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Why Do We Undervalue Competent Management?
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Managers Can’t Be Great Coaches All by Themselves
Operations management
From the September–October 2017 Issue
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Executive Summary

Business schools teach MBA students that you can’t compete on the basis of management processes because they’re easily copied. Operational effectiveness is table stakes in the competitive universe, according to the strategists. But data from a decade-long research project involving 12,000 firms challenges that thinking.

The study examined how well companies performed 18 core management practices. It found vast differences in how they execute basic tasks like setting targets, running operations, and grooming talent, and that those differences matter: Firms with strong managerial processes do significantly better on high-level metrics such as profitability, growth, and productivity. What’s more, the differences in process quality persist over time, suggesting that competent management is not easy to imitate.

In this article the authors review the findings of the research and explore what prevents executives from investing in management capabilities, arguing that such investments are a powerful way to become more competitive.

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In MBA programs, students are taught that companies can’t expect to compete on the basis of internal managerial competencies because they’re just too easy to copy. Operational effectiveness—doing the same thing as other companies but doing it exceptionally well—is not a path to sustainable advantage in the competitive universe. To stay ahead, the thinking goes, a company must stake out a distinctive strategic position—doing something different than its rivals. This is what the C-suite should focus on, leaving middle and lower-level managers to handle the nuts and bolts of managing the organization and executing plans.

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100 Resilient Cities
100 Resilient Cities - Pioneered by @RockefellerFdn, helps cities become more resilient to the shocks and stresses of the 21st Century.

T he world is becoming urban. Currently home to over 50 percent of the world’s population, cities are expected to absorb another 2.5 billion people by 2050. People are pulled to urban areas because of better infrastructure, services, and economic opportunities. They are pushed to cities because of natural disasters, conflicts, famine, unemployment, and other forces.

Undeniably, mass migration poses risks to already fragile urban ecosystems. Increased population density can lead to health, security, and social cohesion challenges, often straining city resources for public services. These risks can be heightened by a city’s existing stresses — chronic issues that weaken the urban fabric, such as aging infrastructure, unemployment, food and water scarcity, inequality, and violence. Failure to address these risks can exacerbatemajor disasters when they occur. It also represents a missed opportunity for a city to leverage the socio-economic and cultural capital of migrants, whose contributions can become fundamental resources for building urban resilience.

Resilient cities are able to plan for adversity, absorb its impact, and recover quickly. Most importantly, they adapt to new conditions and thrive, rather than merely survive. In building resilience, cities can reduce their reliance on crisis as a driver of change and, instead, proactively take the future into theirown hands. In doing so, they can become better places to live for all their citizens, in both good times and bad.

Our environment is changing. Mass migration to cities is the new reality.

The mass migration we are witnessing today is not a temporary state of emergency, but the beginning of a new reality. Most likely, the factors pushing migrants to cities will only become more common and impactful. Current estimates suggest that climate change could displace another 200 million people by 2050, a year when the population of the world’s 48 poorestcountries is due to double to 1.7 billion, causing even greater incentives for people to move to wealthier cities. The conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and other countries affected by violence and political instability, continue to cause millions of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to flee their homes in search of safety.

Rather than resist this new reality, cities must embrace it. As many migrants cannot, or do not intend to, return to their place of origin, municipal authorities must start seeing their role as long-term, or even permanent, hosts. If this is acknowledged and plans are made to anticipate and respond to the potential pressures of mass migration on urban systems, the arrival and presence of newcomers will be less likely to be perceived as a threat. Mass migration can instead be seen as an opportunity to improve a city’s infrastructure, services, and governance systems, as well as the response capacity of its local communities.

The future remains uncertain.

While we must accept global migration to cities as a defining trend of our time, we must also acknowledge its deep uncertainty. The direction, timing, and magnitude of population flows make it difficult for local authorities to make accurate predictions, develop long-term plans, and allocate resources. The Syrian refugee crisis, for example, regularly presents new and unforeseen developments. In the spring of 2016, several countries in the European Union abruptly closed the major routes used by fleeing refugees, suddenly strandingover 50,000 of them in Greece. Greek cities, such as Athens and Thessaloniki , normally used as transit points on routes to more prosperous European cities, found themselves as final destinations for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers. Already suffering from strained resources, inadequate infrastructure, and weak coordination systems, these cities had to quickly adapt their temporary settlement approaches to focus on longer-term integration. The recent EU relocation scheme and EU-Turkey agreement, which aims to move most asylum seekers out of Greece, may change the situation once again.

We may not know what shocks we will face — international policy decisions trapping refugees in countries with limited resources, massive displacement by natural disasters, or economic crises driving young skilled migrants to wealthier cities. By creating reliable and flexible systems that address multiple challenges and support residents in good times and bad, cities can thrive nomatter what may happen.

Mass migration can exacerbate existing stresses.

When it occurs without a plan in place, mass migration has the potential to aggravate a city’s existing stresses. Higher population density can pose unanticipated pressures on already strained infrastructure, resources, and the delivery of city services.

Settlement patterns affect this further as migrants often have to move to already marginalized neighborhoods. Much of the new population growth occurs in informal and unplanned areas of the city, amid existing vulnerable populations. This often creates perceived and real competition for jobs and basic services, intensifying social tensions between long-term urban residents, economic migrants, and displaced populations, who already face unique vulnerabilities due to legal barriers to entry, limited economic resources, and broad discrimination.

When residents believe newcomers are the cause of increased competition over job opportunities or deteriorating living conditions, sudden large-scale influxes of new arrivals can exacerbate existing tensions and xenophobia. Populist politics and violent extremism undermine social cohesion.

Migration presents opportunities for strengthening cities and making them resilient.

Migrant populations pose challenges, but they also present host cities with a variety of opportunities for building resilience, including financial investment, infrastructural innovation, a rejuvenated labor force, and new means of fostering social cohesion.

Hosting large numbers of displaced persons can attract significant international investment. Cities can leverage these resources to build better infrastructure and improve social services for all residents. In Amman , for example, the municipal government is leveraging loans received from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for addressing increased waste generation due to the influx of refugees to modernize the solid waste sector and improve services for all residents.

Migrants also bring new energy into ailing economies and are a natural antidote to rapidly aging workforces and shortages of skilled labor. When migrants and refugees have the right to work, and gain access to capital and educational opportunities, they boost productivity in host cities through purchasing power, innovation, and entrepreneurship. New populations can also help foster greater social cohesion, which not only yields multiple dividends in physical and mental health, civic participation, and information sharing, but also strengthens the ability of local communities to respond and adapt in times of emergency.

Cities are being asked to do more with less, but decisions affecting them are made at the national level.

While issues concerning borders, citizenship, and quotas are often decided nationally or internationally, it is at the local level that the practical aspects of migration are felt. Cities serve as first points of arrival, transit hubs, and ultimate destinations of millions of migrants. They play a central role in the short, medium, and long term — from food, shelter and healthcare at arrival; to housing and subsistence during transit; to employment and social integration in ensuing years. As a result, municipal governments find themselves taking the lead in welcoming migrants and offering pragmatic solutions for managing their needs. Yet they often lack adequate resources, policies, and mandates from the national government to do this important work. In Paris , for example, the city does not have formal authority to plan for its refugee population. However, the absence of a national framework has led the municipal government to take action by not only creating the first welcome centers for refugees within Paris’ city boundaries, but also developing the “Mobilizing the Paris Community for Refugee Welcome” plan, a strategic document that leverages current city competencies for managing other vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors or the homeless, and applies them to the refugee population. Similarly, in Los Angeles , the city created a local office for immigrant affairs that addresses the gaps in national policy. This allows the city to formulate strategies and programs for the migrants and refugees that arrive daily and often intend to remain.

As cities are being asked to “do more with less”, they need to improve their collaboration with national governments, private sector organizations, and international aid agencies. But, more importantly, cities must be creative and flexible with the resources and mandates they do possess. Cities can exert their existing influence as employers, providers of goods and services, and policy-makers. Municipal leaders can proactively integrate inclusion into local policy and provide opportunities for business and infrastructure development.

By organizing around success and action, instead of failure and inaction, resilient cities can succeed where many national governments struggle with, and at times exacerbate, major challenges.

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Not much has changed since then. Today people in the worlds of business, investing, and politics continue to use vague words to describe possible outcomes. Why? Phil Tetlock , a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied forecasting in depth, suggests that “ vague verbiage gives you political safety .”

When you use a word to describe the likelihood of a probabilistic outcome, you have a lot of wiggle room to make yourself look good after the fact. If a predicted event happens, one might declare: “I told you it would probably happen.” If it doesn’t happen, the fallback might be: “I only said it would probably happen.” Such ambiguous words not only allow the speaker to avoid being pinned down but also allow the receiver to interpret the message in a way that is consistent withtheir preconceived notions. Obviously, the result is poor communication.

To try to address this type of muddled communications, Kent mapped the relationship between words and probabilities. In the Grainy Wristlet Clutch Red Burberry xFSclA
, he showed sentences that included probabilistic words or phrases to about two dozen military officers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and asked them to translate the words into numbers. These individuals were used to reading intelligence reports. The officers reached a consensus for some words, but their interpretations were all over the place for others. Other researchers have sincehad womens P8318 Rectangular Sunglasses Polaroid VBMazW
results .

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with a couple of goals in mind. One was to increase the size of the sample, including individuals outside of the intelligenceand scientific communities. Another was to seewhether we could detect any differences by age or gender or between those who learned English as a primary or secondary language.

Here are the three main lessons fromour analysis.

Lesson 1: Use probabilities instead of words to avoid misinterpretation.

Our survey asked members of the general public to attach probabilities to 23 common words or phrases appearing in random order. The exhibit below summarizes the results from 1,700 respondents.

The wide variation of likelihood people attach to certain words immediately jumps out. While some are construed quite narrowly, others are broadly interpreted. Most — but not all — people think “always” means “100% of the time,” for example, but the probability range that most attribute to an event with a “real possibility” of happening spans about 20% to 80%. In general, we found that the word “possible” and its variations have wide ranges and invite confusion.

We also found that men and women see some probabilistic words differently. As the table below shows, women tend to place higher probabilities on ambiguous words and phrases such as “maybe,” “possibly,” and “might happen.” Here again, we see that “possible” and its variations particularly invite misinterpretation. This result is consistent with analysis by the data science team at Cashmere Silk Scarf Sea swell by VIDA VIDA jfy0rCzCM
, a site whereusers ask and answer questions. That team found that Statement Clutch Golden Gate bridge by VIDA VIDA x1S1QmJNS3
, even when they are just as confident.

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