My career was shaped by the collapse of ENRON in 2001. For those that do not remember ENRON was the largest bankruptcy ever losing $74b with the primary cause being a massive fraudulent accounting scheme that was not reported by the auditors. With the collapse of ENRON came the downfall of Arthur Andersen LLP, after admitting that its employees had destroyed company documents. Then the regulators and others got involved and set guidelines on how much advisory work the audit partnership could do for a company that they performed the financial audit. This created significant strategic challenges to the “Big 5” (PwC, Ernest & Young, KPMG, Arthur Andersen and Deloitte) regarding the conflicts between audit and consultancy services. And in 2002 Deloitte & Touche became the last of the “Big 5” to announce they were going to break consultancy from audit. In less than 12 months the ENRON scandal had caused all of the Big 5 to rethink their strategy of management consultancy.
I was a partner in PwC Consulting, and we announced in January 2002 that we would spin off the consulting arm. We were going to IPO, but there was the market crash of 2002 and making it high risk to do an IPO. In October 2002 IBM announced they were buying the 30,000 PwC partners and staff for $3.5b. Consulting no longer was part of PwC.
OK, so what happened? Each of the Big 5 split off their consulting business and are now the Big 4 (Accenture is a listed company and does not do audits, and Arthur Anderson no longer exists) Now, more than 15 years later, all of the Big 4 has rebuilt their consulting businesses. For example, PwC in 2016/17 had revenues of $37.7b of which only $17b (circa 45%) were from the audit. And not to pick on PwC, a second example is EY which had global revenues of $31.1b of which $12b (circa 38%) were from audit. The Big 4 depends on the non-audit portions of their business for growth, both organic and inorganic. And the acquisitions are mostly in the non-audit parts of the business such as the acquisition of Booz & Co by PwC and the Towers Watson acquisition by KPMG to name a few.
And like everything in life, there are cycles, and I am sensing another significant transformation in management consultancy due to both new regulations but also new technologies and other business disrupters. First, let’s look at the potential for new regulations. In a recent Economist article, they discussed the reaction to the “Big 4” due to the collapse of Carillion, a British contracting firm. A report on the failure, overseen by British MPs, released in May, savaged everyone from the firm’s executives to its regulators. But the MPs reserved special bile for the Big Four accounting firms—not just KPMG, which audited Carillion’s accounts for 19 years, but also its peers, Deloitte, EY and PwC, each of which extracted fees from the company, before and after its fall. The MPs have called for a review of the audit market and asked it to say whether the Big Four’s British arms should be broken up. The row is local, but concerns about the industry are global.
And it is not just the collapse of Carillion, a series of accounting scandals have occurred and there is a call for the Big 4 (at least in the UK) to spin off their audit practices. The EU is investigating the audit industry and how to help ensure that fraud and the subsequent costs of collapse are reduced. In addition to removing perceived conflicts of interest, the European legislation would, among other things, require auditing firms to work with a client for a maximum of six years, after which time they would only be able to work for the same client after a four-year “cooling off” period. Most crucially, auditing firms would be unable to provide non-audit services to clients whom they were auditing. (from Big4 Blogger). The last point is deja vu with what happened in 2002.
And it is not just Europe. KPMG has been fined over $6m for accounting failures with respect to reporting the value of an oil and gas company, PwC for failure to notice a $2b fraud by a bank and Deloitte & Touche agreed to pay $149.5m to settle claims arising from its audits of failed mortgage lender Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. With the size of failures, the cost to taxpayers and the fines involved it does not take too much imagination to see that governments and regulators may step in again to provide a strategic “push” to the Big 4.
The second force that can disrupt the management consulting industry is technology and business change. CB Insights published a very insightful article on the factors that can disrupt the industry. They broke down management consulting into four areas and for each what could cause major disruption.
The four functions CB Insight divided management consultancy into are: -
Different forces could disrupt each of these functions.
First Information, being challenged by self-serve analytics from a variety of start-ups that are producing information sliced and diced for a company’s use. No longer do you need a management consultant to find you the information you need to make a business decision.
Second Expertise, you can now find expertise on YouTube videos, through MOOC (massive online learning course) or “pay as you go” knowledge on a wide variety of topics.
Next Insight, small boutique groups are being engaged to provide much-focused insight that companies internal teams can use to help facilitate a recommendation, especially with it comes to targeted acquisitions.
And finally Execution, with the army of gig works and other experts who no longer want to work for McKinsey or PwC and hire out to help companies execute their chosen strategy.
Whether it is regulators, governments, technology or a team of gig workers, it feels that we are on the cusp of transformation for management consultancy. And who is going to consult the consultants?
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
The Disruption or Demise of Management Consulting?
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was very tired of getting emails that asked me either to read the new privacy policies OR to click a button to “opt-in” so that I could continue to receive material from an organisation post the 25th of May. And there are websites that I now no longer can get into as I guess the organisation has deemed that sorting out GDPR rules was too challenging so they just blocked non-USA (in the case of the company that has blocked their website) customer access.
Now that we are past the date when all organisations that have GDPR obligations should be compliant the legal challenges have started. First, as you would suspect, Google, Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram have been targeted. European consumer rights organisation Noyb argues that the companies have forced users into agreeing to new terms of service, in breach of the requirement in the law that such consent should be freely given. They argue that your only choice was to delete the account or hit the agree button – that’s not a free choice.
While GDPR may not be perfect and some individuals and organisations believe that should have the right to keep their Facebook account and have all the benefits of GDPR in whatever configuration they want the legislation is significantly better in respect to protecting personal data than in most other parts of the world. Noyb’s main argument is about money. The issue at stake is whether the processing of data for targeted advertising can be argued to be necessary for the fulfilment of a contract to provide services such as social networking or instant messaging. Noyb is arguing that organisations like Facebook should seek separate consent to use your data to target advertisements.
While I have sympathy with the argument, I am also a commercial person. Why should Facebook or anyone else maintain a social platform with a limited ability to make money? And the very smart algorithms and analytics in platforms like Facebook are not giving your private data away – they are using it to market and sell to you a product that they think you would be interested in based on your behaviour, profile and website usage.
Different organisations have taken different approaches to meet the GDPR requirements. These range from: -
- Forcing you to re-opt into a newsletter or other service
- Blocking people from the EU altogether from a site – I got this message “you are not in a location that can access this site.”
- The US media network NPR to users that they could either agree to the new terms, or decline and be taken to a plain-text version of the site, looking for all the world like it had last been updated in 1996.
It almost felt like we were in the year 2000 transition process on Friday – in fact, it feels to me like more things stopped working globally due to GDPR than the year 2000 technology challenge. (NOTE – for those too young to remember – the year 2000 issues was many older systems were not written with four-digit year formats and so when it went from 1999 to 2000 the year coding would cause many problems and had to be changed in many different applications creating work for lots of COBOL programmers).
Whichever techniques your company opted to use there is a need to have a “post 25th of May” process to make sure that all of the future changes you make to technologies and processes continue to conform to GDPR.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
References used: -
GDPR Post the 25th of May
I had the opportunity to attend several seminars with some very inspiring women speakers ranging from Senator Penny Wong to Hillary Clinton (no bio needed) to Nicole Seebacher the 20117 NSW Young Women of the Year, and many more. While the agendas were different and the audience varied the themes were the same. How far women have come and how far there still is to go concerning “making it to the C-Suite” and being treated equally to men. The events had some great takeaways which I thought I would share. First Senator Wong’s top advice: -
Value differences – decision making does not improve if everyone in the room is the same and parts of the population are excluded, from women to those with disabilities to different cultures and backgrounds.
Support and champion other women – women need to support each other and proactively use our experiences to help other women succeed and achieve.
Value your skills, expertise and experience – women do not put themselves forward or raise their hand to say “I can do that” we need to recognise the skills and expertise we have and take a risk to take on new challenges and responsibilities.
Institutional and structural barriers – the behaviour and attitude of men (and women) concerning women still is an issue. If a woman shows emotion, she lacks mental toughness. You only have to read the media regarding the latest challenges with the AMP chairperson who happened to be female. The comparisons and articles in the press regarding her makeup, clothes, shoes and children would never happen if the chairperson had been male. Structural barriers remain concerning child care and taking time out of the workplace.
Fairness – treating everyone equally and fairly from pay to equal benefits.
Stay the course – we have to keep pushing the issue and making the changes as history has shown the equality does not come easily.
The challenge for women to get to the C-Suite (or the head of a hospital surgery or a senior member of the government, or a non-executive on a board) is still real. In Australia, one person in five believes that children suffer if their mother goes to work, that is 20% of the population. There are 176 women on the ASX200 boards, less now that all three women on the AMP board have resigned. There are ASX200 boards that have zero women.
The event also included a panel discussion on the topic of “who did your job 50 years ago?” Participating in the panel were Nicole (referenced above) Hon Susan Ryan AO; AICD Chairman Elizabeth Proust AO; and Lee de Winton, CEO Sydney Metro Airports and former RAAF Commanding Officer. Each member of the panel answered the same; a man was doing their job 50 years ago. And what was more striking was the treatment of professional women less than 30 years ago. If you were in government (in the case of Susan) or the military (as Lee was) the rules were if you got married or got pregnant you quit. Amazing stories both of then and now regarding the treatment of women. For me, the more revealing on the lack of change was Nicole’s story regarding how hard it was for a woman to become a surgeon. In 2015 less than 10% of surgical fellows were women.
Hillary Clinton gave similar messages when she presented at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, followed by an interview with Julia Gillard the 27th Prime Minister of Australia. Ms Clinton’s comments echoed Senator Wong’s: -
- Everyone gets knocked down in life – you have to get up and move onward
- The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics
- The more professionally successful women are, the less they are liked
- There is no such thing as an “alternative fact”.
The stories she told about her life from Yale Law School, to First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State and being the first women to be nominated by a major party in America to run for President of the United States were amazing. The stories show a journey of challenges, firsts, successes and misses. She spoke without a single “um” for over 30 minutes on her life as a law student, a lawyer fighting for children's rights, first women partner in her law firm, moving to Arkansas to marry Bill Clinton and the rest is history. Many first but never any regrets.
There were three quotes from the events that I loved: -
Article and Picture by Mary Sue Rogers
I get a lot of newsletters and I am pretty good at sifting and sorting through them to find the ones that add value versus take up space in my inbox and are boring, badly written or ramble and not get to the point of why I should read the article.
This email (which only comes as a mail and not on a website, therefore, I could not put it with my "what am I reading" section) meets all the criteria for a good email.
Effective leadership is one of the single most important drivers behind the performance. Successful companies employ skilled leaders in every key position. CEOs know this and are in constant search of people who embody great leadership qualities and character.
But just what are the qualities of a good leader? What characteristics do CEOs look for in their leaders? Many studies have been done to decode the nature of leadership, and in these studies, several recurrent findings emerge. Here are the top five leadership characteristics CEOs value most highly.
1. Effective Problem Solving
Leaders are constantly faced with the challenge of making decisions and solving problems. Good leaders can ask the right questions, compile information, process options, and apply analytical rigour to address the problems they face. Demonstrating your ability to make sound decisions, while working under pressure, will speak volumes in the eyes of a CEO.
2. Results Driven
Good leaders develop a vision. Great leaders, on the other hand, take this vision, bring it to life, and follow through on it - leading to real results and outcomes. It's one thing to be visionary, it's another thing to turn vision into results. Staying focused on outcomes, taking time to engage in priority setting, and getting to the roots of efficiency are all qualities of a leader that CEOs look for.
3. Supportive of Others
In the eyes of a CEO, an exemplary leader is one who is supports and cares about others. While this may seem simple, it is critical to the success of a company. A supportive leader will ensure that staff is engaged, happy, productive, and focused on achieving good results rather than preoccupied with worries, fears, or negative emotions.
4. Encourages a variety of perspectives
If you can put aside your ego and genuinely listen to the perspectives and opinions of others, chances are you embody great leadership qualities. While leaders have to weed out the good ideas from bad, and ultimately make the final call, this decision-making process should include an honest assessment of a variety of paths and options. You never know who will come up with the next revolutionary idea.
5. Champions Change
Finally, you've no doubt heard the expression 'walk the talk'. This is critical for a good leader. To make an impression on a CEO, you need to genuinely believe in your work and carry the vision with you everywhere you go. It's fine to disagree and present divergent opinions, but unless you are truly excited about your company, chances are you're not the right fit for its next leader.
A skilled CEO always has their eyes and ears open when it comes to seeking out leaders. If you embody these five characteristics of a great leader, chances are you'll be noticed.
Leadership Characteristics that CEOs are Looking For
The Cyber threat is alive and well for those not paying attention
Over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to attend and speak at several academic and executive leadership events. The one agenda item that all of them had in common was cyber security. And while I would consider myself pretty aware of the impact on business as a result of a cyber attack, some of the case studies and statistics provided were very scary. Here are a few that came out during the events I attended.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Risk Report – Every year the AICD (Australian Institute of Company Directors) holds a session around this report with the target audience being primarily senior executives and board members of Australian companies. As part of the WEF report, there is a section on the top five global risks ranked by impact and the likelihood of happening. This year cyber attack was listed as number three, just below extreme weather events and natural disasters. And putting aside individual beliefs on climate change, the first two risks are tough for a business to do anything about while cyber attacks are 100% manmade and therefore we have the power to create the right risk mitigation strategies. The WEF estimates that cyber attacks will cost between $1.5T to $4T US dollars for the world in 2018. That is around $500 per person for everyone in the whole world. And considering there are large parts of the world where $2 a day is an average wage we are talking about serious money that could be put to much better use.
Types of hackers – Mikko Niemela president of Silverskin Security presented to a group of INSEAD alumni, and his talk had several interesting points. First was the type of hackers. He called out four: -
- Hacktivist – an individual or a group that are against something and make an opportunistic attack against a company, individual or network to raise awareness of their cause. Denial of Service Attacks (DNS) is one of their favourite tools.
- Organised Crime – no real explanation needed. They are looking for money, credit cards, crypto miners.
- Cyber Terrorist – their target is governments and political entities, and they usually don’t care if they get caught.
- Nation States – basically one country spying on another trying to get secrets, IP or other assets that would allow their nation to be better.
Most businesses focus on building out risk mitigation plans around the first two types of hackers, but some organisations need to think broader. Mikko shared a story about an airline based in a part of the world where most customers don’t have a credit card. To facilitate the online booking, they offer a “book now and then go to your local X location and pay in the next 48 hours to confirm your seat” strategy. This airline was hacked by someone who appeared to be hired by a competitor, and who managed to make it look like all flights were always 100% sold out, causing the organisations to lose millions in revenue. Because they picked only a few selected routes and flights to hack, it took a while to figure out what was happening. Did the online booking system have a bug or was something else causing the problems? Unfortunately, it was something else: a hacker.
"You could hire a hacker for about $5k and they could typically generate $50k to $1.0m of ransom money."
The other interesting statement made in this presentation was, “It’s not hacking if someone uses your password to get into something when your password was leaked”. This made me want to get the companies whose boards I sit on to read the fine print on any cyber security insurance we might have. When is a hack a hack?
ROI for Hackers. The most frightening statistic that I heard at one of the events was the ROI for a hacker. The data point used was that you could hire a hacker for about $5k and they could typically generate $50k to $1.0m of ransom money. Now, this is illegal so no-one should get excited about a shortcut to paying off their mortgage! But you can see, with this kind of return, why people are attracted to giving it a go. And the role of the leaders and the boards of companies is to ensure that their organisation is not an easy target. If you are too hard to attack a would-be hacker will go to the next company, just like someone burgling your neighbourhood. You don’t have to be 100% secure; you just need to be better than the other guy. Hackers have “productivity targets” they want to achieve.
"Some areas of the business that have more influence than others. The obvious one is IT, but HR plays a critical role."
While it is crucial that everyone in the leadership team is focused on potential areas of cyber attacks, there are some areas of the business that have more influence than others. The obvious one is IT, but HR plays a critical role in ensuring that the onboarding and exiting of employees are done in a manner that protects company data and educates the new joiner on what they need to do to help secure the company’s assets. If you are working in a shared services environment, it is even more critical that all service centre employees fully understand the risks and actions they need to take to protect against cyber attacks of all types.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where some smart people are exploiting security holes that exist in all companies. Similar to your house, when you leave a window open and it makes it easier for a burglar to get in, we all have a role to play to ensure that every day our data, systems and networks have all the “windows” closed and no one accidentally leaves the keys in the door.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
Cyber Security â€“ the New â€˜Top Riskâ€™ for your Shared Services?
Any organisation that has 250 or more employees were required to file the UK government pay gap report. With more than 10,000 firms publishing data and over 1,000 firms reporting on the last day, the results are in. More than three-quarters of UK companies pay men more on average than women, with a median pay gap among those companies was 9.7%. The BBC published the four things we have learned
- The UK has a national median pay gap of 18.4%
- The size of the gap varies between sectors
- Finance is worst affected
- The UK is worse than the OECD average
The BBC article also has an interactive section where you can put in the name of an organisation, and it will give you the results. I decided to look at the management consultancies to see how they fared. Here are the results
PwC Services Ltd - The average woman at this company is paid 13.1% less than the average man. Women make up 37.8% of higher-paid jobs and 49.9% of lower-paid jobs
Deloitte MCS Ltd -The average woman at this company is paid 17.8% less than the average man. Women make up 24% of higher-paid jobs and 45% of lower-paid jobs
EY - The average woman at this company is paid 14.8% less than the average man. Women make up 35.5% of higher-paid jobs and 51.4% of lower-paid jobs
KPMG - The average woman at this company is paid 22.1% less than the average man. Women make up 33.2% of higher-paid jobs and 56.1% of lower-paid jobs
Accenture - The average woman at this company is paid 10.2% less than the average man. Women make up 27.9% of higher-paid jobs and 45.3% of lower-paid jobs
What does this information potentially tell us? If I was a new graduate how might I use this data to help me decide which management consultancy firm I might like to join?
In many ways the gap appears to be pretty much the same for all five organisations, the gap is most significant with KPMG and the least with Accenture. To me, one of the interesting statistics was the number of women in higher paid jobs. Deloitte and Accenture both have women in less than 30% of the high paid positions (in most cases these would be partners or similar). You could interpret from this, especially for Accenture, that they have a little to no pay gap between middle managers. Otherwise, their average gap would be higher due to the reduced number of women in higher paid jobs. You can make your comparison of your favourite sector in the BBC article.
If I were looking for a role in management consulting, I would consider these statistics and more importantly the company response. For example, PwC published their response to the pay results. Their main reaction was: -
The combination of the results reported and the company’s response should provide a potential employee with some interesting insights into the company culture so they can form their own opinion if this is a management consultancy firm that they want to work.
The UK government is not telling companies they have to close the pay gap. With increased transparency employees and shareholders can make informed decisions on who they wish to be associated. Good companies will rise to the challenge, and those that are dinosaurs will most likely see the same fate as the giants of the past that could not change.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
Picture by BBC
What Have We Learned? UK Gender Equity Reporting
By Friday the 30th of March all public sector companies with 250 or more employees had to have completed their filing on gender pay gap as part of the Equity Act 2010 (if you want more information on the act and what it requires read my previous blog article here). Private companies and charities have until the 4th of April, and then all organisations that have 250 employees or more should have filed. Guess what; on Thursday the 29th of March about 7000 of the 9000 have completed the process, 77%. And I would be willing to bet that the percentage complete will not materially change between now and the 4th of April.
For those readers who don’t know what Gender Pay Gap Reporting is the Guardian has done an excellent summary.
Gender pay gap reporting
What is being published?
All companies and some public sector bodies in Great Britain, except Northern Ireland, with more than 250 employees are reporting their gender pay gap to the Government Equalities Office. All companies are due to report by 4 April 2018.
No legislation states companies must make changes to narrow the gender pay gap – they just have to report it. There has been some interesting behaviour from companies who have reported. Here are a few examples: -
Companies have filed inaccurate data – an example in the Guardian, companies have submitted mathematically impossible figures. At least 17 companies have reported a pay gap on bonuses of greater than 100%. This would be that if a man eared £100, then the women would have to PAY BACK to the company whatever amount greater than 100%. For example, if the reported pay gap were 105%, then the women would have to write a cheque out for £5 for every £100 a man got as a bonus. Most likely this is not correct. Other companies have filed a zero pay gap, which again cannot mathematically be correct.
Companies have filed revisions when they have been “called out” – after their initial filings were called out as not looking accurate, PwC, Deloitte and EY revised their filings to include partners. This was also true of law firms, except for Clifford Chance who still has not included partners in their figures.
Companies have made statements I think they will regret – “Slaughter & May reported a gender pay gap of 39% in its services division. However, in a press release, it noted that gap was greatly reduced if it excluded the secretaries, all of whom are women, from its figures.” Now, why would any organisation issue a press release that said that?
We don’t have the data – This is a very sad statement in respect to the HR profession as the data required to complete the on-line government form is something that all organisations should easily be able to pull out.
If I wait until the last minute to file no one will notice my data – This is a little like playing ostrich. The theory being that if my companies files at the last minute, along with a whole bunch of other companies, no one will notice that my data is not as good as it should be. Maybe if you are on the smaller end of the scale regarding the number of employees, this might work as long as you are not a venture capitalist, investment banker, law firm, consultancy or other higher paid service organisation.
The deadline is coming, and the data is extremely newsworthy. Headlines such as:
- The gender pay gap nationally stands at 18.4 percent for full-time and part-time workers, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.
- The sectors with the most significant gap are construction, financial and insurance services and education.
- The UK has a smaller gender pay gap than the USA but bigger than Australia
It will be interesting to watch what happens past the deadline. Will the government fine organisations that do not report at all? Will they go after companies that apparently have the wrong data? Will they create a league table of best or worse? This will be a space I will continue to watch.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
Gender Pay Gap Reporting UK â€“ Has Your Company Completed the Process?
I like being an alumnus of PwC, as a retired partner (partners always retire they never resign or get sold to IBM or any of the other things that could happen) I get invited to some interesting sessions. PwC Australia recently had a half-day workshop focused on the top things that directors (executives and non-executive members of a board) should be aware. It was a little like speed dating as there were many topics to select; each participant was able to attend three at 20 minutes per session. But there was an excellent summary at the end of the day highlighting the critical points made in all the sessions. I am sure from a PwC perspective it is a very good use of time as they were exposing over 100 executives to a wide variety of topics that PwC could assist the organisation in case they needed help. A win/win on both sides.
The workshop started with a presentation by a USA PwC Partner whose focus was corporate governance and boards. She gave an overview of some of the key trends in boards of USA listed companies. PwC USA does an annual survey of directors, and you can see the full 2017 results here. The structure there is very different than the UK or Australia starting with the obvious that the CEO is typically the Chairman of the board, something that does not frequently happen in Europe or Asia. The other comparison is that the average tenure of a board member in Australia and Europe is about six years, while in the USA they get voted on every year. The shareholder “behaviour” is also different ranging from the influence that institutional investors can have through to hedge fund activities to individual shareholder activities. All you need is $2,000 of stock, and you can put forward a proposal to the board to consider. An interesting plenary session that made me appreciate the UK and Australia’s longer-term focus versus the quarterly results driven dynamics in the USA.
After the plenary session, there was a wide variety of short breakout session that could be attended. Here is a summary of a few of the topics that were available as part of the breakout sessions: -
Leveraging Data – what data assets do you have inside the company that can be leveraged either internally or externally? The recommended place to start was standardising the language inside the company around data. Is a sale the same definition in all parts of the company? How about an employee?
Crisis Management – as an executive you never know when a genuine crisis will hit whether it is an environmental one such as extreme weather or #MeToo type of event. As an executive team, you need to know how you are going to respond. Two points out of this session for me were “how do you know when you are in a crisis – as sometimes it is not obvious until it is too late” and the other was “conduct simulations on how the company and members of the leadership team will respond”.
Cyber Security – as a member of the board if you are not asking questions about the preparedness for a cyber-attack or ransom request then you are not performing your role. Again, for me, there were two key points; cyber-security is as much about people as it is technology and the market will judge you in how you respond. The communication and the need to re-establish trust if something happens is almost more critical then stopping the attack.
Diversity – the focus of this session was the need to be more inclusive and consider all the different aspects of diversity. Especially in Australia where there is a need to focus on cultural and linguistically different diversity.
Marketing – The role of a CMO has radically changed over the last five years. As a member of the board, how do you know that the marketing activities and the focus of the CMO are going to drive sales and protect the brand? Metrics reported to the board was my takeaway from this session. Do you have metrics at the board level that give insight on marketing’s contribution to brand awareness and overall business performance (demand generation and sales)?
The workshop was valuable and the networking with other directors very useful to get their experiences and lessons learned.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
What Every Director Should Be Thinking About
The cookbook for due diligence during an M&A transaction is pretty well known. The seller is checking facts that the target provided in the sale memorandum document, checking to see if the data points hold true on financials, customers, market and talent. And then, based on this due diligence, the price could go up or down, and the synergy case associated with the acquisition could get better or worse. KPMG completed a study last year that estimated that over 80% of mergers fail. And if this is true then what is going wrong with the due diligence process?
I think that the lack of strong HR leadership and involvement in the M&A transactions could be one of the reasons. This is not true for all organisations and all deals, but my experience has shown that HR tends to get involved in areas such as the ease (or difficulty) of changing employment contracts, how easy (or not) is it to make people redundant and potentially pay and reward schemes. For some transactions, they might be involved in talent assessment or even creating “golden handcuff” schemes to retain the critical staff within the acquired company. But the role of HR in M&A is pretty much around operational areas. I don’t know of any HR leader that has been asked: “based on the human capital, talent, the culture of this company do you think we should buy?” Or even “if we do buy this company what needs to be done from a people and talent perspective to help ensure a successful acquisition”?
The HR leader on the “buy side” of the deal I believe needs to own the due diligence around cultural fit. Basically creating a point of view in areas such as: -
How aligned are the mission, vision and values?
What is the delegation and authority style in the organisation – command and control? Delegate with authority? Every decision goes to the boss?
Data drive or gut driven decision making?
How innovative, emotional, due date driven is the culture?
And one of the most critical questions to answer: -
If we buy them what work has to be done to get to the level of cultural alignment we want to achieve out of the acquisition?”
Not every acquisition needs to be fully culturally integrated into the parent company. The best strategy could be to keep the acquired company wholly independent of the parent and therefore there is no need for cultural integration. But if the plan is to integrate the acquired organisation what is the strategy for cultural? There are choices: -
The “parent” strategically wants the new company to align with their culture
The buyer intends to use the culture of the company acquired as a catalyst for change inside the company – sort of a reverse cultural takeover
There is a desire to take the best parts of both cultures and to create a new merged culture
It is crucial that the leadership of the company doing the buying knows what strategy they want to have regarding culture. And the role of HR is to articulate how that strategy could be accomplished and what that means to the overall business case for the acquisition.
At a recent INSEAD event, one of the partners from EurAsia Competence AG presented their research on cultural due diligence, and how to build a post-acquisition culture integration programme. While the steps are not that unique from any other transformation program what was unique was the concept of thinking about what has to get done, in respect to culture, before the transaction is completed. This way the organisation knows the cost and effort required to achieve the desired outcome. The steps outlined were: -
Identify individual cultures
Identify the similarities and difference. How significant are the gaps?
Create awareness of the differences and gaps
Design a roadmap to bridge the gaps
Align teams to common goals and implementations
Not unique but not that often thought through during an M&A transaction. HR should take the lead in this area to first drive the strategy on what level of cultural integration the organisation wishes to achieve and then what is the programme to meet the agreed integration.
Culture Due Diligence in M&A
Shared Services (and outsourcing) in the NFP sector (NGO’s, Charities, and similar institutions) is a huge potential market as very few NFP’s have transformed their processes and services taking into account the concept of shared operations. Even with larger charities such as United Way, Save the Children, or World Vision there has not been a tendency to embark on process improvement changes that include shared services centres (SSC). What makes this sector different than other industries which have embraced SSC and outsourcing?
Having done work with the NFP sector for many years and have encouraged the larger organisations to consider the use of a shared service operation I can see the unique challenges to this sector.
The first challenge is the continuity of funding year on year. Most charities have limited funds that are guaranteed each year, and if they do have these types of resources, they are almost always tied to a programme that is focused on delivering the charitable results. For example, if you are Save the Children and you are running a pre-school education programme for a community the funding most likely is for multiple years, but it can only be used for that purpose. It is known as “tied funding” since the money is linked to a particular outcome or deliverable. Therefore setting up a shared service operation which has to have the bills paid each year could prove challenging for one or all members of the same charity that are utilising the shared service.
The second challenge is governance. Even for well-known global charities like the Red Cross or YMCA, there is not a corporate HQ that dictates what each country does for areas such as back office operation (HR, Finance, IT). And even if they do encourage a standard in areas such as IT if the local country is funding it out of grants and donations from the local community it is tough to force them to conform to a global set of procedures, processes or infrastructure. Without the ability to have a governance structure that can instil consistency and standards a shared service operation will fail.
The third area is funding the change. If you have done an SSC programme, you know that there is a funding curve required to achieve the savings. Even with the best ROI in the world for moving HR or finance into an SSC there is a cost associated with making the change. It is extremely challenging for NFP to get sufficient untied funding in a single year to make the type of investment required to save money in the longer term.
And finally, there are thousands of smaller NFP that would find it hard to create a business case for shared services or to outsource, similar to an SME in the commercial world. For example in Australia there are over 54,000 economically active (e.g. they have paid staff and didn't just rely on volunteers) registered charities. That is one for every 450 citizens of the country, and a significant number of them have < 50 employees. There could be an argument that there are too many NFP, but that is a subject of a different debate. With this size of an organisation, SSC does not provide an economic return.
The one exception to the above is IT such as website development and maintenance, SEO, office systems and networks. Many NFP’s have outsourced these activities as they cannot economically maintain staff with the right mix of skills and experience to keep their core IT operating, compliant and attractive to the volunteers and donors.
With the need to continually address the cost of operations and the percentage of donations that go to the “cause” versus paying staff and running the back office there is pressure on NFP’s to look at how they can save money. There are some potentially creative solutions available and some white space in the markets to establish an SSC/Outsourced operation that is focused on the NFP space.
One example of an innovative solution, again from Australia, is the establishment of a Social Enterprise that provides services to NFP (if you want a definition of Social Enterprise there is a good one here). The Salvation Army has done this for legal services. They have set up Salvo Legal that is a for-profit organisation, that does legal work at “good rates” for charities and other organisations, and then the profits generated go back to the Salvation Army to support their chosen cause.
A market opportunity exists for an organisation to set up a Social Enterprise that is a shared service operation for HR, Finance, IT, Procurement or even broader. There would be many challenges, but the rewards of helping to reduce operational costs in “for purpose” organisations would be more than just financial.
If you are an NFP and want some additional resources this might be interesting, Collaboration 101 in the NFP sector.
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
Shared Services in the Not for Profit (NFP) Sector – a Missed Opportunity?
The topic of the year is RPA, AI, and Robotics. Every day there are articles regarding robots taking jobs, causing new challenges for leaders and re-defining how work gets done. It seems if you are not investing in Intelligent Automation (the umbrella term for Robotics, AI, RPA and others) then you are “not keeping up with the Jones”. While there is a lot of articles and hype is there a return on investment from Intelligent Automation and if yes how do you maximise your company’s potential to meet or exceed the anticipated reward?
As with all investments, there are only so many ways to see a return:-
- Cost reduction – people, overheads
- Quality improvement - less re-word, complaints, refunds, missed SLA’s
- Cost Avoidance – although CFO’s typically don’t like to see this type of return in a business case as it about futures - if we don’t invest now, we will have to spend more later.
- Risk, Compliance and Security – the cost associated with fines or penalties that could be avoided if an investment is made
And the costs elements associated with implementing Intelligent Automation are the same as any other project: -
- The software including maintenance, hosting
- Process changes, change management, training
- Short term loss of productivity while the change is made
- Potentially redundancy or other costs associated with staff reduction
- Programme management
If we take a simple example of AI, chatbots and look at what the potential areas of costs and savings might look like: -
Project: Implementing chatbots to triage first contacts from customers
- Project Costs: - software, set-up, support, training, piloting, scale-up, programme management, change management. I am not an expert on this subject but let’s say that all up for a reasonability sophisticated customer-facing service centre would be in the range of $200k to $250k (internal and external costs)
- Staff Costs – the costs associated with either exiting employees from your workforce or re-training them to do a new role.
- On-going maintenance – the costs associated with changing the “script” that a chatbot might be using because your products or processes changed.
Total estimates – for this paper let’s assume $300k to $350k one-time costs(points one and two above) and then 10% of the build costs for maintenance over three years, therefore, a high-level estimate over three years of $330k to $395k.
- Labour – the elimination of service centre agents who no longer need to answer phone, mail or chats.
- There might be other minor savings such as shutting down older technologies that are no longer needed.
- And there would be some soft savings that most likely your CFO will not allow you to include in the business case – for example, consistency of answer which could be considered an improvement in the quality of service.
The level of savings will be tied to the overall design and efficiency of your shared service centre; it will also be related to how many locations the business is performing these processes. The previous efforts and investments made around shared service will have a direct impact on the ROI for your Intelligent Automation project.
Using extremes to prove the point – let’s assume that you had no service centre and when there were enquiries from your customers they were routed FIFO (first in first out) to the account management team for answering. The business wants to move to chatbots but before you can do this a significant amount of pre-work will be required to standardise processes, data, responses and method of responding to a customer query. The cost of your project has now expanded, and your ability to reduce costs will be hard to justify because there is no dedicated staff taking customer queries.
On the other extreme – let’s assume you have an efficient and effective service centre with standardisation, knowledge management databases, infrastructure for the call and case handling. This historic investment in shared services will make the implementation of chatbots significantly easier, less costly and therefore a better return.
The number of shared service centres will also have an impact on the ROI. If you have five different shared service locations, then there will need to be five implementations of the change. The more centres where the chatbot project needs to implemented the higher the cost of the overall programme and the lower the ROI.
The above example is, most likely, the simplest form of Intelligent Automation, but allows an easy example of the value of a shared service operation on the ROI. Having a strong foundation of shared services, whether it is in HR, Finance a call centre or other process, will put your organisation in an excellent starting point to have a great business case for Intelligent Automation that generates the right return.
For more reading on Intelligent Automation and Business Case
Are Shared Services a Prerequisite for Intelligent Automation?
I have brought this out of the archives as it is that time of year and the question is asked, who are we inviting to the annual Christmas lunch, party or social event. And perhaps the term of the year is gig worker and not agile? I will leave that one up to you.
Who is an employee? Is it a permanent person, part time, full time, contingent worker, freelancer, consultant, fixed term contract, remote, virtual, crowdsourced, I am sure I am missing a few categories and types of workers but this will do for a start. So what is the definition of an employee?
Many years ago, when it was considered the norm to have a proper staff Christmas party, the definition of an employee was those that you had budgeted and invited to that party. The UK taxman would allow £X per employee for staff entertainment, you budgeted that amount for the party and had a great time. Today, rarely do we do staff Christmas events and even if you did who would you invite?
The Harvard Business Review has termed a phrase to encompass talent coming from outside the organisation, "agile workers". With the variety of different "agile workers" that could potentially be in an organisation, there is a need for the CHRO and the executive team to consider what their organisation is going to do to manage, develop and ensure that the talent working within their teams is productive and representing the company values. Equally as important is the need to ensure that processes, policies and regulatory rules are being followed to keep the organisation and their shareholders “out of the press”. Some questions to ask to see if your executive team know how to manage the variety of workers engaged in the various business activities of your organisation.
1. Do you have the right processes to onboard the “agile-worker” so they have what they need to be effective? Besides the obvious, such as passwords, do they need induction for things such as programme management methodology, documentation standards, collaboration or other areas that will make the worker the best they can be?
2. Is there a quality review process in place so you have a record of how the “agile worker” performed? More than just a “like”, would you bring this person back into your organisation and if yes for what type of work? Would you give them a reference to someone outside your company if asked?
3. Do you need a “Manager of Agile Workers”? A manager that the agile worker could go to for support on everything from hygiene factors (I have to take this compliance course but don’t have access) through to coaching on how to make them more productive in the role, to managing the quality review process as described in point two above. The direct line manager could do these activities but this might not be the best solution, particularly since “agile workers” across the whole organisation will most likely have the same issues, support needs and ultimately quality review. It might make sense if your organisation is a high user of “agile workers” to have dedicated talent for this process.
4. Do you have the right procurement policies and procedures in place? With the wide variety of “agile workers” in the marketplace, having the right procurement guidelines is important. These will help ensure that you are treating the various types of staff, including your permanent staff, in a consistent manner in areas such as pay, training, leave or other areas that could cause the organisation to have moral or even legal issues.
5. Do you understand the appropriate employment laws for each type of “agile worker” you are using and do you have each of the workers on a signed contract that protects the organisation (see point four above)?
6. Do you have guidelines for what types of workers to use for specific projects or initiatives? It could be a real issue if you hire a freelancer to do a particular piece of work, that has unique brand value for your organisations, and then they work for the competition. Maybe you don’t want to use a freelance type of “agile workers” for something that is a brand or market sensitive. Having a set of guidelines for all hiring managers that outlines the type of worker for specific types of projects or engagements or dealing with specific types of Intellectual Property (IP) could prove useful.
Many of the individuals that you might want to bring into your organisation would much prefer to be an “agile worker” and many companies benefit from having the flexibility to engage the right talent and skills on a short-term project type basis. Agile working is a real win/ win but requires you to answer the practical question of “who do we invite to the Christmas party”?
Article by Mary Sue Rogers
Which Employees do you Invite to the Christmas Party?
The advent of more flexible working and different types of workers has implications on HR. The HR team needs to be ready to change to reflect the needs of the workforce and management. While many areas of change are obvious, such as employment or service contracts, some are not so obvious such as changing how HR reportings KPI's to the business.
An article in Training Zone talks about some of the areas that are not so obvious that HR needs to potentially re-think to both manage gig workers but also to give leaders in the organisation the data they need to manage the operations.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
How to Make the Gig Economy Work in HR
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) has recently completed research which identified 60 major trends driving radical change in organisations. They grouped these into 12 primary forces or megatrends. And grouped these under trends that are changing the demand for talent and trends changing the supply of talent. The results of their research create some interesting points of view.
CHANGES IN THE DEMAND FOR TALENT
Six of the forces identified are having a profound effect on the demand for talent were categorize them into two groups:
- Technological and digital productivity: automation, big data and advanced analytics, and access to information and ideas
- Shifts in ways of generating business value: simplicity in complexity, agility and innovation, and new customer strategies
CHANGES IN THE SUPPLY OF TALENT
The other six forces are changing the supply of talent. These again were divided into two groups: -
- Shifts in resource distribution: a new demographic mix, skill imbalances, and shifting geopolitical and economic power
- Changing workforce cultures and values: diversity and inclusion, individualism and entrepreneurship, and well-being and purpose
Within the two major areas the trends that I found most interesting were: -
Demand for Talent
"New Customer Strategies. Boundaries between companies and consumers are fading as people, informed and enabled by the internet, become more aware and demanding. They want personalized offerings and will collaborate with companies to help develop the products and services they desire. Procter & Gamble, for example, is now getting information about the shelving of its products in major retail chains directly from individuals in the stores. The company works with Gigwalk, a startup with a network of more than 1 million paid “Gigwalkers,” who check up on product displays and availability. In this way, P&G can easily track its execution in retail stores and quickly make changes to improve performance. (Even as companies encourage customers to share information, they must protect the privacy and data of those customers.)"
Supply of Talent
"Individualism and Entrepreneurship. Independence is becoming the dominant motivator for a large section of the population, particularly for millennials (born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s) and Gen-Zers (born in the mid- to late 1990s and after). These younger people tend to get bored doing the same kind of work for long stretches, and they are especially interested in independent careers. Empowered by digital platforms and ecosystems, many are choosing entrepreneurship and self-employment over traditional corporate employment."
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Twelve Forces that will Radically Change how Organisations Work
This is one of those must-read articles. The iceberg of ignorance has been around for awhile. It originated in the late 1990's when a consultant named Sidney Hoshida produced a study called "The Iceberg of Ignorance" based on what he saw in the leadership of a Japanese car manufacturer. Yoshida found that, even though 100% of front-line problems were known to the front-line employees, only 74% were known to team leaders, 9% to middle management and just 4% to top management.
How can leaders melt the iceberg so they too can see the issues and challenges facing the company? In this article from Corporate Rebels, the answer is "show humility". Leaders who show humility by mixing with the front-line gain more status and influence than their peers who prefer to stay in their offices. Moreover, leaders can actively enhance their status by engaging in work below their pay grade.
There are several great stores or even case studies within the article - including a top chef that sweeps the streets in front of the restaurant through to show his staff that every job and activity within the business is very important.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
How Real Leaders Melt the Iceberg of Ignorance
It is coming to the end of the Australian fiscal year and many organisations are focused on achieving their 2018 targets and setting new targets for the next fiscal year. In a recent posting from MindShift reminded me of the Michael Porter strategic insights. There are 10, listed below. A good reminder as we go into planning for next fiscal year (in Australia) or mid-year review if you are on a January to December timeline.
Porter’s essential strategic insights are:
1. The granddaddy of all mistakes is competing to be the best, going down the same path as everybody else and thinking that somehow you can achieve better results.
2. Confusing marketing with strategy.
3. Overestimating strengths.
4. Getting the definition of the business wrong or getting the geographic scope wrong.
5. The Worst mistake: Not Having a Strategy at all.
6. Not addressing the hidden biases embedded in internal systems, organizational structures and decision-making processes.
7. Companies undermine their own strategies.
8. Strategy killers in the external environment.
9. If you listen to every customer and do what they want you to do, you can’t have a strategy.
10. Single-minded pursuit of shareholder value, measured over the short term, has been enormously destructive for strategy and value creation.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Ten Essential Strategic Insights
The writers at Co.Design wrote an interesting article describing the different techniques well-known companies used to tell you about their new and improved security policy. They categorised the types of notifications sent out and attempted to correlate those with how much the companies truly did care about your privacy and adherence to GDPR.
The ones I liked best from the list were: -
Everlane (NOTE ann online clothing retailer in California)
“The thing about privacy policies? Nobody reads them. In fact, most are intentionally written not to be read. With that in mind, we’ve updated ours to make it easier to understand. But since we know most of you probably aren’t clicking on this email (no judgment), here’s a breakdown of what’s new.”
The article is definitely worth a read.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
The Best, Worst, and Most Repetitive Emails of GDPR
With GDPR and other data protection incidents and legislation, one of the first things you should know is what do the big social media players already know about you? What does Google, Insta, Twitter, Facebook and Apple currently have on file about you and what can you do about it?
This article was written by FastCompany outlines step by step what you need to do to identify what data each of the social platforms is holding you. The first step to prevention is understanding how big the challenge is with respect to your personal data and what you have already "given away".
Don't be scared be informed.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
How to Down Load the Data Google, Twitter and Others Have on Your
The number of women on boards has improved over the last 50 years BUT it is still not at the level that is representative of the population or more importantly the profile of the customers that most organises serve. The excuses given for why there are not more women on any given FTSE board are many, and in most cases sound like the 1960's versus almost 2020. In a recent BBC article, a list of the ten worse excuses was published. These included: -
- "I don't think women fit comfortably into the board environment"
- "There aren't that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board - the issues covered are extremely complex"
- "Most women don't want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board"
- "Shareholders just aren't interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?"
- "My other board colleagues wouldn't want to appoint a woman on our board"
- "All the 'good' women have already been snapped up"
- "We have one woman already on the board, so we are done - it is someone else's turn"
- "There aren't any vacancies at the moment - if there were I would think about appointing a woman"
- "We need to build the pipeline from the bottom - there just aren't enough senior women in this sector"
- "I can't just appoint a woman because I want to"
The full article is definitely worth a read.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Ten Worse Excuses for Not Hiring a Women Director
Who is reading your CV when you applied for that role? The fortunate candidate will have his or her resume read first by a human being; even then, the average hiring manager only spends six seconds (pdf) sizing up each candidate. More typically, a resume will first be read by an applicant tracking system or ATS, software that’s programmed to search for combinations of keywords—and to spit out resumes that don’t meet the criteria. For many large employers, the resume exists only to identify reasons to disqualify candidates and thin the applicant pool.
Assessments are starting to be more the norm - whether it is a full psychometric test or specific testing for attributes and skills that are specific to a role (e.g a sales position).
And the really big question - is a CV still needed? Or is there something else that says what you have done and how well you executed the requirements of the role. Could everyone just have a secure LinkedIn account - and that would be it? What about using blockchain?
Whatever the answer the changing world of AI, Robotics, Blockchain are changing what is a good CV.
A great article by Quartz at Work - one of my must reads as it tells the history of the humble CV through to what can happen in the future.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
The CV of the Future will tell Employers Who You Are - Not Just What You have Done.
As the workforce changes and the mix of employees within an organisation moves from full time permanent with a desk they call all their own to a world of home working, part-time, casual workers and other employee types that don't necessarily have the same office infrastructure for learning and development. L&D professionals need to examine how learning is provided to all types of employees and look at new ways to ensure that the training is delivered in a manner appropriate for the employee type and his or her infrastructure.
Chief Learning Officer recent article on the different learning delivery methods for those that don't have a permanent desk and PC might provide some inspiration.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Learning for the Deskless Workforce
Blockchain can be a way for individuals to maintain their credentials in a way that they are authenticated and protected from tampering. Blockchain might be the future mechanism that all of us use to put our CV's, work experience, University degrees and other qualifications to facilitate their use when we apply for a new job or seek to be appointed to a new governance position. All HR professionals should do a primer on what is blockchain (and not to confuse it with Bitcoin).
This Workforce article is a very good starting point. It explains what blockchain is (in layman's language) and how it might be used in the future of HR.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Blockchain and the Future of HR
Your business strategy needs to drive and be aligned with your innovation strategy. PwC recently released their Innovation Benchmark Report and there is a very good section on strategic options and alignment with innovation. According to PwC, there are three main approaches to innovation strategy that they have identified over a decade of doing research:
• Need Seekers: Such as Apple, use their superior insights about customer needs to generate new product ideas.
• Marker Readers: Such as Samsung, focus on creating value by incrementally improving on products that have already been proven in the market.
• Technology Drivers: Such as Google, depend on their strong internal technology capabilities to develop new products.
What is important is that corporate leaders are explicit about their chosen strategic approach. In addition to this, corporate leaders also need to connect their innovation strategy to the overall company’s business strategy. They should provide clear guidance on the role of innovation in the overall company portfolio. Only when such strategic alignment is achieved will companies be able to innovate in the long term.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Innovation Strategy needs to Align with Business Strategy
Everyone knows the Kodak story, they failed to see the trend towards digital cameras and kept making film. And IBM prior to Lou Gerstner coming in as CEO having a "near-death experience". Learning from organisations that made big mistakes that either caused them to radically change course or disappear altogether is something all leaders should do. From Valuer + a great article on 50 organisations that failed to innovate and lost their place in the market. It is a long read so book but worth it. Hopefully, there are some lessons learned here for you and your team.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
50 Corporations that Failed to Innovate
Every now and there is a nice "feel good" story. And this is one of them. Over 130 years ago someone dropped a message in a bottle off a boat that was sailing in the Indian Ocean. The message simply said, "if found please fill in the details on this note and send to your nearest German consulate". This method was used, back in the 1800's to track currents to see how they would behave.
This year, a women walking a beach near Wedge Island, Western Australia, found the bottle when she thought she was picking up trash.
A great view of history written by the NY Times. I am not sure what is more amazing - the fact that the bottle had been found or the fact that historians could trace it to the exact ship, date and location when it was dropped in the water. Pretty Amazing.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
A Message in a Bottle
Australians, in general, are pretty "green". Most believe in climate change, want to protect the environment, recycle, compost and have a respect and appreciation for the unique areas, animals and environment that exists within the country. Across a variety of survey's Australians were asked what were the top things they would "save". The results were consolidated and the findings make interesting reading.
- 89% of those surveyed would save the Great Barrier Reef
- The Koala Bear is at the top of the list of iconic species to protect at > 50%
- 85% saw plastics as a major issue for the environment
Interesting survey and results that can be read on the Sydney Morning Herald.
What Would You Save?
Blue Planet II is been given credit for the level of usage of the word plastic in writings done by children between the ages of five and 13. If you have not seen the documentary staring David Attenborough you should. Along with featuring amazing creatures under the sea it also focuses on the damage plastic is causing to our oceans and seas. This raising awareness with children has made plastic be the children's word of the year. Plastic appears over 1,300 times in a story contest sponsored by the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast program - up 100% from the previous year. Other words that featured in the top ten were unicorns, slime and the computer game Fortnite were among the other subjects that influenced children's language.
Read the full story in this BBC article
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Children's Word of the Year - Plastic
Off the coast of Maine in the United States they do a lot of lobster trapping. REcently they brought up a lobster that had a very visible Pepsi logo on its claw. The markings had come from prolonged exposure by the lobster to a plastic Pepsi bottle transferring the image from the bottle to the animal.
There are growing concerns over the amount of debris accumulating in the world’s oceans. Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leak into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by seabirds, fish and other organisms. The poor lobsters "tattoo" is just one example.
Organisations and individuals should focus on reducing or eliminating single-use plastic to try to slow down the problems all the plastic is causing.
Read the full article here from the Guardian
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
The Lobster with a Pepsi Tattoo
We all hear the stories of shark attacks or alligators appearing in back gardens of peoples homes or spiders that can kill with the smallest bite. But which animal kills the most humans? And we all know that humans kill more animals but which one has the better odds against us?
This article by Gizmo interviewed several individuals to get their learned opinion. The top answers on the list are the mosquito, bees and snakes. Enjoy.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Which Animal Kills the Most Humans?
In its June issue, National Geographic magazine has published a selection of startling photos highlighting the vast amounts of discarded plastic choking the world's oceans, shorelines and rivers. Here is a sample of the pictures via the BBC. Plastic in our oceans is causing the creatures of the sea huge hardship. My personal worry is creatures like sea turtles who drown in plastic rubbish. We all can help by avoiding single-use plastic.
Plastic, Underwater and Pictures
Children are the ones that suffer the most from war. Not only do they live with death and destruction on a daily basis, they suffer from a shortage of food, clean water and access to education. In war-torn places like Yemen, a whole generation will not get what they need physically and mentally and this will not only reduce their quality of life but also that of their parents. In many parts of the world, the children take the responsibility of taking care of their parents when they are old and no longer can take care of themselves.
The BBC has created a wonderful story of the girl with the strawberry ring. A very creative and heartbreakingly beautiful reminder of the harsh realities that children face in places like Syria and Yemen.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
The Girl with the Strawberry Ring
Climate change is affecting the Antarctic not only by causing the ice to melt and creating more icebergs and exposing the glacier ice. Hidden underwater melt-off in the Antarctic is doubling every 20 years and could soon overtake Greenland to become the biggest source of sea-level rise, according to the first complete underwater map of the world’s largest body of ice.
Warming waters have caused the base of ice near the ocean floor around the south pole to shrink by 1,463 square kilometres – an area the size of Greater London – between 2010 and 2016.
A Guardian article with some great graphics on the impact of the melting on the overall ice levels.
Comments & Pictures by Mary Sue Rogers
Underwater Melting of Antarctic Ice
Reptiles are not to everyone's taste but there are many of these that are on the list of endangered species. The most recent is the Mary River Turtle - sometimes called the Punk Turtle due to the greed tuffs on its head and the overall punk look. The BBC has a nice video of this amazing turtle.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Sunshine Coast News for more detail
Punk Turtle Put on Endangered Species
Next to Whale Sharks Clownfish are my next favourite creature under the sea. Reseach has found that many types of clownfish have distrintive personalities. For example, the type of clownfish in Finding Nemo has a very distinctive behaviour primarily shown through bold and aggressive actions as it defends its territory.
And sadly there are types of clownfish that have no personality. This Guardian article explains why.
Research by the University of Wollongong and Southern Cross University analysed the behavioural patterns of two species of subtropical clownfish, or anemonefish: Amphiprion mccullochi, which is endemic to a shallow lagoon on Lord Howe Island, off the coast of New South Wales; and Amphiprion latezonatus, which has a much wider distribution along Australia’s east coast.
The resulting paper, Some anemonefish lack personality, was published in the December issue of Coral Reef's journal.
I guess clownfish are like people, some have more or less personality.
Comments and picture by Mary Sue Rogers
Some Clownfish have no Personality
Plastic is everywhere. If you watched Blue Planet II the problems that plastic is causing in all the seas of the world is talked about for every location that where David Attenborough travelled. Plastic breaks down into tiny particles which get eaten by plankton, which then are eaten by small fish and it goes up the food chain. Even to the point where baby dolphins are dying due to their mother's milk containing too much plastic.
Plastic is also in the water we drink - even if you buy bottled water. Tests on major brands of bottled water have found that nearly all of them contained tiny particles of plastic. In the largest investigation of its kind, 250 bottles bought in nine different countries were examined.
Research led by journalism organisation Orb Media discovered an average of 10 plastic particles per litre, each larger than the width of a human hair.
This latest work comes amid growing international attention on plastic, fuelled by the BBC's acclaimed Blue Planet 2 series in which Sir David Attenborough highlighted the threat of plastic waste in our oceans.
This BBC video is well worth watching.
Comments by Mary Sue Rogers
Plastic particles found in bottled water
Whale Sharks are by far my most favourite creature under the sea. They are not a shark, in fact, they are plankton eaters and are very gentle giants. Unfortunately, they get caught in fish nets and they are rapidly moving towards the endangered species list. This heartwarming video is about one man's efforts to help save this amazing creature.
Whale sharks are the world's largest fish and are classified as endangered. In India, their survival has been put at risk by hunting or being caught in fishing nets.
Comments and picture by Mary Sue Rogers