2 items tagged "organizational learning"

  • How deeper employer - employee connections enhance individual and team performances

    How deeper employer - employee connections enhance individual and team performances

    Ever see something for the first time and then realize you see it everywhere? That happened to me over the last two weeks.

    1936 U.S. Olympic Crew Team

    It started with the book, “The Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown. It’s about a group of working-class boys from the University of Washington that goes on to win the gold medal in the Berlin Olympics. The part that caught my attention — the boys showed glimpses of greatness through their individual athletic feats. However, they were at risk of never becoming the No. 1 boat because they were consistently beaten by other boats on their own school team. It wasn’t until they internalized that excelling individually but not in sync with each other restricted their overall speed. Once they began rowing, not for one’s self but for each other, the boat began to glide on top of the water like there was no resistance. At that point they were unbeatable.

    2008 Boston Celtics

    Then came the Netflix series 'The Playbook'. This series highlights some of the most successful coaches in sports. The first episode features Doc Rivers, who led the Boston Celtics to the 2008 NBA championship. The team had acquired two star players to join one already on the roster. The problem Rivers faced was that he had three players that, on any other team, would expect to dominate the floor and excel with individual stats. Three players attempting to optimize individual performance on the same team would have had a disastrous result, just as the boys in the boat from Washington discovered. Coach Rivers introduced the concept of ubuntu.


    Ubuntu is an African philosophy meaning “you are because of the others.” One succeeds not solely because of one’s individual ability. Rather, enabling others, and having relationships and bonds with others is more important than any individual disagreement or division. Doc Rivers used this philosophy to bring the individuals together on his team to create something greater than the sum of its parts, resulting in an NBA championship. On a much grander scale, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela preached the philosophy as a way forward to develop future governance and heal a post-apartheid South Africa.


    I learned of Janteloven through a conversation with a business executive in Norway. Janteloven is a Scandinavian philosophy, a way of life that puts society ahead of the individual. This restricts the temptation to boast about individual accomplishments and teaches against being jealous of others. Interestingly, the topic didn’t come up because of a philosophical discussion. Instead, it emerged as part of designing a business improvement plan, including how much attention should be put on developing and highlighting individual advancement.

    Philosophy Under Attack

    There are those who argue that these philosophies directly contradict the Western views of individualism and that societies embracing them are at a disadvantage. In this duality of individualism verses collectivism, the argument is that philosophies like ubuntu and janteloven destroy the individual spirit. I’d like to think that the 1936 U.S. crew team and the 2008 Boston Celtics proved just the opposite. They were highly talented, highly skilled individuals who found a ceiling when excelling as individuals. It wasn’t until they embraced the ideal of operating together for the betterment of the group that the ceiling rose exponentially. This is the challenge of leadership — harnessing the talents of individuals to row in unison while in a culture that rewards individually.

    The New Employment Deal

    In late 2020, the Gartner HR practice launched the idea of 'the new employment deal'. This concept centers around employees demanding a relationship with their employers that differs from the traditional barter system of productivity for payment. This new deal requires a shared purpose, flexibility and deeper connections between employer and employees.

    It’s possible to see this relationship as benefiting employees at the expense of the employer, but this study found both enjoyed positive outcomes. Benefits to the employer included an increase in high-performing employees as well as a greater number of employees willing to promote the company externally. At organizations with a traditional approach, about 54% of employees were considered high performers. At organizations that prioritize building deeper connections, that number jumped to 75%. Also, in organizations with a traditional approach, only 38% of employees recommended the company externally. In those that built deeper connections, well over half of employees were willing to promote the company (56%). These outcomes improved retention and give employers advantaged access to the best talent in the labor market.

    At the end of the day

    As business leaders, we act similarly to coaches of professional sports teams. We can learn from the 2008 Celtics and the 1936 U.S. Olympic crew team. By blending the Western focus on the individual with the philosophies of ubuntu and janteloven, we can build groups of highly talented individuals and elevate their performance as part of a team. We do this not by abandoning the individual, but by fostering a culture of enablement that allows the individual to showcase their talents in sync with the group, thereby raising the overall ceiling of success. Our task as leaders is to identify the roadblocks that prevent that from happening, whether it’s in compensation structure, management coaching or simply fear of corporate intimacy.

    Author: Michael Uskert

    Source: Gartner

  • Why mathematical optimization will help your organization

    Why mathematical optimization will help your organization

    Machine Learning may not be enough to get the best out of Data Science

    I will tell you the story of Adam*. Adam is a truck dispatcher, working in a distribution warehouse. His daily job is to assign a few hundred daily orders to trucks, so that they can be delivered to their customers on time. He has been working on this for 10 years and it is very hard to replace him (even when he is sick) as he knows the customers, orders and trucking companies quite well.

    Adam needs a secondary monitor, as he needs to continuously work with order data and truck data simultaneously while checking distances and driving durations on the map. It costs the company €200, but helps Adam work much more efficiently, reducing the time he needs to switch between windows on his computer.

    To get a secondary monitor, in many organizations, you would need to fill out a form, explaining why you need this purchase. Then it has to be approved by your line manager, his/her manager and people from procurement/the IT team or both. Quite a bit of paperwork, right?

    Back to Adam’s job… He dispatches 20 trucks per day, and depending on the load type, number of stops and total kilometers it might cost around €300 to €500 for domestic deliveries in European countries. So he spends approximately €8.000 per day without the need of asking anyone. It makes €2 Million per year!

    In many organizations, a secondary monitor requires only a few decisions: yes or no and maybe a selection between different sizes or models.

    In his job, on the other hand, he has trillions of different options he can choose from to assign the orders to the trucks. And he usually has to do it within only a few hours! Even a 5% cost difference between his decision and an optimal assignment would costs the company €100K/year, much more than Adam’s annual salary!

    Adam’s decisions among the trillions of options can lead to an increased cost of €100K/year without anyone noticing, while the decision of a €200 monitor need many pairs of eyes.

    Here is where Mathematical Optimization / Operations Research (OR) comes into the play. We can empower Adam with a tool that builds efficient tours Mathematical Optimization. Such a tool can easily help him build more cost efficient tours, in much shorter times so that he can focus on other critical tasks as finding cheaper transportation companies or troubleshooting: which multiplies the overall savings. I will not go into details here, but one can look into on topics like Vehicle Routing Problems to understand how this is possible.

    Back to the title… Look at your organization and your biggest spend buckets in your balance sheet. It can be transportation, it can be staff related costs, it can be energy or whatever fits to your business (model).

    Can you identify 'Adams' in your organization, who are managing this big bucket of your costs daily and giving very complex decisions by themselves?

    Most Data Science work in organizations these days are dominated by Machine Learning type of projects — and for a good reason: There is quite an impact that you can uncover by better understanding today or the future using ML. On the other hand, there are people out there looking at your data or your ML results and taking actions that might cost your organization millions. They might be called plannerd, staff dispatchers, network design specialists, pricing analysts or something else, depending on what your organization does.

    Identifying these people and understanding how they give their decisions, can be the first step to unlock savings through Mathematical Optimization / Operations Research.

    *The story of Adam – who is a fictional character – is inspired by a story I heard from a very experienced manager I worked with. The crux of the original story told by him was as follows – and it is as impressive as the story of Adam:

    a regular white-collar employee needs multiple signatures for a €50 expense, but can call for a meeting of 20 people for 1 hour and spend €1000 without asking anyone.

    Author: Baris Cem Sal

    Source: Towards Data Science

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