First Order Blog

Talent Reporting

PwC’s 15th Annual Global CEO Survey (2012) found that:

  • 31% of CEO’s believe talent constraints limit their ability to innovate,
  • 29% were unable to purse on opportunity.

Employee Engagement

IBM’s 2012 Global CEO study (n=1700) found that people skills are the 2nd highest priority, behind technology. This is because employee engagement is the key source of sustained value.

Private Equity

With Mitt Romney’s past at Bain Capital a part of the recent presidential election, private equity is in the news quite a bit right now. A quick look at the industry:

  • Identify 3-5 key goals for a a target/portfolio company to achieve
  • Assess the company’s profit potential
  • Execute improvements to realize that potential next level value
  • Evaluate marketplace position
  • Assess management talent
  • Maintain capital structures that can withstand setbacks

The list seems like a good list for any business leader.

How would a private equity company assess your company?

2012 e-Learning Symposium

In 2012, I emceed the e-Learning Symposium. Here are some key takeaways:

  • What: Learning should include content, practice, and assessment (recall vs. comprehension) via a performance audit;
  • Where & When: Learning is not about teaching, but positioning knowledge – so employees know where to find what they need to know when they need it;
  • How: Mobile solutions require simple and clean design, easy navigation, regional application, and short content chunks;
  • Why: Performance is dependent upon needs > skills > training > support to provide both expertise and execution.

David Novak

Yum! CEO of Taco Bell/KFC/Pizza Hut, David Novak, was named Best CEO of 2012 by Chief Executive magazine. The selection committee described him with these key words: compelling vision, comprehensive strategy, relentless implementation, develops employees' potential, and humility.

Some other examples of his leadership include:

  • Gives out chattering teeth with feet to employees who “walk the talk”
  • Promotes based on if manager can grow the capabilities of direct reports
  • Seeks to understand before seeking to be understood

Debt Loads

US companies are posting record profits, as the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012 had the highest operating earnings for S&P 500 companies since 1981. That being said, 3rd Quarter profits and revenues fell for the first time since 2009.

The deleveraging process has only just begun:

  • Corporations typically lead the deleveraging process, which is trending to last through mid-2013 (McKinsey).
  • American Airlines had $4 Billion in the bank when it declared bankruptcy in December, 2011. It did so--after competing airlines followed this model--to reduce debt and break union contracts.


On election night, Mitt Romney did not have a concession speech. With the assumption of victory, his campaign team mistakenly posted a government transition website in the determined expectation of winning the election.

Why? He thought he was going to win based on his internal polling of key swing states, even though these numbers did not align with what all other news organizations’ polls were reporting going into election day.

What misperceptions do you/your company have? Are they based on biased/internal/faulty data?

Cheating & Lies

Living in Austin, one of our celebrities is Lance Armstrong. His dominating performance for 7 years in the Tour de France was undercut last month with his admission of suspected, and vehemently denied, doping.

Also, last month, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected no former players into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. This was due to the candidates’ performances and achievements being tainted by suspicions and/or confirmations of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Disappearing Benefits

Things that will disappear soon and causes of the disappearance:

  • checks - due to credit cards and mobile transactions,
  • post offices - due to carriers like FedEx,
  • newspapers - due to online media like RSS feeds,
  • books - due to tablets and online sources,
  • land line telephones - due to cell phones and text messages,
  • network television - due to streaming,


  • privacy - think Kate Middleton.


Below are some highlights from a Wharton interview with IBM’s previous CEO, Sam Palmisano (K@W, 1/18/2012.)

  • Companies have a hard time seeing Act Two because they are so wedded to the product, and the financial rewards of their business model….they just don’t see, or they have a conservative view upon acting. Do I really want to take the risk of transformation?
  • In 1993 and ’94, IBM had 412,000 employees -- which dropped to 217,000 -- and today is 426,000 EE in 170 countries. They represent different cultures, different religions, and different local priorities.