10 Strange Items the TSA Found in People’s Luggage in 2018

Thanks to the TSA’s Webby-winning Instagram account—made famous by the agency’s late social media guru Bob Burns, who passed away in October—officials have kept track of the wackier things airport security agents saw in 2018. Every year, the TSA screens about 700 million travelers across nearly 450 airports. That’s more than 2 million passengers each day. And while most people pass through security checkpoints without incident, a handful of travelers are stopped every day—sometimes for attempting to lug some truly bizarre items to their departing gate.

1. A Python in a Hard Drive

A traveler bound for Barbados apparently thought it was a good idea to reenact Snakes on a Plane when they socked this ball python into a nylon stocking, hiding it inside an external hard drive. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service swooped in to take the critter.Healthy Recipes – Awesome Quick Recipes – Thousands to Chose FromSimple, Quick Recipes. Fast Prep. Easy Steps, Great Taste. Free InstallSponsored by getrecipes.net

2. A Fake Bomb

It might resemble something Wile E. Coyote would have concocted—and it may be 100 percent fake—but it’s still not allowed through security at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Anything that remotely resembles a weapon will cause intense security checks. (In this case, the security checkpoint was closed for 19 minutes, inconveniencing countless passengers.)

3. Firecrackers

Please excuse this brief announcement: Don’t carry firecrackers—or anything else that goes “boom”—in your hand luggage. Especially a brand that has the word “Killer” in it.

4. Wedding-Themed Hand Grenades

We’ll let the TSA’s Instagram account explain why these are a bad idea: “When our officers spot a potential explosive on the monitor, they cannot just open the bag and take a looksee to find out if it’s real or not. A TSA explosives specialist or a police department bomb squad must respond before the bag is ever opened. This can lead to costly evacuations, delays, and missed flights. These types of items can also lead to hefty fines and arrest. Contact your preferred shipper about your options, because they can’t travel via commercial aircraft. So even though they aren’t real, they can cause a lot of headaches.”

5. Freddy Krueger’s Hand

There is no loophole around the TSA’s knife policy: You may not bring any knives in your carry-on. You especially can’t bring them if they’re affixed to your fingertips. As the TSA elaborates, “While worn out fedoras and tattered green and red sweaters are discouraged in the fashion world, they are permitted at TSA checkpoints.” (You may stow a knife in your checked luggage.)

6. Giant Scissors

Unlike knives, scissors are allowed in your carry-on luggage—as long as they are shorter than four inches from the fulcrum. These ceremonial ribbon-cutting scissors found at Nashville International Airport didn’t make the cut.

7. A Phony IED

This fake improvised explosive device caused six checkpoint lanes to close at Newark Liberty International Airport. The TSA later learned that “the man carrying the IED in his carry-on bag was traveling to Florida to participate in a training event focused on X-ray detection of explosive devices.” Thankfully, the agents already had their training.

8. Bullet-Shaped Whiskey Stones

It’s OK to transport a gun and ammunition on a flight as long as it’s properly stored in checked luggage. But placing it in your carry-on is a big no-no. In 2017, the TSA discovered nearly 4000 firearms at security checkpoints—most of them loaded—and that number is expected to rise when 2018’s numbers are finally tabulated. To say the least, the TSA is strict when it comes to anything that remotely resembles a weapon. That’s why these ammunition-shaped whiskey stones (usually used to chill a drink without watering it down) weren’t allowed.

9. An Inert Mortar Round

People try to bring inert weapons of war, like this mortar found at Evansville Regional Airport, through the security checkpoint more than you think. (Case in point: Somebody tried bringing rocket launchers through Hawaii’s Lihue Airport.) When security officials spot something like this, they have to bring in explosives experts to ensure the device is actually inert. Delays ensue. So just leave your faux bombs at home.

10. A Live Cat

There are proper ways to transport your pet to your destination. Haphazardly stuffing your furry friend into your checked luggage is not one of them. At Erie International Airport, a security screener discovered this kitty (named Slim) stowed in a Florida couple’s checked baggage. Slim was turned over to the Humane Society of Northwestern Pennsylvania. The couple, meanwhile, was charged with animal cruelty.

To see our 2017 roundup of the TSA’s strangest finds, click here.


For nearly four years, Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has been ravaged by war. With on-the-ground reporting still difficult, the death toll from fighting and bombing — currently over 60,000 — is thought to be vastly underestimated. Beyond that, starvation and disease have killed 85,000 children, and cholera alone has cost 2,600 lives.

Since October 2016, Yemen has been in the grips of one of the worst epidemics of cholera seen in modern history: From April 27, 2017, to Oct. 31, 2018, 1.3 million suspected cases were reported, and as recently as October 2018 the WHO estimated about 10,000 new cases were added every week. Cholera is caused by a water-borne bacteria, meaning water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programming is essential to stopping its spread. But that means such projects can be effective extremely quickly. In fact:


Those figures were taken from the electronic disease early warning system (eDEWS), which showed that in the month of August 2017there were 15,020 suspected cases of cholera, 59 deaths and 958,668 people thought to be at risk. The plant became fully operational in September 2017, and by January 2018, these numbers had dropped to 164 cholera cases and zero deaths.

Explore inside the restored water plant in Yemen with this 360 VR video:

Al Barzakh is one of around 10 water treatment centers in Yemen, and it serves four different districts in Aden, in southern Yemen, as well as the Lahij and Abyan governorates. After conflict damage in 2015, however, it was only partly operating, meaning just a portion of the population was getting served and that the water wasn’t getting thoroughly cleaned. UNICEF undertook the plant’s restoration two years agowhile also analyzing the infrastructure needs of the region.

As Aref Ahmed Abdullah, the supervisor of chlorination at Al Barzakh, explains, his main task is to chlorinate and sterilize the water tanks daily. Previously tablets were added to the main water tanks — but it wasn’t enough to eradicate germs, so now they add chlorine, which eradicates all forms of cholera-forming bacteria.

Matteo Minasi, filmmaker for OCHA, the U.N.’s humanitarian agency, explains, “Cholera can spread from both water and food and even just very basic household practices like not washing a container properly.” That means education is key, and UNICEF’s $2 million program also involved going door to door to show people how they should wash their dishes. While Minasi says these efforts may have contributed to reducing the spread of water-borne disease, the new chlorination system killed 90 percent of the germs.

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The UNICEF team visits each home in Bani Harith, Sana’a, to check if there are people there affected by cholera, and to raise the awareness of cholera prevention techniques.


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The team also distributes cleaning and sterilization tools to the region’s population.


The project began in 2016 but encountered a number of difficulties and delays. The country is still in conflict, with Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-backed government with the help of coalition forces, recently the subject of a recent U.S. Senate vote overwhelmingly favoring the withdrawal of American support. Government bans on essential materials like adequately-sized water pipes or chlorine meant U.N. advocacy was required to get basic supplies, according to UNICEF’s Robert Kizito Ojok, a water and sanitation specialist in Aden. But now there are more hiccups: “The willingness of the population to pay their water bill is one [issue] that is dragging on,” Ojok says, so his team is working to establish what affordable tariffs the general public might be willing to pay to help sustain it. The WHO recorded cholera outbreaks in several other countries in 2018 — Zimbabwe, Cameroon and Somalia among them — and the plant’s success in Yemen underscores the importance of water maintenance in other affected regions.

Meanwhile, Ojok notes that internally displaced persons have been fleeing the north of Yemen for Aden, settling in the fields from which the plant extracts water. Their presence ups the risk of contaminating ground water, so the U.N. is working to advocate for an alternative space for them. Further next steps for the WASH program will depend on the next round of donor funding.

While peace talks to attempt to resolve conflict in Yemen have taken place in Sweden, water isn’t an issue that can wait. It’s increasingly used as a tool of war that can be used strategically to target the enemy, by poisoning or destroying infrastructure — as in Syria, where the government has been accused of war crimes for bombing the water supply of rebel-held Damascus in 2016. Aden is currently stable, but Al Barzakh is guarded by the Yemeni government’s military. Should it be targeted again, the entire region could be back to square one on fighting disease.

In collaboration with U.N. OCHA

  • Sophia Akram, OZY Author


Until recently, apps in the screen-time-shaving category were for the most part tricked-out egg timers that would block access to websites. It’s a hard-core solution for prying young eyes from their screens, but along with it comes the nagging, tech-withdrawal-fueled backlash of jilted children.

The cross-platform unGlue app goes beyond basic site blocking by introducing a barter system through which kids can earn screen time and budget it as they see fit. For example, a child can wash dishes or fold laundry in exchange for 15 minutes on their device. That earned time can then be divided into, say, five minutes on YouTube and 10 minutes watching their favorite live video game streamers. Or a kid can alternatively save all of their earned time and splurge on a Netflix binge.


“It’s not enough to give parents a button that turns off their kids’ internet,” says unGlue’s CEO and co-founder Alon Shwartz. “This may work for young kids, but a brute-force approach doesn’t work for preteens and teens. They simply know more about technology and will find a way out in 60 seconds or less.”

Setting up unGlue is straightforward and doesn’t require a computer engineering degree to figure out. Under the hood, the app connects to another mobile device through a virtual private network to monitor and control all of its internet activity. Initial setup takes about 10 minutes if you’re less than tech savvy, and about half as long if you already know your way around a gadget or two. UnGlue’s dashboard design is clean, informative and simple. It shows all of the important stuff like a kid’s internet usage along with quick options to add time and total shutdown of access to websites and services you’ve predetermined.

Communication between devices is solid, with instantaneous alerts. For example, if the child device’s battery runs out of juice, an immediate alert is sent to the parent device that it’s off the grid. That type of digital snitching is a pleasant surprise, especially for folks with slicker kids who may try to game the system. Still, it can take a few days for some kids to get used to it — in our house, it was a bit of a change from the usual impromptu street-market-style haggling sessions over precious YouTube toy review videos.

dashboard options


The dashboard gives you a snapshot of all of the important stuff in one place.

The free version of unGlue for iOS and Android allows for monitoring only. You’ll need a yearly ($84) or monthly ($9.99) subscription to unlock all of the app’s featureslike scheduling screen time and site blocking. While a basic snapshot of activity is cool, it’s worth the annual fee to get everything since there aren’t any features that would go to waste.

Shwartz says there will be updates, but he couldn’t go into detail. This isn’t to say that unGlue isn’t feature-rich enough as it stands; it will just be interesting to see how far team Shwartz is going to take it. “[UnGlue] also teaches kids the value of time,” he adds. “It creates a great win-win with their parents that will gladly give 15 more minutes for a clean room.”


Absorption Costing is the Enemy of Lean

ron palinkas lean manufacturing“Using absorption costing to monitor efficiency can lead companies to make poor production decisions,” says Ranjani Krishnan, professor of accounting at Michigan State. “A company that does this could seem to be growing less efficient when demand decreases. If a factory makes fewer cars this year than last year, for instance, its cost per car will look higher, and it may then overproduce in order to present itself more favorably to shareholders, consumers, and analysts.”

Not only can absorption costing lead to poor decisions, that is exactly what happened at Chrysler and General Motors in the months leading up to the recession in 2008. Professor Krishnan and his co-author Alexander Brüggen recently published their research paper on the causes of the demise of these two car companies. Their paper* shows that all the “big three” US automakers consistently overproduced their cars and created massive excess inventories in dealers lots across the country. The primary reason for this excess production was the need to absorb overhead costs delineated in their standard costing system. Everyone knew the demand for their automobiles was drifting down but they continued to push production through the factories owing to the pressure to absorb overheads. If you absorb overheads – even by making cars no one wants to buy – your company can show increased profits that are not really there. This is not fraudulent practice; it is a pernicious side-effect of standard costing.

I work with a lot companies in the area of accounting, measurement, and decision making processes within manufacturing, distribution, and the supply chain. All these companies are involved in a “lean journey or transformation” and have recognized the need for new approaches to accounting, control, and measurement. There is often some push-back when we suggest the elimination of standard costing and I cite (among other things) these over-production issues caused by overhead absorption. The operations people state firmly that they would never over-produce just to keep monthly profits high!! They are a sophisticated company. And yet, I see evidence of this in most companies we work with.

It is common to see production and output increase towards month-end. You often see the planners building up extra inventory and sales people offering generous incentives for customers to take more deliveries by month-end or quarter end. This is specially true when the inventory is (poorly) controlled by two-bin or max-min replenishment instead of pull systems or kanban.

IMHO overhead absorption is a very dangerous habit within manufacturing companies. It creates huge amounts of waste. The waste of over-production. The waste of inventory. This leads to large batches and long lead times.

But there is an underlying and more serious problem. This practice leads to the attention of the managers being focused on short-term profit and stock-price rather than value for the customer. According to Krishnan and Bruggen, in the case of Chrysler and GM, this was exacerbated by a bonus system that rewarded executives for achieving padded profits on the income statements. This contributed to both companies bankruptcy and “bail-out” by the hardworking US tax-payer.

Absorption costing viciously violates all five of the principles of lean thinking & practice. Art Byrne, in his new book “The Lean Turnaround”, asserts that “absorption accounting … twists behavior by making shop-floor managers more interested in hitting absorption goals than [in] making what the customers want.”

* Ranjani Krishnan and Alexander Brüggen and Karen Sedatole
Drivers and Consequences of Short-Term Production Decisions: Evidence from the Auto Industry
Contemporary Accounting Research
Volume 28, Issue 1, pages 83–123, Spring 2011

Posted in https://maskell.com/absorption

Research: To Be a Good Leader, Start By Being a Good Follower

There is no shortage of advice for those who aspire to be effective leaders. One piece of advice may be particularly enticing: if you want to be a successful leader, ensure that you are seen as a leader and not a follower. To do this, goes the usual advice, you should seek out opportunities to lead, adopt behaviors that people associate with leaders rather than followers (e.g., dominance and confidence), and — above all else — show your exceptionalism relative to your peers.

But there is a problem here. It is not just that there is limited evidence that leaders really are exceptional individuals. More importantly, it is that by seeking to demonstrate their specialness and exceptionalism, aspiring leaders may compromise their very ability to lead.  The simple reason for this is that, as Warren Bennis has observed, leaders are only ever as effective as their ability to engage followers. Without followership, leadership is nothing. As one of us (Haslam) observed in a 2011 book coauthored with Stephen Reicher and Michael Platow, The New Psychology of Leadership, this means that the key to success in leadership lies in the collective “we,” not the individual “I.”

In other words, leadership is a process that emerges from a relationship between leaders and followers who are bound together by their understanding that they are members of the same social group. People will be more effective leaders when their behaviors indicate that they are one of us, because they share our values, concerns and experiences, and are doing it for us, by looking to advance the interests of the group rather than own personal interests.  This perspective identifies a major flaw in the usual advice for aspiring leaders. Instead of seeking to stand out from their peers, they may be better served by ensuring that they are seen to be a good follower — as someone who is willing to work within the group and on its behalf. In short, leaders need to be seen as “one of us” (not “one of them”) and as “doing it for us” (not only for themselves or, worse, for “them”).

In a recent paper, we set out to test these ideas through a longitudinal analysis of emergent leadership among 218 male Royal Marines recruits who embarked on the elite training program after passing a series of tests of psychological aptitude and physical fitness. More specifically, we examined whether the capacity for recruits to be seen as displaying leadership by their peers was associated with their tendency to see themselves as natural leaders (with the skills and abilities to lead) or as followers (who were more concerned with getting things done than getting their own way).  For this purpose, we tracked recruits’ self-identification as leaders and followers across the course of a physically arduous 32-week infantry training that prepared them for warfare in a range of extreme environments. This culminated in the recruits and the commanders who oversaw their training casting votes for the award of the Commando Medal to the recruit who showed most leadership ability.  So who gets the votes?  Marines who set themselves up as leaders, or those who cast themselves as followers?

In line with the analysis that we present above, we found that recruits who considered themselves to be natural leaders were not able to convince their peers that this was the case. Instead, it was the recruits who saw themselves (and were seen by commanders) as followers who ultimately emerged as leaders. In other words, it seems that those who want to lead are well served by first endeavoring to follow.

Interestingly, though, alongside these results, we also found that recruits who saw themselves as natural leaders were seen by their commanders as having more leadership potential than recruits who saw themselves as followers. This suggests that what good leadership looks like is highly dependent on where evaluators are standing. Evaluators who are situated within the group, and able to personally experience the capacity of group members to influence one another, appear to recognize the leadership of those who see themselves as followers. In contrast, those who stand outside the group appear to be most attuned to a candidate’s correspondence to generic ideas of what a leader should look like.

This latter pattern tells us a lot about the dynamics of leadership selection and helps to explain why the people who are chosen as leaders by independent selection panels often fail to deliver when they are in the thick of the group that they actually need to lead.  It also has the potential to complicate the picture for aspiring leaders. The reason for this is that in organizations that eschew democratic processes in their selection of leaders, employees who are seen as leaders (by themselves and by those who have the power to raise them up) may be more likely to be appointed to leadership positions that those who see themselves as followers.However, as our Marines data suggest, this elevation of those who seek to distance themselves from their group may actually be a recipe for failure, not success. It encourages leaders to fall in love with their own image and to place themselves above and apart from followers. And that is the best way to get followers to fall out of love with the leader. Not only will this then undermine the leader’s capacity to lead but, more importantly, it will also stifle followers’ willingness to follow. And that can only ever be a path to organizational mediocrity.

Originally posted: http://www.hbr.org

Why Companies Are Creating Their Own Coworking Spaces

Nestled in the Silicon Sentier district of Paris, the Villa Bonne Nouvelle (“House of Good News”), or VBN, initially appears to be another new coworking space. But what sets it apart is that only half of its 60 occupants are freelancers. The remainder work for Orange (née French Telecom), which launched VBN in 2014 to teach its programmers and engineers how to work with and learn from people outside of the company. The experiment succeeded: Teams temporarily stationed there worked better and faster than colleagues elsewhere, and they reported greater satisfaction and engagement (along with bouts of depression upon returning to the office). Even the HR executives managing the space were surprised by their bonhomie. More villas are now in the works.

Orange describes its approach as “corpoworking,” a cousin to coworking. It’s not alone in trying to jump on the trend of shared workspaces, of which there are now around 19,000 worldwide. Dozens of companies, ranging from telcos (SprintAT&T), to tech giants (SAP, IBM), to automakers and insurance companies (MINI, State Farm) have launched similar experiments. The real revolution in coworking may have less to do with freelancers or startups than with employees of large companies working beyond the boundaries of their organizations.

A case in point is WeWork, the provider of coworking spaces, which has grown its enterprise customer base in the last year by 370%. As of June 2018, corporate occupiers make up roughly one-quarter of WeWork’s members and revenues. It’s also creating stand-alone locations for individual clients such as IBM, UBS, and Facebook. It’s typically assumed these companies are seeking a jolt of hipness. But our research and reporting show this isn’t the case. We’ve separately toured and interviewed principals in more than a dozen corporate coworking spaces in the U.S., South America, and Europe over the last three years. We’ve found that these companies and their employees are searching for the same qualities freelancers and entrepreneurs report from their experiences in shared workspaces — learning skills faster, making more connections, and feeling inspired and in control.

In addition to coworking spaces for individuals and those that partner with employers, we’ve identified two types of corporate coworking. One is what we call open houses, in which companies offer workspace as a public amenity, typically for brand-building. In Brooklyn, for example, MINI, where one of us works, runs A/D/O, a combination coworking space, café, concept store, and fabrication lab. Its mission isn’t to sell cars, but to attract and learn from local designers. The other type we call campsites — internal, invitation-only spaces where teams from one company co-locate with peers from another. Campsites are temporary, affording coworkers stationed there opportunities to learn, ignore org charts, and collaborate across corporate boundaries. Orange’s VBN is one example; another belongs to a large telco in Silicon Valley, where its teams huddle alongside those from customers to prototype products and services. Projects that would have taken months of calls are finished in weeks, demonstrating the importance of co-location in innovation. Some companies are aggressively testing both. SAP’s HanaHaus in downtown Palo Alto is an open house that charges walk-ins $3 per hour, or roughly the cost of their Blue Bottle coffee. (Notable visitors include Mark Zuckerberg.) A few miles away, at its Silicon Valley campus, is AppHaus, one of five such campsites worldwide, where SAP engineers work with local customers and startups to explore consumer software.

But what are the goals of these corporate coworking spaces? Who uses them? And what do they look like? Here’s what we’ve learned.

The purpose of these spaces can vary widely, but they typically fall into one or more of three groups: transformation, innovation, and future-proofing. In the case of transformation, the space is designed to be a Trojan horse, sneaking new ways of working into an otherwise staid organization. This is explicitly the goal at Orange’s VBN, which Ava Virgitti, an employee experience lead for Orange, describes as an “HR lab” to test and learn how teams behave in the presence of leaner and meaner startups.

Innovation is the goal at other campsites, where diverse stakeholders are assembled with specific tasks and equipped with special facilities and methodologies (say, design thinking) to achieve them. Future-proofing is more open-ended; these spaces are designed to generate new contacts or ideas, which seems to be the thinking behind HanaHaus.

For these reasons, users are typically quite diverse in rank, role, and affiliation, and are present for only a few months before rotating out or back into the company. This is a critical feature of campsites in particular — a revolving door means a constant stream of fresh insights and expertise. Orange’s VBN uses nine-month “seasons” to reset the space; others switch participants as necessary.

The role of community managers in fostering this culture can’t be overstated. Traditionally nonexistent in corporate America, they typically help select, vet, onboard, and connect new users with existing ones while organizing the space, arbitrating conflicts, and hosting events. User satisfaction surveys consistently rank them as the favorite aspect of corporate coworking.The other important aspect in creating these spaces is their physical design. Like the culture, which the design complements and enhances, the layout and amenities of these spaces are a far cry from cubicles. Nothing is stationary — whiteboards, movable walls, and flexible furniture are common. Amenities and kitchens are strategically positioned to “engineer serendipity” and conversations across organizations. And writing on the walls or floors is encouraged, as making a mess is considered a precursor to innovation.

Now, do these spaces work in promoting innovation? This seems to be the case, although, as with coworking in general, their effectiveness is difficult to measure and only quantifiable indirectly, through user satisfaction surveys and interviews. A few companies we spoke with also offered examples. Orange’s VBN reported a 92% user approval rating of the space, and pointed to the long waitlist for future seasons. At Grid70, one tenant reported a 30%–40% reduction in product development time after a redesign of their workspace. According to researchers at the University of Michigan, the most common reasons people seek coworking spaces are interaction with people (84%), random discoveries and opportunities (82%), and knowledge sharing (77%). Corporate coworkers seek the same.

As one might imagine, demonstrating the ROI of this is difficult — most don’t even try. Some eschew metrics altogether, gambling they will learn as they go when it comes to measuring what’s important. Many prefer the soft metrics, such as satisfaction and engagement mentioned above, and still others defer measurement into the future, minimizing expenses while awaiting a business case to emerge.

For this reason (and others), strong executive sponsors are crucial for corporate coworking. HanaHaus was instigated as the personal urging of SAP cofounder Hasso Plattner; Grid70 was conceived by a cluster of local CEOs. Orange’s VBN has the firm backing of senior HR executives, and so on. With the metrics so hazy, the decision as to whether these spaces are worth it is being made on a case-by-case basis.

Just as coworking was seen as a fringe phenomenon less than a decade ago, its corporate variant risks being perceived as a vanity project. But in light of the trends animating creative work today — increasingly flexible arrangements, cross-firm collaboration, and employees’ thirst for agency and authentic connections — these spaces hint at a future far beyond WeWork.

We’ve identified a few principles to keep in mind if your company is interested in exploring corporate coworking.

Be clear about your goals at the outset. Is it a Trojan horse for corporate culture, a cross-firm skunkworks, or a public branding exercise and serendipity engine? This decision will drive every facet of the project going forward, including participants, design, sponsorship, and ROI.

Community managers are the key to success. Hire carefully at the outset, involve them at every step of the design and recruitment process, and give them broad latitude in shaping the culture and programming of the space. Your project will likely fail without a strong community manager, and learning how their role could scale elsewhere in the organization is an incredible opportunity.

Don’t overthink the design. Focus less on foosball or Ping-Pong tables, and more on good overall layout principles. Co-locate teams in adjoining spaces for easy conversations; centralize amenities such as kitchens to increase serendipitous encounters (yes, even the unplanned can be planned for!). Empower users to make the space their own, and cut through red tape during construction — no one wants to spend nine months in just another project team room.


Originally posted at: https://hbr.org

Teams and Team Building

Many companies, when they decide to invest in team building, decide to do offsite events like bowling nights or ropes courses. Sometimes these events get really elaborate. One sales and marketing executive I know told me how he was flown to London with 20 of his colleagues, put up in a pricey hotel, and then trained to do the haka, a traditional war dance, by a group of Maori tribe members from New Zealand. This exercise was supposed to build relationships and bolster team spirit, and, by extension, improve collaboration. Instead, it fostered embarrassment and cynicism. Months later, the failing division was sold off.

Mars was not immune to the conventional wisdom. Before making the commitment to study collaboration intensively, we also did things like this. Once, we spent thousands of dollars to hire an orchestra to spend an hour with a group of senior leaders at an offsite retreat and help them work together in harmony. It was a nice metaphor and an interesting experience. It did nothing, though, to change how that group of leaders worked together.

Events like these may get people to feel closer for a little while; shared emotions can bond people. Those bonds, though, do not hold up under the day-to-day pressures of an organization focused on delivering results.

In 2011 senior HR leaders at Mars decided that we would study our global workforce and try to crack the code of how to maximize team effectiveness. The resulting research, which I led, revealed that most of what we — and others — thought about team building was wrong. Most important, we learned that quality collaboration does not begin with relationships and trust; it starts with a focus on individual motivation.

Our research drew on data from 125 teams. It included questionnaires and interviews with hundreds of team members. We asked, among other things, how clear people were about the teams’ priorities, what their own and others’ objectives were, and what they felt most confident about and most worried about. If there was one dominant theme from the interviews, it is summarized in this remarkable sentiment: “I really like and value my teammates. And I know we should collaborate more. We just don’t.”

The questionnaires revealed that team members felt the most clarity about their individual objectives, and felt a strong sense of ownership for the work they were accountable for. To further investigate, we turned to another source and analyzed several years of data from Mars’s 360-degree leadership surveys. The two top strengths identified in those surveys were “action orientation” and “results focus.” The picture was getting clearer: Mars was full of people who loved to get busy on tasks and responsibilities that had their names next to them. It was work they could do exceedingly well, producing results without collaborating. On top of that, they were being affirmed for those results by their bosses and the performance rating system.

It occurred to us that their failure to collaborate was, ironically, a function of their excelling at the jobs they were hired to do and of management reinforcing that excellence. Collaboration, on the other hand, was an idealized but vague goal with no concrete terms or rules. What’s more, collaboration was perceived as messy. It diluted accountability and offered few tangible rewards.

Based on that insight, we developed a framework to make collaboration clear, specific, and compelling — to make collaboration something to be achieved. At the core of this framework are two questions to pose to any team. The first: Why is their collaboration essential to achieving their business results? And second: What work, which specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver those results?

We had a chance to test our framework in early 2012 with the Mars Petcare China leadership team. Over two days we posed our questions and hashed out specifics. We spent the entire first day wrestling with the answers to our two questions. Initial reactions were bemusement and frustration: What did I mean by “essential to business results”? We restated the question as: Why is your working together, as a team, more valuable than just the sum of your individual efforts? That got the conversation going, and we spent three hours discussing and debating what we called their “team purpose.” They finally agreed that their purpose would center on people development and deployment of their new strategy throughout the business.

The second question, the one about which specific pieces of work required collaboration, was more contentious. One leader in particular felt that he needed to be left alone, that none of the work he was responsible for should include any of his peers. The debate became heated, but eventually his peers won him over. Eventually we were able to sort our list of projects into those that could be handled by individuals and those that really would be improved by collaboration.

Our second day focused on accountability. They agreed to build their collaborative commitments into their individual performance objectives. Then they cocreated a list of the behaviors they expected of each other in support of those commitments and agreed on how they would hold themselves accountable for them. (At one point we compared and discussed their Myers-Briggs types. That discussion about relationships lasted 15 minutes before they urged me to take them back to discussions about how they were going to work together. I thought that was remarkably telling.) We ended by creating a plan for how they would sustain the progress we had made during our two days together.

I spoke with the general manager of Mars Petcare China a few times over the next year. During our final conversation I learned that their growth had rocketed up 33% — a stunning achievement. Their primary dog food brand alone was up 60%. It was the first time in eight years that they had met their financial commitments to the larger corporation. How much did our work together contribute to those outcomes? “Massively,” the general manager told me. Their team purpose had focused their collaboration on the things that mattered most to the results they planned for. The sense of accountability for their work together, based on the agreements they forged, made their working relationships far more productive than they had been.

At Mars, we learned that to get people to work together, we had to let them figure out how that would actually improve results.

We officially deployed our fully developed and tested framework later in 2012, embedding it in a single management development program. Within two years, the Mars High Performance Collaboration Framework had gone viral throughout the company.

Strong relationships and trust do matter to collaboration, but they are not the starting point. They are the outcomes of dedicated people striving together. Connecting collaboration to the motives of success-minded team members is what unlocks productive teamwork.


Posted from: http://www.hbr.org

What Transformational Leaders Do

Companies that claim to be “transforming” seem to be everywhere. But when you look more deeply into whether those organizations are truly redefining what they are and what they do, stories of successful change efforts are exceptionally rare. In a study of S&P 500 and Global 500 firms, our team found that those leading the most successful transformations, creating new offerings and business models to push into new growth markets, share common characteristics and strategies. Before describing those, let’s look at how we identified the exceptional firms that rose to the top of our ranking, a group we call the Transformation 10.

Whereas most business lists analyze companies by traditional metrics such as revenue or by subjective assessments such as “innovativeness,” our ranking evaluates the ability of leaders to strategically reposition the firm. Some companies that made the list were obvious choices; for example, the biggest online retailer now gets most of its profit from cloud services (Amazon). But others were surprising, given their states before embarking on transformation. The list includes a health care company that was once near bankruptcy (DaVita), a software firm whose stock price stagnated for a decade (Microsoft), a travel website that faced overwhelming competition (Priceline), a food giant that seemed to lose its focus (Danone), and a steel company that faced new pressure from lower-cost rivals (ThyssenKrupp).

The team began by identifying 57 companies that have made substantial progress toward transformation. We then narrowed the list to 18 finalists using three sets of metrics:

New growth. How successful has the company been at creating new products, services, and business models? This was gauged by assessing the percent of revenue outside the core that can be attributed to new growth.

Core repositioning. How effectively has the company adapted its legacy business to change and disruption, giving it new life?

Financial performance. How have the firm’s growth, profits, and stock performance compared to a relevant benchmark (NASDAQ for a tech company, for example, or DAX Index for a German firm) during the transformation period?

We recruited a panel of expert judges (see the list below), who evaluated the companies through the lens of their own expertise and gauged which transformations were most durable and had the highest impact in their industries. (For more on our methods, see the sidebars below.) With these criteria in mind, our final list is as follows:

Our analysis revealed characteristics shared by the winning firm’s leaders as well as common strategies they employed.

Transformational CEOs Tend to be “Insider Outsiders”

The list is topped by companies headed by visionary founders with no prior experience in their industries; Jeff Bezos came from the world of finance, and Reed Hastings from software. As it turned out, having no predetermined way of doing things turned out to be an asset when it came to reinventing retailing and television, and these leaders kept that outsider’s perspective even through waves of growth.

We see an interesting pattern across the professionally managed companies, those whose CEOs were hired by the board. These CEOs are what we call “insider outsiders.” Make no mistake, they have substantial relevant experience. They had 14 years of tenure on average before getting the top job. That knowledge helped them understand how to make change happen inside an organization. Yet these executives also had an outsider role where they worked on an emerging growth business or consciously explored external opportunities, giving them critical distance from the core. After becoming CEO, that insider-outsider perspective helped them explore new paths to growth without being constrained by yesterday’s success formula.

Satya Nadella, for instance, joined Microsoft in 1992 and worked his way up to running its cloud computing effort, building that business unit into a viable new growth platform before becoming CEO, in 2014. He got the top job because of that, and then as CEO he accelerated cloud-business development to make it the company’s primary strategy.

The same was true of Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen. He joined the creativity applications vendor in 1997, and got the CEO job a decade later largely because he was able to articulate a vision for pursuing digital marketing services as the new growth path.

At Priceline, Glenn Fogel joined in 2000 and became head of strategy. Long before becoming CEO, in 2016, he was searching for new growth in the hypercompetitive travel reservations market, coming across a pair of small European startups with a business model opposite to Priceline’s in two key ways: Instead of taking an up-front 25% commission on a hotel reservation, the startups charged only 15% after check-out. Instead of focusing on major hotel brands, they pursued the long tail, engaging with more than 1 million inns, B&Bs, and apartment buildings in 200 countries. The result was the Booking.com platform. What started with a $200 million investment a decade ago now accounts for most of Priceline’s new growth as well as its rise past $80 billion in market valuation.

And at Danone, Emmanuel Faber, an insider for 17 years, won the CEO job, in 2014, because he was one of the architects of the firm’s 2020 vision to transform from a food and beverage conglomerate into a family health and medical nutrition company that emphasized sustainable agriculture. That vision prompted Danone to divest product lines such as biscuits and beer while broadening its core dairy franchise. For new growth, in 2007 Faber helped form a new business unit called Nutricia, anchored off a $17 billion acquisition, to pursue baby foods, protein bars, and health shakes. Today this unit accounts for 29% of revenue.

They Strategically Pursue Two Separate Journeys

Many firms that have tried to transform have failed. A common reason why is that leaders approach the change as one monolithic process, during which the old company becomes a new one. That doesn’t work for a host of practical reasons. An organization that grew up producing newspapers, for instance, not only lacks key skills to build a digital content company but also might actively resist embracing the new in order to protect the business it knows and loves.

Success requires repositioning the core business while actively investing in the new growth business.

Apple serves as the classic model of such “dual transformation.” With the iMac and iBook, Steve Jobs reinvigorated the core Macintosh franchise by injecting a new sense of design and rethinking what computers would be used for in the age of the internet. On a separate track, he launched the device and content ecosystem, starting with iPod and iTunes, that would become the company’s new growth engine.

It’s a strategy that has also worked for others on the list. While Amazon has expanded its core retailing platform into new categories, such as food and streaming content, in parallel it has built the world’s largest cloud computing enterprise. Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy has been with the effort since it began as an internal challenge to scale IT infrastructure. Established as a separate division in 2006, AWS ultimately addressed a long-standing analyst complaint about Amazon — that its core was only barely profitable. Today AWS accounts for just 10% of Amazon’s $150 billion in revenue, but generates close to $1 billion in quarterly operating profit.

German steel maker ThyssenKrupp, facing pricing pressure from Asian competitors, likewise embraced a dual transformation strategy. In 2011 the board selected as the new CEO one of its own members, Heinrich Hiesinger, a Siemens executive with experience supplying technology to many industries. From day one, Hiesinger began executing a plan for repositioning the declining core of steel manufacturing by divesting less profitable product lines, focusing on higher-margin custom manufacturing, and even opening 3D printing centers to fashion components such as parts for wind turbines. For new growth areas that now make up 47% of sales, it moved into industrial solutions and digital services, creating systems such as internet-connected elevators.

They Use Culture Change to Drive Engagement

Microsoft is a case in point. In the four years since Satya Nadella came on as CEO, he has been credited with transforming Microsoft’s cautious, insular culture. In the old world, large teams would work for years on the next major version of a franchise program like Windows and Word, leading to a risk-averse environment. In the new world of “infrastructure on demand,” dozens of new features and improvements would need to be introduced per month — and no one would fully know ahead of time what they might be. This required a culture of risk taking and exploration.

In this way, Nadella was unlike his predecessors, in that he built his reputation as a hands-on engineer, not as a visionary like Bill Gates or a Type-A salesman like Steve Ballmer. Instead, Nadella was known for listening, learning, and analyzing. His idea of how to engage and motivate employees wasn’t by making a speech but rather by leading a company-wide hackathon, and empowering employees to work on projects they were passionate about. This new level of employee engagement has helped drive Microsoft’s expansion into cloud services and artificial intelligence, areas that now account for 32% of revenue.

He chose the name DaVita, Italian for “giving life,” and settled on a list of core values that included service excellence, teamwork, accountability, and fun. As any manager knows, a generic-sounding list of values won’t move the culture needle unless leadership brings it to life. To that end, Thiry and senior managers performed skits in costumes — for instance dressing as the Three Musketeers and leading call-and-response chants of “All for one, one for all.” To honor employee heroism, he became the emcee of awards banquets that had all the music, stagecraft, and emotional speeches of the Oscars, and he celebrated “village victories” around milestones like achieving a five-star quality rating for dialysis delivery from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The success in turning around DaVita’s core business caught the attention of Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway became DaVita’s largest shareholder. But it was DaVita’s move into new growth areas that earned it a spot on our list. Starting with an acquisition of 50 physician offices, DaVita worked to build an “integrated delivery network” that contracts for the full spectrum of care, using the value-based care model of being paid to keep patients healthy rather than accepting fee-for-service — resulting in new growth that now represents 30% of revenue.

They Communicate Powerful Narratives About the Future

To change the culture and move into new growth areas, the CEO needs to become “the storyteller in chief,” says Aetna’s Mark Bertolini. That means telling different aspects of the same transformation narrative to all the constituencies and stakeholders in the company.

“The CEO’s responsibility is to create a stark reality of what the future holds,” says Bertolini, “and then to build the plans for the organization to meet those realities.”

In Aetna’s case, this meant building a narrative of how the move away from fee-for-service reimbursement to the new business model of value-based care would change the nature of health insurance, and one day possibly render it obsolete. Instead of simply reinforcing the story about strengthening Aetna’s current businesss, Bertolini developed a narrative about building new skills to help consumers make better health choices — and about building a new organization that can make money doing so.

Telling that kind of story about the future is not a one-time event. “It’s easy to underestimate the amount of communication that is needed,” he adds. “You have to be tireless about it, consistent and persistent, and keep battering the core messages home week after week. Your leaders have to as well, and they have to tailor the message so it has the appropriate level of fidelity relevant to each part of the organization. A person working in a call center might need a different set of messages than a line manager does to understand how he docks into the big picture.”

They Develop a Road Map Before Disruption Takes Hold

Because dual transformations typically take years, we used a 10-year time frame in our analysis. Indeed, transformations often can’t be completed during the average tenure of a CEO. These long time horizons mean that there’s no time to waste in getting started. Many of the most notable disrupted companies — from Blockbuster, to Borders, to Blackberry, to Kodak — ran into their deepest troubles a decade or more aftersome of the first warning signs appeared. None of their leaders developed effective transformation plans in time to halt the decline.

At the other end of the spectrum is Reed Hastings of Netflix. Even as the original DVD-by-mail business grew quickly to dominate the industry, Hastings believed that a new wave of disruption could be rolling in. “My greatest fear at Netflix,” he says, “has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming.”

That’s why he laid the groundwork for a transformation as far back as 2007, when he started negotiating deals with Hollywood to test online streaming of movies and TV shows. Famously, Hastings moved too quickly to spin off the core and focus only on streaming, when Netflix announced plans in 2011 to create a stand-alone mail-based DVD company called Qwikster. This prompted a backlash from angry customers — and triggered a humbling apology from Hastings.

But the mistake he made was preferable to waiting too long. He reformulated his plan, this time to extend the life of the core DVD business while aggressively rolling out the new streaming service in parallel. It proved to be such a winning strategy that it funded a big move into original content. Now, with membership of 100 million homes in 190 countries, Netflix is the leader of a reconfigured movie and television landscape that it helped shape.

As all these cases show, transformation is not just about changing an enterprise’s cost structure or turning analog processes into digital ones. Rather, it’s about pursuing a multiphase strategy to reposition today’s business while finding new ways to grow. That’s why we believe the companies that made the Transformation 10 list deserve to be seen as models to help other leaders create the future.


Originally posted at: http://harvardbusinessreview.org