good practices you want ALL staff to be aware of, and come up with an engaging way of ramming the message home. Be creative. Incentivise. Draw a picture. Make a video. There’s a reason why those opting to attend a driver awareness course instead of getting slapped with extra points on their license get shown the horrific aftermath of traffic accidents.
Whatever approach you choose (and remember it doesn’t need to cost a fortune and it doesn’t have to be cast in stone… you can try different methods over time), just make sure you do it. And do it again.
Also, have a think about whether there are specific roles in the business that require an additional level of training – particularly those handling sensitive information.
Lastly, remember that people – just like information – have a habit of moving about. Don’t forget that when new people join, staff move to new roles in the business, or when they leave, you’ll need to have a clear process to make sure they’re getting the right security awareness training at the right time.
None of what is outlined above should be considered to be advanced if your organisation conducts its business using the Internet (and whose business doesn’t?). There’s plenty more you’ll need to do as your business matures. We haven’t even mentioned cybersecurity strategy, threat profiling, and so on….
If you choose to skip any of the basic hygiene measures outlined relative to Truths #3, #4 and #5, have a long hard think, because you might not have a business left to mature if you ignore them. Choose to ignore the guidance related to Truths #1 and #2, and you’ll have to protect everything to the highest level just to be sure – which in an extreme case might just amount to the same thing.
Thank you Simon, for your incredible insights on a terribly important subject, cybersecurity threats I fear will not be removed any time soon.
You can contact Simon Rycroft:
LinkedIn – profile
email – simon dot rycroft AT crmg DASH consult dot com (removing all the spaces)
web – www.crmg-consult.com
I recently had a coffee and discussion with a leader in technology innovation, we were discussing why doing the right thing, morally and ethically, in leadership can be the right thing to do.
As the coronavirus COVID-19 has seeped its way more deeply across the world, many tech companies are asking employees to stay at home. And work, of course.
The case in the matter we were discussing was prompted by Microsoft and their CEO, Satya Nadella, in an act of intelligent goodwill, Microsoft will continue to pay employees. No, not a reduced rate, but their full regular pay.
Have you ever noticed how decisions are so much harder when you try to do the right thing and make an ethical decision, rather than focusing on what’s easiest or most practical? This is mainly because “the right thing” means different things to different people.
The world of business is full of ethical dilemmas, from where to direct scarce resources to serving the local community. Every leader will make ethical decisions, whether or not they acknowledge them at the time. But the decisions they do make can determine whether their leadership is based on an ethical framework or not.
Yet making ethical business decisions is increasingly important in today’s world. News of a leader’s questionable behaviour can spread around the globe in seconds, and bring down an entire organisation.
Employees who trust their immediate boss have higher job satisfaction, more commitment to the company, and feel they are treated more fairly in processes and decision making. Employees who trust their business leaders feel more committed to the company, feel the organisation supports them more, and feel that leaders fairly allocate resources, treat others well, and follow procedures transparently.
Trust works in different ways, depending on where you are in the organisation. For this reason, C-suite leaders should consider focusing on different elements of trust-building than managers closer to the bottom of the organisational hierarchy.
Humans are social creatures and both historic and current findings confirm that strong, supportive communities have higher survival rates, prosper better and enjoy more content and fulfilled lives. This is also true of business communities.
Leaders today are constantly in the spotlight and are often called upon to earn authority without control. Economic and social change demands leadership by consent rather than by control. What we perceive as good leadership tends to be created by leaders, followers, and the context and purpose of the organisation, thus it is a collective rather than individual responsibility.
Trust is a key ingredient of successful leadership. Trusted leaders are the guardians of the values of the organisation. Trust can release the energy of people and enlarge the human and intellectual capital of employees. In a trusting environment when we are committed to our shared purpose we play active roles both as leaders and as followers.
We talk a lot about trust these days because it tends to be a precious and scarce resource.
When we listen to the emerging needs of the workplace we step into the most relevant and useful roles and make relevant and valuable contributions both when leading and when following. Members of organisations who are sensitive to people’s reactions trust themselves and each other. They build and nurture trusting relationships and allow the future to emerge organically.
No heroic leader can resolve the complex challenges we face today. To address the important issues of our time we need a fundamental change of perspective. We need to start questioning many of our taken for granted assumptions about our business and social environments.
My business partner, Mark Herbert, recently shared The Edelman Trust Barometer with me and discussed the findings of the report, The report found that people are suspicious of change and innovation when they do not see the long-term benefits for all stakeholders. Fifty-four per cent of respondents believe that business growth or greed/money are the real impetuses behind innovation, and only 27% say that business innovates because of a desire to make the world a better place or improve people’s lives.
Leaders need to treat employees as adults, openly and honestly discuss the organisation’s challenges and take responsibility for their decisions and actions.
Leaders also need to listen more. The trouble is that most are unable to recognise, let alone change, the structural habits of attention in themselves and in their organisations to drive key factors such as trust. Learning to recognise our blind spots in any business culture requires a particular kind of deep personal and collective listening.
The benefits of connecting mind, heart and our senses are well documented both in scientific and popular publications. Integrating such practices into the organisational culture increase not only the level of wellbeing but also the levels of trust, honesty and openness of communication.
In spite of decades of discussions and research on ethical leadership, the available information is largely anecdotal and remain highly normative until very recently little has been done to systematically develop an ethical leadership construct necessary for testing theory about its origins and outcomes with business.
This has to be questioned, why boards, CSuite and senior managers have never questioned the moral and ethical standing of organisations, why corporate governance is only now an inclusion around the values and standing of the largest component in business, people.
It is particularly in times of corporate scandals and moral lapses that the broader public and interest groups in a corporation ask themselves the fundamental question, namely, who are corporate managers and are they ethical.
Being ethical is about playing fair, thinking about the welfare of others and thinking about the consequences of one’s actions. However, even if one grows up with a strong sense for good or bad, the bad behaviour of others can undermine his ethical sense as well.
Ethical leaders think about long-term consequences, drawbacks and benefits of their decisions. For the sake of being true to their own values and beliefs, they are prepared to compete in a different battle on the market, where the imperative is: Do what is right.
Leaders serve as role models for their followers and demonstrate the behavioural boundaries set within an organisation. The appropriate and desired behaviour is enhanced through culture and socialisation process of the newcomers. Employees learn about values from watching leaders in action. The more the leader “walks the talk”, by translating internalized values into action, the higher level of trust and respect he generates from followers.
When leaders are prepared to make personal sacrifices for followers or the company in general for the sake of acting in accordance with their values, the employees are more willing to do the same.
Unethical behaviour by business damages not only a company’s health but also public virtues. Reputational capital is difficult to repair once it has been damaged.
One of the reasons why many corporates that still behave badly, with leaders that don’t take ethics seriously, is that sometimes shareholders and boards place singular emphasis on competence and quantitative results at the expense of good behaviour. There are leaders who are competent technically, who get the job done, and show good quantitative results, yet are found wanting when it comes to ethics.
The rise of ethical leadership can be traced back to the scandals inside the corporate world in recent decades. The fall of big organisations such as Enron and the Lehman Brothers has partly been blamed for unethical behaviour and therefore, there’s been a call for more ethical leadership to appear.
Ethical leadership is considered to be one solution for creating a balance between the wellbeing of the subordinates and the wider community, and the organisation’s profitability. The theory understands the importance of trust and good relationships. In essence, modern ethical leadership theory places importance on the idea of service.
Ethical leadership often takes the form of three separate approaches to leadership. The three have historical and philosophical foundations and all three emphasise different aspects of decision-making.
The first approach is Utilitarianism Theory, which sees the leader maximizing the welfare of the subordinates. The focus is on ensuring the subordinates feel good and are happy, before deciding on an action.
The second approach focuses on the Libertarianism Theory. The leader is to protect the freedom of the individuals as the main concern. If an action or decision would restrain the subordinate’s freedom, then the leader would not proceed with the course of action.
The third approach is an approach to leadership emphasizing Immanuel Kant’s Ethical Theory of doing the right thing. The approach to decision-making is, therefore, looking at the proper means.
Moral and ethical actions come from understanding what are the rules and customs of the organisation and following these. The idea is that by understanding these common, agreed values, a leader can make the right decisions.
Final thought, ethical leadership should also be understood through the lens of its influence over other leadership theories. Being ethical is a core part of other leadership styles and a strong ethical foundation is required for styles such as transformational and charismatic leadership.
While the strong ethical outlook is required for these leadership theories, ethical leadership places the biggest emphasis on implementing ethical values to every aspect of leadership.
Can a company be successful and competitive on the market and at the same time ethical? Akers believes that market success and ethical conduct go hand in hand: “Ethics and competitiveness are inseparable. We compete as a society. No society anywhere will compete very long or successfully with people stabbing each other in the back; with people trying to steal from each other; with everything requiring notarized confirmation because you cannot trust the other fellow; with every little squabble ending in litigation; and with government writing reams of regulatory legislation, trying business hand and foot to keep it honest”
Pope Benedict XVI once said:
“To me, it really seems visible today that ethics is not something exterior to the economy, which, as a technical matter, could function on its own; rather, ethics is an interior principle of the economy itself, which cannot function if it does not take account of the human values of solidarity and reciprocal responsibility.”
Telecommuting has made the news a lot in recent years. Technology has enabled this growing trend, and more and more companies are taking advantage of it. Well, this has certainly been the year, working from home (or WFH, as I recently learned is a widely utilised acronym) is hardly a new concept.
Yet, we have encountered an unprecedented time when many who did not have the option to telecommute previously are now mandated to partake. This experience has elicited an array of reactions and results across the nation and the globe.
COVID-19 struck fast and hard when the whole world was unprepared for it. From social distancing, working from home (WFH) and panic buying, life took a sudden turn for the worse. As the new normal takes a foothold, mental health has become a bigger national concern as more people are forced to remain isolated away from loved ones and support systems.
New studies are popping up to show the benefits and concerns of social distancing and remote working. These studies run the gamut from fears and vulnerabilities to a rise in virtual meetings that might be the future of work.
A very serious lesson in a pre-COVID-19 environment, I recently met a Family Office who invested heavily in a small company 3 years ago, when discussing some of the family’s portfolio, we came to discuss a particular company to find that the leadership was mismanaged, money and investment was wasted and the remote working development operations manipulated the code of operations, business ethics and this conduct and set of practices caused an unprecedented situation has resulted in the ownership and operations now managed by the Family Office.
Although remote workers can save the company money in terms of renting out office space, they can also be risky for the firm, especially if they use personal electronic devices for official correspondence. As a company, you must ensure that you have security measures to handle the remote staff.
There are risks that the company faces when working with a remote team. The security of the client information and the firm’s servers are a huge concern. Unlike an office setting where the IT department can easily control the access of information because all the machines are in one building, it is difficult to monitor the security of data with remote workers because they use different devices to access company data.
The main reason most employers are not in favour of home-working is that they don’t trust their workforce, according to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School. “They’ll never say that, but that’s what it’s about. Managers want people in the office because they want to see their little empires there in front of them,” he says. “It’s totally about trust, and the incompetence of managers who don’t know how to manage people remotely.”
Telecommuting – one of the new terms for working remotely – seems to be the perfect arrangement for workers in dozens of industries. And, for the most part, it is. Companies that encourage and support remote work often report higher levels of employee retention and engagement, reduced turnover, higher employee satisfaction, increased productivity and autonomy, and lots of other benefits.
I wrote a blog in March 2015, Is Telecommuting to be Considered or Banned? The essence of the blog I discussed Yahoo’s decision to ban its staff from “remote” working. After years of many predicting working from home as the future for everybody.
When a memo from HR dropped into the inbox of Yahoo staff banning them from working from home it prompted anger from many of its recipients. ‘Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” the memo said. “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.’
The move to get staff back into the office is thought to have been driven by the then-new chief executive Marissa Mayer, who herself returned to work weeks after giving birth. COVID-19 and employers decision to increase remote working may seize on the opportunity of allowing telecommuting to cut down on the amount of office space they need or to channel the time employees would otherwise spend commuting into business-productive work, but these real opportunities of purposeful discussions will have a real effect on strategy to execution.
In May, 2017, IBM made the decision to call its remote workers back to the office. This was a huge surprise to many, given that IBM has long been a staunch supporter of remote work environments for its employees. The official reason was that the company believed greater productivity can occur when teams of workers are physically together “shoulder to shoulder.” This move was followed by a number of other enterprises making the same decision – Aetna and Bank of America being just two examples.
Impressive, right? Why then, in March of this year, did IBM pull thousands of its workers back into the workplace? Was it the desperate move of a company whose profits had fallen, as some pundits suggest? Or might it be the result of something else – something that has triggered companies like Yahoo, Aetna and Best Buy to also pull back their work-from-home policies, and corporations like Apple and Google to pass on the concept of telecommuting in the first place?
Consider, for instance, the increasing emphasis on collaboration and the corresponding realisation that any collaborative effort is highly dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. While remote workers might be highly efficient with individual efforts, nothing builds collaborative relationships better than being physically present.
In face-to-face encounters, our brains process the continual cascade of nonverbal cues that we use as the basis for building trust and professional intimacy. Face-to-face interaction is information-rich.
We interpret what people say to us only partially from the words they use. We get most of the message (and all of the emotional nuance behind the words) from vocal cues, facial expressions, and physical movements. And we rely on nonverbal feedback – the instantaneous responses of others – to help us gauge how well our ideas are being accepted.
So potent is the nonverbal link between individuals that, when we are in genuine rapport with someone, we subconsciously match our body positions, movements, and even our breathing rhythms with theirs. Most interesting, the brain’s ”mirror neurons” mimic not just other people’s behaviours, but their feelings as well. (A reaction referred to as “emotional contagion.”)
But companies are not the only ones dealing with issues of a remote workforce, many of whom are a part of the new gig economy. Remote workers themselves face challenges that can hinder their productivity and job satisfaction.
Here are some challenges you may be facing that can negatively impact your work life and productivity.
1. The feeling of being disconnected
Even though there are great tools now for video chat and conferencing, there is still a “disconnect” when a remote worker sees his team members physically together at the office, while he is physically removed.
The ability to focus on the task at hand is critical for remote workers. And yet they often feel a need to respond quickly and immediately to any messages they receive from the “home office.” These can come via chat or email, and so the worker finds himself constantly checking to see if messages are coming in or responding to an alert of a message. Each of these interruptions means taking focus away from a task, engaging in responses and then attempting to get that focus back once again.
3. You never really “leave” work
When people work in offices, they leave at the end of the day. Sure, they may take some work home with them on occasion, but they physically remove themselves from their workplace. Gig workers do not do this – their workspace is right there, 24-hours a day. This leads to the ongoing temptation to skip that after-dinner walk or kid’s sports game in favor of moving back into that office space and trying to get more accomplished.
Working remotely is somewhat a lonely proposition. Some people, particularly introverts, love this arrangement. Others, not so much. And the problem is that continuous isolation can lead to mental health issues and even increased mortality. Only you know whether you can be happy and productive in a remote work environment, and you may have to actually try it out for a period of time before you do have the answer for yourself.
5. Risk to long-term career growth
As a remote worker, you will not have a lot of visibility within the company. If you are looking for an ultimate C-level position, then your choice to work remotely is the wrong one. You need to be physically present to gain the visibility you need for those major promotions.
Final thought, if relationships are the key to innovation and collaboration, trust is at its heart. When it comes to developing trust, there’s no substitution for getting people face to face.
Building trust is a multi-sensory process, and it’s only when people are physically together that are they able to use all their senses. At my seminars on collaborative leadership, audience members tell me about the challenges and frustrations of trying to get their virtual teams to bond. Although it can be done, various studies confirm that it is more difficult to build trust in virtual teams, harder for informal leaders to emerge, tougher to create genuine dialogue, and easier for misunderstandings to escalate.
Whether working from their homes or globally dispersed, remote workers are part of business reality today. But in our world of video meetings and teleconferences, the value of face-to-face encounters can often get overlooked.
As Oliver Markus Malloy, Inside The Mind of an Introvert once said:
“Being a self-employed means you work 12 hours a day for yourself so you don’t have to work 8 hours a day for someone else.”
Peter Drucker once said: ‘that today knowledge has power because it controls access to opportunity and advancement’.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is undoubtedly the century of knowledge. The everyday usage of available advanced information, business and internet technologies in business activities confirm that this is not only a phrase from the literature, but true reality.
Globalisation has brought many modern trends, and companies have the task to be flexible and adapt as quickly, easily and painlessly as they can in order to survive in the competitive market.
The vital strategic resource today is the knowledge; individual and organisational. By realising the major value of intellectual resources, companies have begun to manage rationally and improve them.
Hence the importance of knowledge management as a concept of organisational knowledge, aimed at effective application of knowledge to make quality decisions. Leadership has a central role.
Intellectual resources, and the first place knowledge, contribute to the company as a revenue contribution of products and services, preserve and increase the reputation, through the reduction of operating costs, create barriers to entry of potential competitors, by increasing customer loyalty and create innovation. The success of organisations largely depends on continual investment in learning and acquiring new knowledge that creates new businesses and improves existing performances.
Brian Tracy once said ‘Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.’
Knowledge management serves a true purpose being a fundamental business enabler, knowledge management will help organisations:
• Protect their intellectual capital
• Focus on their most important assets: their human capital
• Re-orient their culture by opting for an optimal knowledge-sharing strategy
• Link people to people by setting up collaborative methods
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing another Guest Blogger, Stephanie Barnes, Stephanie has over 25 years successful, experience in knowledge management and accounting in the High Technology, Health Care, and Public Accounting sectors. She is also an accomplished artist having had exhibitions in Toronto and Berlin.
Stephanie is a knowledge management consultant at Entelechy working with clients in a variety of sectors. In her consulting practice she focuses on aligning people, process, and technology to not only help organisations be more efficient and effective with what they know, but to be more innovative and creative, too. Stephanie has been bringing success to knowledge management for more than 20 years.
Stephanie graduated from Brock University with a BBA in Accounting and from McMaster University with an MBA in Information Technology. She is ITIL Masters certified, has a Business Systems Analysis certificate, as well as completing a certificate in Gamification.
Stephanie is going to talk to us today about the importance of knowledge management in today’s business world.
Thank you Geoff, I am honoured to be here on Freedom After the Sharks discussing such an important subject, lets us now introduce the subject:
We are well established in the Knowledge Age and have been for a while, yet many organisations still have an Industrial Age mind-set, treating their people like cogs in a wheel and their operations like a production line. Have you made the transition to the Knowledge Age?
Are you taking care of your knowledge and your most important knowledge asset, your people? Taking care of your knowledge means addressing people, process, and technology, in a strategic, meaningful way:
• People: what they know, how/what they learn, how they are treated;
• Process: how they create knowledge, share it, and manage it;
• Technology: supports and enables peoples and process.
In its simplest form, knowledge management is about connecting people to the knowledge they need to do their jobs. It gets more complicated as we look at how to do that. Is it people? Is it process? Is it technology? What do we need to do and what does this really mean?
The truth is knowledge management is about all of those things people, process, and technology. We have to know how to balance those things, to do that we need to have a strategy, so that’s where we start.
To develop a strategy we look at the organization its goals and objectives we talk to the users and see what their needs are what would make their lives easier, understand how they do their jobs, the language they use, the processes they execute, the people they work with, we need to understand all of these things.
Once we understand the internal situation of the organisation and how we would like to be working we can look at the external environment and observe what is happening in other organisations.
Not, just organisations in our industry, sector, or country, but more generally in any/all industries, sectors, or countries—there is much to be learned from any and all of them. Knowledge Management is not specific to one sector: the people, processes, and technology enable behaviours and are largely content-independent.
Reasons for having a Knowledge Management Program
There are four main reasons/purposes organisations implement knowledge management activities. These are not the only ones, and in some cases, they might be combined to make a new one, depending on the situation and the organisation.
1. Operational Excellence: improving internal processes through the application of knowledge
2. Customer Knowledge: building a better understanding of customers wants and needs and how to satisfy them
3. Innovation: creating new and better products
4. Growth and Change: replicating existing success in new markets or with new staff
For each of these purposes, there are different supporting people, process, and technology components. For example, operational excellence may focus on lessons learned, while innovation may focus on ways to help people develop their critical thinking, and creativity.
The benefits of knowledge management are many and can be quite complex when it comes to trying to measure them, but it is possible to measure many of the benefits, the organisation just needs to be thoughtful and careful not to measure things that can drive the wrong behaviours. What follows is a brief discussion of some of the benefits of implementing a knowledge management program, as you will see many of them tie into efficiency and effectiveness, but not all. Some help people be more creative and innovative, while also improving employee engagement because of the underlying behaviour changes that are encouraged and supported.
In the Knowledge Age, people are the most important part of any organisation, regardless of whether the organisation has a tangible product or not, people are at the front lines, interacting with customers/clients/stakeholders, they are developing and delivering products and services. They know where the problems are, what could be better, what would be easier, involving them in developing and rolling out knowledge management activities helps ensure that they:
• Know where to find what they need;
• Share what they know;
• Collaborate with others
• Create what they need to create, and reuse what can be reused;
• Innovate when necessary;
• Apply critical thinking when things aren’t working as expected;
• Learn and adapt to new situations and information; all of this improves
• Employee engagement, which reduces turnover costs, among other things.
There are two types of processes that are part of a knowledge management program, those that specifically have to do with knowledge management, e.g. lessons learned or community of practice processes, and those that have to do with the organisation’s operations, e.g. accounting and finance, sales and marketing, research and development, that benefit from having some form of knowledge management applied to them. Generally speaking, focusing on processes means that:
• Efficiency and effectiveness are improved; that the processes are aligned to
• Support the organisation’s goals and objectives; and
• Improve quality; while
• Reducing errors; and allowing for
• Continuous improvement.
The idea of continuous improvement isn’t just about efficiency and effectiveness. Continuous improvement can also be about innovation and doing things differently when the “same old way” isn’t working any more. I will discuss innovation a bit more later in this article.
While I could discuss each of the different types and purposes of supporting technology, and there are many, in general, they do two things:
• Support and enable the organisations’ goals and objectives; and
• Enable the benefits of People and Process described above.
Knowledge Management technology is not an end in itself, many organisations believe that it is, and this is where things can get stuck (more on that later), but the benefit to technology is that it supports the people and the process pieces of the knowledge management puzzle and makes them more scalable, repeatable, not to mention efficient and effective.
How to be successful
The first step to being successful with knowledge management is to develop a strategy and a plan. Knowledge management has many different reasons and components, so it’s important to understand how they all fit together and work on them in a balanced, simultaneous way without focusing on one part to the detriment of the others, e.g. focusing only on technology and ignoring the role that people and process play.
That said, based on my experience one of the keys to being successful with knowledge management is to work across the silos of the organisation, this makes a lot of people very nervous, but it’s the only way to do it and be successful. This means talking to people, involving them, keeping them informed.
Another key is to involve users. This often gets called design thinking, these days, but design thinking wasn’t something I’d heard of when I first did it 20 years ago, it was just the right thing to do. I certainly didn’t know what would make people’s jobs easier, and reduce their workload, or at least not increase it, so I asked them. I talked to them about their processes, what they call things, how they are organised, the things that worked for them, what didn’t work for them.
Once I get user/stakeholder input I created wireframes and prototypes and validated them with the people I’d talked to, making modifications where I’d misunderstood something or not asked enough questions. We often did this 2-3 times until we got it right. Today, this gets call agile, trying and failing, or iteration; again, it just seemed to be the right thing to do when I first did it. I was realistic enough to know that I wasn’t an expert in whatever my users were, so if I was going to help them, I was going to need their help–it was a team effort, we were in this together.
Something else that is critical is keeping everyone informed: users, management, other stakeholders. We had regular emails, updates, and meetings as well as documents being posted online for people to access. It takes a lot of communication!
It’s also critical to ask questions and ensure alignment. When something doesn’t make sense, go back to the users, the use cases they had described, the organisation’s vision or strategy, whatever helps me ensure we are moving in the right direction, in the best interests of the people I was working with and the organisation as a whole. If I have conflicting information, we talk about it and make a decision, sometimes, I make the decision, sometimes the team does, whatever keeps us moving towards the goal and has buy-in and support. The times that I make the decision, I explain my rationale and reasoning, so that people don’t feel excluded, like I have “done it to them”. We are in this together, we only succeed together.
I treat people like equals, with the trust and respect they deserve. They come to trust me and work with me to achieve our objectives. It is hard. Lots of people don’t like it. Lots of people want a command and control approach, but that’s not going to be successful. We’re in the age of the knowledge worker and have been for a long time. It demands a different approach than the industrial age.
have to be passionate, tenacious, and willing to admit you don’t have all the answers, but you’ll find out. Success takes leadership, not a place on the hierarchy.
Three Reasons People get Stuck or Fail with Knowledge Management
There are almost as many reasons why knowledge management programs get stuck or fail as there are organisations implementing it. But, based on my experience, these three arise most often:
1. The knowledge management project/program manager is new to knowledge management and they are confused about where/how to start;
2. The organisation underestimated the complexity of the task, e.g. the need to work cross-functionally;
3. The organisation focused only on Information Technology.
Reading this article/blog post can help you figure out how to address these things, and hopefully, by reading it, it’s also becoming clear how complex it is, and that giving responsibility to someone with knowledge management experience and expertise regardless of their other subject matter knowledge makes sense.
Three Stages of Knowledge Management Execution and What to do First in Each Stage
There are three stages of knowledge management. Those organisations who are just starting and wondering what to do or where to start. Often the person responsible is new to knowledge management and expects to treat it like they have treated other projects or programs that they have run, however, all too often those other projects or programs were centred on one idea/technology/content area, nothing is quite as complex as knowledge management. These organisations need to develop a strategy and a plan for knowledge management, identifying a prioritised list of activities as part of this plan for moving forward.
The second stage is made up of companies who have been working on knowledge management for 3-5 years and who have had some success. These organisations need to assess the maturity of what they have accomplished and plan out next steps for taking knowledge management to other parts of the organisation or maturing the use of the activities within the organisation, i.e. making the application of knowledge management processes more consistent.
Finally, the third stage is when the knowledge management program is being asked to broaden their activities to include other purposes/motivations, like helping the organisation be more innovative and creative. Again, in this stage, the organisation needs to develop a strategy and a plan, and consider what activities will help them meet this new purpose.
In some cases, like with innovation and creativity, the knowledge management program may need to look outside of the typical knowledge management activities and consider other disciplines, like design, or art (in the case of creativity and innovation).
What a Knowledge Sharing Culture Really Means
A knowledge-sharing culture means that the organisation is open to and encourages the sharing of knowledge. This means that people are expected to ask questions and search for the knowledge they need, and also, that the people who have the knowledge are expected to give it to those who need it. Although, like the rest of knowledge management, it is more complicated than this would lead one to believe.
People need to feel that it is safe to ask questions and admit that they don’t know something. They need to be given time for research and reflection. Those with the knowledge to share need to know that it is okay to take the time to share, and they need to understand the value of sharing both to themselves and the organisation.
There is a common belief in many organisations that people should hoard knowledge rather than share it, because they are afraid that by sharing their knowledge, they decrease their importance and open themselves up to being laid-off and replaced by someone at a lower salary. However, this is not true, the value in the knowledge is in the sharing of it and a person’s worth increases the more they share and are seen to be sharing.
When organisations start to consider increasing the knowledge sharing that happens, they need to help support these behaviours by redesigning performance reviews and rewards as well as putting activities in place to help encourage sharing, e.g. communities of practice.
It is time for knowledge management to be more than an after-thought for many organisations, in the Knowledge Age, it is time that knowledge be taken seriously and treated like the strategic asset that it is. Knowledge is alive, it lives, and it breathes through its sharing, it is not an information technology project, it is a people, process, and technology program. It encompasses all of the complexity of an ecosystem and needs to be understood as such.
Recently I had a very early morning meeting with one of my mentor’s discussing the changes in leadership within the 4th Industrial Revolution and why leadership, needs to understand the emotional wake of transformation and the time to step down.
Leadership is about defining what the future should look like and getting the board of directors, stakeholders not only to share but develop that future together.
Being trustworthy and selfless; truthful and compassionate – these are wonderful qualities. If leaders consistently displayed these traits, workplaces and employees would be doing much better. But not all leaders, including many of the most famous and successful, exhibit these qualities.
Leadership is getting smarter about work and people and the intersection between them. More and more, working people are telling the truth about topics that they were afraid to talk about openly before. One of the stickiest topics is the quality of leadership found in large and small employers.
We are starting to tell the truth about the fact that most people in leadership positions are lacking in critical skills.
One of the problems with leaders is their ability to listen, at best, or abusive bullies, at worst. Consequently, significant data on workplace bullying report widespread verbal abuse, shouting, berating others, and the creation of a climate of intimidation.
According to a psychology report from the University of California, Berkeley many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities like empathy start to decline.
Other studies show that people in positions of corporate power are three times more likely than lower-level employees to interrupt co-workers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things.
They don’t know how to talk to their employees and they don’t know how to listen.
If they received any management training at all, they were probably trained to dole out work assignments and evaluate people. They don’t know how to probe for understanding or how to create cohesion on a team.
Organisations have always needed leaders who are good at recognising emerging challenges and inspiring organisational responses. That need is intensifying today as leaders confront, among other things, digitisation, the surging power of data as a competitive weapon, and the ability of artificial intelligence to automate the workplace and enhance business performance.
These technology-driven shifts create an imperative for most organisations to change, which in turn demands more and better leaders up and down the line.
Unfortunately, there is overwhelming evidence that the plethora of services, books, articles, seminars, conferences, and TED-like talks purporting to have the answers—a global industry estimated to be worth more than $50 billion—are delivering disappointing results.
According to a recent Fortune survey, only 7 per cent of CEOs believe their companies are building effective global leaders, and just 10 per cent said that their leadership-development initiatives have a clear business impact.
McKinsey’s latest research has a similar message: only 11 per cent of more than 500 executives we polled around the globe strongly agreed with the statement that their leadership-development interventions achieve and sustain the desired results.
The 4th Industrial Revolution holds the promise of a new era of globalisation, however, many senior executives remain less prepared than they think they are.
A year ago, Deloitte’s inaugural survey assessing private and public sector readiness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution observed a “tension between hope and ambiguity.”
It found that while executives conceptually understood the profound business and societal changes the 4th Industrial Revolution may bring, they were less certain how they could take action to benefit.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution enables an increasingly globalised world, one in which advanced technologies can drive new opportunities, diverse ideas can be heard, and new forms of communication may come to the fore.
But how are leaders adjusting?
Executives are struggling to develop effective strategies in today’s rapidly changing markets. Faced with an ever-increasing array of new technologies, leaders acknowledged they have too many options from which to choose, and in some cases lack the strategic vision to help guide their efforts.
Organisational influences also challenge leaders as they seek to navigate the 4th Industrial Revolution. Many leaders reported their companies don’t follow clearly defined decision-making processes, and organisational silos limit their ability to develop and share knowledge to determine effective strategies.
Leaders continue to focus more on using advanced technologies to protect their positions rather than as bold investments to drive disruption. Although many of the businesses that have made investments in technology are seeing payoffs, others are finding it difficult to invest even as digital technologies are engendering more global connections and creating new opportunities within new markets and localised economies.
Challenges include being too focused on short-term results and lacking understanding, business cases, and leadership vision.
Leaders acknowledge the ethical implications inherent in new technology, but few companies are talking about how to manage those challenges, let alone actively putting policies in place to do so.
The skills challenge becomes clearer, but so do differences between executives and their millennial workforces.
Last year, most leaders (86%) thought their organizations were doing enough to create a workforce for the 4th Industrial Revolution. This year, as more leaders recognize the growing skills gap, only 47% are confident in their efforts.
On the bright side, twice as many leaders indicate their organisations will do what they can to train their existing employees rather than hire new ones. And they’re more optimistic than last year that autonomous tech will augment, rather than replace, humans.
The journey to get where you are has not been easy. From setting records to surviving recessions, you’ve been there from day one, becoming a leader that’s respected and praised from the board, shareholders and staff.
But somewhere along the way, it all started to change. Now your leadership strategy is getting you nowhere, and you can no longer deny that nagging feeling that something’s just not right.
Recognising that you may not be the best person for the job anymore is incredibly difficult to admit, especially after investing blood, sweat, and tears into the company.
But if that little voice in the back of your head is now shouting at you front and center, it’s a likely scenario that others feel the same way.
Hanging on too long makes you irrelevant. Organisations change. Leaders should change too. You may not be the best person to lead your business forward. The skills that worked yesterday may not work today or tomorrow. Successful leaders know when to move-on. Are your strengths, the right strengths, to lead the organization tomorrow?
How does a leader know when it’s time to step down and hand over the reins?
The most important question a leader should ask is: Are you placing the good of the organisation first? This is what leadership is all about.
Final thought; most CEOs have gotten religion about the impact of accelerating disruption and the need to adapt in response. Time and again, though, we see those same CEOs forgetting about the need to translate strategy into specific organizational capabilities, paying lip service to their talent ambitions, and delegating responsibility to the head of learning with a flourish of fine words, only for that individual to complain later about lack of support from above.
To be fair, CEOs are pulled in many directions, and they note that leadership development often doesn’t make an impact on performance in the short run.
At the same time, we see many heads of learning confronting CEOs with a set of complex interwoven interventions, not always focusing on what matters most.
But as the pace of change for strategies and business models increases, so does the cost of lagging leadership development.
If CEOs and their top teams are serious about long-term performance, they need to commit themselves to the success of corporate leadership-development efforts now.
Chief human-resource officers and heads of learning need to simplify their programs, focusing on what really matters.
As Vince Lombardi, NFL player, coach and executive director once said:
“The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.”
The Spring Equinox occurred on Thursday 19th March and marked the end of winter and the beginning of spring, new beginnings, new paths everything being fresh full of vitality.
An exciting day for the official launch of my latest tome, ‘Purposeful Discussions’, which started with a signing at Waterstones book shop in London and followed with an exclusive invite-only event, bringing together a gathering of business industry professionals and leaders.
We had a wonderful evening of great minds and meaningful conversations across some of today’s greatest challenges in business, business trends and business futures, and there was no shortage of great topics to discuss!
Business today is subject to the rapid exhaustion of constant change, and constant change seems to be affecting leadership to its limits. Windows of opportunity are shorter and companies are forced out of business quicker.
If we revisit the 1950’s, the average life of a company was just over 60 years. Today it is less than 20 years. According to a recent study by Credit Suisse, disruptive technology is the reason for the constant decline in company life longevity.
However, disruptive technologies are not a new phenomenon. The credit card, the microwave oven, transistor radio, television, computer hard disks, solar cells, optic fibre, plastic and the microchip were all introduced in the 1950s.
It is not technology that explains the failure and costly investments to business; it is less about technology and more about leaders’ failure to envision the future of their business as the world changes around them. It is the result of short-sightedness, an inability to see the future, adapt and lead a focused strategy with flexibility in a changing world.
For humans to be effective, productive and innovative, we must have great leaders who also focus on making trust, humility, accountability, experimentation, collaboration, digitization, innovation within a commercially astute context, a way of organizational life. Doing this ensures that their people and their company constantly deliver increased value for customers.
It also ensures that in the future of work, they drive success within their ever-expanding areas of influence and responsibility, to flow and flourish in uncertain times.
The purpose of a company is not just to make money but to pursue a just cause, we can all remember the words of Henry Ford when he said ‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.’
Purpose is the very reason to have the business. It’s not marketing. It’s not a recruiting tool. It’s not something you just write on your website. It’s not a corporate social responsibility program. It’s the very reason why you started the business in the first place, and it has nothing to do with money.
To be truly purpose-driven, the most senior leader in an organisation will still see themselves as subservient to a higher purpose not to another human being, but to an ideal. We are in service of those ideals, and although we will never actually achieve them, we will die trying, which is the point. It’s about progress, not just prosperity. Prosperity is counting what comes in; progress is counting how far we’ve moved down a purposeful path. The people who work at truly purpose-driven organisations feel like they have a belonging, that this is their calling and it has nothing to do with the business or the product.
Companies exist to advance, innovation, technology, quality of life or something else with the potential to ease or enhance our lives in some way, shape or form. That people are willing to pay money for whatever a company has to offer is simply proof that they perceive or derive some value from those things. Which means the more value a company offers, the more money and the more advancement the company will have for further progression.
Capitalism has to be more about prosperity, about progress.
We have all seen the increase in certain practices that drive stock price value in the short term, all these deals certainly sound ethically dubious. At a point of fact, laws, regulations and ethical conduct normally are an output of bad practices, not by policing them in advance of conduct.
The importance of business ethics reaches far beyond employee loyalty and morale or the strength of a management team bond. As with all business initiatives, the ethical operation of a company is directly related to profitability in both the short and long term. The reputation of a business in the surrounding community, other businesses, and individual investors is paramount in determining whether a company is a worthwhile investment. If a company is perceived to not operate ethically, investors are less inclined to buy stock or otherwise support its operations.
Technology companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, certainly look like they are more relaxed at asking for forgiveness across ethical misconduct than leading the charge with a fundamental view of how they safeguard one of their most important assets; our private data. You could question how can these company’s operate without such an accountable and responsible view?
The responsibility of business is to use its will and resources to advance a cause greater than itself, protect the people and places in which it operates and generate more resources so that it can continue doing all those things for as long as possible. An organisation can do whatever it likes to build its business so long as it is responsible for the consequences of its actions.
Leadership is the lifeblood of an organization. When leaders create safe environments at work, everyone thrives and devotion is the natural response to those conditions. Toxic cultures breed cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest.
The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, customer and company will suffer.
The management team sets the tone for how the entire company runs on a day-to-day basis. When the prevailing management philosophy is based on ethical practices and behaviour, leaders within an organisation can direct employees by example and guide them in making decisions that are not only beneficial to them as individuals, but also to the organisation as a whole.
Building on a foundation of ethical behaviour helps create long-lasting purposeful effects for a company, including the ability to attract and retain highly talented individuals, and building and maintaining a purposeful reputation within the community.
Running a business in an ethical manner from the top down builds a stronger bond between individuals on the management team, further creating stability within the company.
Finally, globally successful entrepreneurs are emerging as exciting, courageous and authentic new role models demonstrating many of the vital qualities required for effective 21st-century leadership and in the future of work.
This is because they are re-inventing how to engage in the art of applying entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship practices to harness potential and mobilize human energy towards creating a better future.
This suggests that 21st-century leadership learning programs are most effective when they focus on cultivating new mindsets, creative, critical and foresight thinking strategies. That develops the ability to anticipate, adapt and cultivate new behaviours and take intelligent actions.
As Klaus Schwab a German engineer and economist once said:
“Technology is not an exogenous force over which we have no control. We are not constrained by a binary choice between “accept and live with it” and “reject and live without it”. Instead, take dramatic technological change as an invitation to reflect on who we are and how we see the world. The more we think about how to harness the technology revolution, the more we will examine ourselves and the underlying social models that these technologies embody and enable, and the more we will have an opportunity to shape the revolution in a manner that improves the state of the world.”