MCBASSI & COMPANY

Reflections – and a Look Ahead

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With 2015 drawing to a close, we’re looking back and pausing to be thankful for our clients and colleagues. It is our good fortune to work with business people who are both smart and good.  They work to help their organizations operate in what we at McBassi think of as “the sweet spot” – the intersection of profitable and enlightened management of employees.  This, in turn, builds the foundation for creating sustainably profitable relationships with customers – thereby generating win-win-win outcomes.

As we look forward to 2016, we expect that our clients’ commitment to finding and creating these all-win solutions will become even more profitable in the future than it already has been in recent years.

The challenges we face – as individuals, families, communities, and societies – are daunting and well-known to all of us.  More and more, savvy business people across the globe realize that business must increasingly become a part of the solution (while simultaneously being a source of the problem less frequently) – and that doing so can actually be quite profitable.

So as we wrap up the year, we’d like to leave you with a thought we hope you can use to make 2016 both a good and profitable year.  In these times of extraordinary uncertainty, there is money to be made by creating more certainty and less risk.  In thinking about your business, are there changes that could be made at little or no cost to reduce uncertainty for your employees?  How might you tweak your hiring, onboarding, development, scheduling, performance review, or compensation/benefits policies to reduce unnecessary uncertainty for employees (or prospective employees)?

The mere act of asking questions like this can be powerful.  And finding the answers?  That can set the stage for what we hope will be a satisfying and profitable new year for you!

(This post was sent this month via email to our monthly newsletter subscribers.  Click here if you’d like to subscribe.)

The evolution of economics

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David Brooks penned an insightful NY Times op-ed piece on the much-needed and long overdue revolution that is (finally!) starting to take place in the economics profession. 

As a card carrying, Ph.D.-economist type, I couldn’t agree more (or have said it better myself).  It’s important stuff.  Hopefully, it will cause the profession to serve us better in the future than it has in the past.

The Espresso Book Machine

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Now here’s a cool development—the Espresso Book Machine® (EBM). Says On Demand Books, “What Gutenberg’s press did for Europe in the 15th century, digitization and the Espresso Book Machine will do for the world tomorrow. Library quality paperbacks at low cost, identical to factory made books, printed direct from digital files for the reader in minutes, serving a radically decentralized world-wide multilingual marketplace.”

EBM locations are already beginning to spring up around the world.  It seems likely that this is an unstoppable, game-changing and disruptive technology.  This will speed up the decline of the already-faltering traditional book publication industry, and contribute to the ongoing democratization of ideas.

India – views from the “man on the street”

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So here I am – with my Blackberry – in India (along with one-sixth of everyone else in the world). 

As a labor economist, one of my favorite ways to collect information on what’s happening wherever I might be is to ask taxi drivers.  They are “in the know” – they interact with dozens of people every day from all walks of life, and they have time to talk.  So from them you can get the well-informed view from the proverbial man on the street. 

This is especially true here in India, where the scope of traffic jams is truly astonishing.  So there’s plenty of time to talk, the drivers like to do so, and for the most part they speak pretty good English (which has major economic implications in and of itself).

So as I sit with them in the midst of polluted, congested streets in cities that have grown far too fast, I’ve been asking them all one simple question: is life better now than it used to be?  Without hesitation, their answer has been YES.  Then something of this sort invariably follows: “More people have jobs now, and wages are higher.  Life is getting better…”

Despite all the congestion and pollution, people are optimistic.  These problems – while very, very real – are, to some extent, symptoms of success.  And there are some hopeful and creative efforts underway (especially here in Mumbai, where I am at the moment) to deal with the city’s most severe problems (slums and pollution).

So there’s a strong sense that India is on the rise, with benefits that are evident and tangible to a great many of its billion people.  The country’s tourist slogan is INCREDIBLE INDIA. 

Indeed.

VUCA – pretty much sums it up

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Maybe you already know this term—VUCA.  But I just learned it, and thought it was worth sharing.

VUCA, according to Wikipedia, “is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the late 1990s and derives from military vocabulary and has been subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations…..”

VUCA—I’ll remember that.  In just four letters it says a great deal about the world in which we live. 

Notes from London

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Last week I had the good fortune of speaking in London at the U.K. Skills Convention 2010 on Skills, Jobs, and Growth.  The delegates were an extremely interesting group of hand-picked folks from around the globe, including  Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, and (of course) the United Kingdom. (You can find videos and blogs from the conference online.)

I’ll confess that I’m often not much of a fan of conferences, but I do attend my fair share, often out of professional necessity or courtesy (the latter, in this case).  But to my great delight, this proved to be a conference I’m very glad I attended. 

Here are four things that I observed and learned from the conference that will stick with me:

  1. Nations around the world are building infrastructures and devoting significant resources to improving the skill base among working-age adults.
  2. The United States is lagging behind in this regard.
  3. A very strong research base demonstrates that organizations that implement “high performance work practices” (what I would call “superior human capital management”) enjoy significant economic benefit from doing so.
  4. England is lagging behind many of its European counterparts in developing critical aspects of these high performance practices.

A license to grow (or not)

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I recently had the good fortune to interview Sandy Ogg, the SVP of HR at Unilever.

(With three co-authors, I am writing a book called The Worthiness Era – or some such title.  Hence my interview with Sandy.  And more on the book in future blog entries.)

Here’s what Sandy said that I love:

“Companies are either going to get a license to grow, or not.” 

Sandy’s saying that with the increased transparency under which all companies operate, it is harder and harder to get away with dirty tricks and less-than-worthy behaviors.  Therefore, consumers are increasingly in a position of power – they can issue (or not issue) a “license to grow” based on what they know about a company.

The future in Sandy’s view (and mine) belongs to worthy companies.  I think Unilever is one of them.  Take a look at their web site – I especially love the work they’re doing with women in Africa.