Welcome to the last issue of Agility Update for 2017. Our final collection of articles offers alternative views to topical issues as well as analytical insights. Alternative views include the potential of applying blockchain technology to manufacturing as opposed to financial services with which it is usually associated; improving cybsersecurity with simpler rather than more complex rules; and moving away from compliance-based and proprietary programs to improve worker wellbeing and productivity. Among insights offered are fascinating case studies of successful turnarounds over the past decade across a range of industry sectors including financial services, chemicals, airlines and infrastructure. The final two items look at how culture remains a major blocker to digital effectiveness, and the importance of discipline and rigour when it comes to innovation, especially by start-ups.
Thank you for reading Agility Update. Till our next issue in February 2018, we send you warm wishes for a Merry Christmas and hope you and your family enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.
Though the adoption of blockchain technology is more likely to be associated with the financial and services sectors, manufacturers are advised to start exploring now.
The distributed ledger technology, say experts, can help manufacturers increase transparency, recognise issues within a supply chain, and streamline industrial processes.
As an example, a car maker that releases a vehicle containing faulty parts – resulting in costly recalls and repairs – can use the blockchain to trace the supplier of the faulty parts more efficiently, containing the issue and reducing time and labour costs.
With their long upgrade cycles, manufacturers would do well to consider blockchain when modernising their existing IT processes as the new technology has the potential to radically change manufacturing supply chains, cut out the middleman, streamline processes, improve security and simplify data management.
Read more here.
Employees are failing spectacularly as the first line of defence to keep an organisation cyber secure.
The latest Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report shows 90% of all data breaches and security incidents track back to employees falling to phishing attacks. Part of the problem is that companies are issuing security rules or guidelines that are overly complex or ineffective e.g. rules that complicate password practices for end users like frequent resets.
Acknowledging this reality, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently changed its guidelines and now recommends allowing the use of password managers, to paste passwords into fields, and multi-factor authentication, such as codes sent to smartphones and key fobs.
In addition, security experts also recommend improving the relationship between IT and employees, and to have IT provide targeted information to specific individuals, as well as targeted guidance on how to use third party apps like Drop Box securely, or offer a corporate subscription with security for popular third-party apps favoured by employees.
Turning around a troubled company represents the truest test of leadership teams. In this article, the Boston Consulting Group details some of the most successful turnaround initiatives in the world over the past decade.
Each case study illustrates the value of strong and decisive leadership and a structured approach to take the tough measures necessary to dramatically improve profit margins and generate substantial value for shareholders. As a group, these ‘Comeback Kids’ have outperformed the S&P Global 1200 by 46 percentage points since 2013. Stories you will read in this article include how:
Click here to read more.
Worker wellbeing can be a tool for astute corporations to redefine their role in society to benefit the business as well as PR.
One organisation that has taken the lead is global jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss with its Worker Well-being program that stretches across its supply chain. Instead of a compliance-based approach, Levi offer guidance to its vendors who then work out what their workers want or need before developing their own financially sustainable programs.
Early progress from far flung pilots — e.g. one facility in Egypt reported a 4-to-1 return on investment – have convinced Levi that the initiative should be rolled out to all key Levi’s vendors, and made mandatory beginning in 2020. To help determine whether it will result in a real improvement in the lives of garment workers or in business results, Levi has enlisted Harvard’s School of Public Health to rigorously measure and study the initiative.
In addition, Levi has open-sourced the program to give access to all companies – including competitors – who would like to launch similar programs to kick start a shift in the way their industry thinks about its workers and acknowledges their needs.
More on Levi’s program is available here.
For another viewpoint on corporate wellness programs read This Job Wants to Feed You Three Meals a Day.
Culture is the most significant self-reported barrier to digital effectiveness, according to management consultants McKinsey’s recent survey of global executives.
The survey highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer. As digital penetration blurs boundaries between sectors and boosts competitive intensity, executives no longer have the luxury of waiting for organisational cultures to change organically, says McKinsey.
The critical cultural intervention points of risk aversion, customer focus, and silos form a valuable road map for leaders seeking to reshape their organisation’s culture.
Read McKinsey’s Culture for a digital age for details of these challenges, and a focused set of reinforcing practices to jump-start change.
The word ‘innovation’ may bring to mind sexy innovation labs, free form creative spaces and a set of unconstrained activities with no discipline. However, an adjunct professor at Stanford University who has participated in eight high-tech start-ups and a retired Colonel who ran the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force for innovation says innovation needs to be designed as a rigorous process from start to deployment.
While innovation begins by generating ideas, the reality is that the hard work is in prioritising, categorising, gathering data, testing and refactoring. What organisations need is a self-regulating, evidence-based innovation pipeline.
And instead of having a committee vet ideas, organisations need a process that operates with speed and urgency, and that helps innovators and other stakeholders to curate and prioritise problems, ideas, and technologies.
For details read HBR’s What your innovation process should look like.
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