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FCPA Compliance Report

Tom Fox has practiced law in Houston for 30 years and now brings you the FCPA Compliance and Ethics Report. Learn the latest in anti-corruption and anti-bribery compliance and international transaction issues, as well as business solutions to compliance problems.
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Now displaying: Category: business leadership
Aug 22, 2017

In this episode, I continue the series on leadership lessons from U.S. presidents in discussing James Monroe Virginia, who was President from 1817 to 1825. He is probably best known today for the Monroe Doctrine which was not his idea and was not known by that name until the 1850s. The life, times and Presidency of James Monroe provide many lessons for today’s business leader. I hope that you can draw inspiration and some insight from them.

Aug 9, 2017

In today’s episode we consider an eBook, entitled “Planning for Big Data - A CIO’s Handbook to the Changing Data Landscape, by the O’Reilly Radar Team, featured a chapter by Alistair Croll, entitled “The Feedback Economy which informs today’s discussion. Croll believes that big data will allow continuous improvement through the “feedback economy”. This is a step beyond the information economy because you are using the information that you have generated and collected as a source of information to guide you going forward. Information itself is not the greatest advantage but using that information to make your business more agile, efficient and profitable is. 

Croll draws on military theory to illustrate his concept of a feedback loop. It is the OODA loop, which stands for observe, orient, decide and act. This comes from military strategist John Boyd who realized that combat “consisted of observing your circumstances, orienting yourself to your enemy’s way of thinking and your environment, deciding on a course of action and then acting on it.” Croll believes that the success of OODA is in large part “the fact it’s a loop” so that the results of “earlier actions feedback into later, hopefully wiser, ones.” This should allow combatants to “get inside their opponent’s loop, outsmarting and outmaneuvering them” because the system itself learns. For the business leader this means that if your company is able to collect and analyze information better and you can act on that information faster. 

Croll believes one of the greatest impediments to using this OODA feedback loop is the surplus of noise in our data; that “We need to capture and analyze it well, separating the digital wheat from the digital chaff, identifying meaningful undercurrents while ignoring meaningless flotsam. To do this we need to move to more robust system to put the data into a more usable format.” Croll moves through each of the steps in how a company collects, analyzes and acts on data.

 

The first step is data collection where the challenge is both the sheer amount of data coming in and its size. Once the data comes in it must be ingested and cleaned. If it comes into your organization in an unstructured format, you will need to cut it up and put into the correct database format for use. Croll touches on the storage component of where you place the data, whether in servers or on the cloud. 

A key insight from Croll is the issue of platforms, which are the frameworks used to crunch large amounts of data more quickly. His key insight is to break up the data “into chunks that can be analyzed in parallel” so the data can be considered and acted upon more quickly. Another technique he considers is “to build a pipeline of processing steps, each optimized for a particular task.” 

Another important component is machine learning and its importance in the data supply chain. Croll observes, “we’re trying to find signal within the noise, to discern patterns. Humans can’t find signal well by themselves. Just as astronomers use algorithms to scan the night’s sky for signals, then verify any promising anomalies themselves, so too can data analysts use machines to find interesting dimensions, groupings or patterns within the data. Machines can work at a lower signal-to-noise ratio than people.” 

Yet Croll correctly notes that as important as machine learning is in big data collection and analysis, there is “no substitute for human eyes and ears.” Yet for many business leaders, displaying the data is most difficult because it is not generally in a readable form. It is important to portray the data in more visual style to help convey the “dozens of independent data sources” into navigable 3D environments. 

Of course having all this data is of zero use unless you act on it. Big data can be used in a wide variety of decision making, from employment decisions around hiring and firing decision, to strategic planning, to risk management and compliance programs. But it does take a shift in compliance thinking to use such data. It advocates “fast, iterative learning.” Big data allows you to make a quicker assessment of the impact of measured risks. 

Croll ends his chapter by noting that the “big data supply chain is the organizational OODA loop.” But unlike the OODA loop, it is more than simply about the loop and plugging information as you move through it. He believes “big data is mostly about feedback”; that is, obtaining the impact of the risks you have accepted. For this to work in compliance, a company’s compliance discipline needs to both understand and “choose a course of action based upon the results, then observe what happens and use that information to collect new data or analyze things in a different way. It’s a process of continuous optimization”. 

Whether you consider the OODA loop or the big data supply chain feedback, this process, coupled with the data that is available to you should facilitate a more agile and directed business. The feedback components in both processes allow you to make adjustments literally on the fly. If that does not meet the definition of continuous improvement, I do not know what does.

Aug 1, 2017

In this episode, I visit with Margaret Johnson, the author of the book from From SOS to WOW. This book can help you to move your leadership skills to a new level through by helping you bust through assumptions, unleashing your creative ideas and taking courageous action to finally make the move to where you really want to be personally or professionally. Johnson is a long-time business leadership coach who shares some of the techniques she uses to help folks achieve greater results in business and in life.

 

We discuss her growing up and college years in Michigan why she got to Texas as quickly as you could. She details her professional career in the energy and power industries and how that work prepare you for your current career. She then talks about what led her to write her book and how it can be used by a person to help achieve personal and professional goals. 

You can find the book on Amazon.com by clicking here

You can find out more about Margaret Johnson by checking out her website, ideasandbeyond.com.

Jul 25, 2017

In this episode, Richard Lummis and I explore leadership lessons from Toussaint Louverture, who held the only successful slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere. Our remarks are based on the recent biography of him entitled, Toussaint Louverture by Phillipe Gerrard. While not an obvious character for study in a business leadership podcast, Louverture nonetheless presented several important lessons which translate into to today’s business environment. 

  1. Know your goals. Louverture’s statements are usually ambiguous, but based on his actions he sought self-determination and respect even over abolition of slavery or independence. For example, Louverture never actually declared independence from France or slaughtered white planters. 
  1. Play a long game. Louverture was willing to switch allies and betray friends when necessary. At first, he tried to work with free blacks and planters, then Spanish, then the French, and finally for himself. There was a high cost, however. “Louverture had navigated the troubled waters of the Revolution whtough caution and deceit, but in the process, the people around him had concluded that they could never trust or love him. . . .Men who have no equal are condemned to live a lonely life.” 
  1. Information control. Louverture established public relations by sending agents to Paris to shade the news. His opponents failed to do so. He also made extensive use of press censorship in Saint-Domingue to suppress unfavorable news and events while boosting his own prestige. Always knew what his audience wanted to hear and gave it to them. 
  1. We are creatures of our upbringing. Here Louverture’s lesson is to be very careful about assuming what others’ goals might be going forward. Louverture sought to preserve sugar plantations, which was always going to conflict with freedom of workers. “The barrier was not only economic but psychological. Louverture was not nursed on the Jeffersonian ideal of an independent citizen-farmer. He cam of age in a region of the globe where wocial prestige was bestowed upon large landowners. . . . Despite (or because of) his servile past, Louverture desperately wanted to re-create a planter class, albeit one in which he and his fellow black generals would play the leading role . . . .The most enthusiastic white converts to the Revolution were known as “white blacks”; in many ways, he was a “black white” who had made the economic worldview of his former masters his own. 
  1. Forgiveness goes a long way—but has its limits. Louverture had been trying to protect whites, but his nephew Moïse and Joseph Flaville, an old friend of Louverture’s, kelled over 300 of them, including the old master of the plantation where Louverture was a slave. [Louverture] had personally appointed him to his command early in the Revolution and then welcomed him back like a “prodigal son” every time he had rebelled. Not so this time: Louverture had him ripped to shreds by grapeshot in full view of the garrison of Cap. . . . Louverture’s natural inclination was to be merciful or to ask his subordinates to do his killing for him, but the Moïse uprising so infuriated him that up to 5,000 cultivators [former slaves now working on plantations] were killed in a matter of weeks. . . .Moïse [his nephew] was also a close ally who had assisted Louverture on numerous occasions, . . .yet Louverture insisted that he be court-martialed and shot. 
  1. Don’t forget the small gestures. Napoleon’ failure to respond to requests for a letter led to a rupture with Louverture and the debacle of French invasion (force of 35,000 suffered 29,000+ casualties, including 15,000 dead of yellow fever and 5,000 in combat). 
  1. His treatment by history. Was Louverture a sinner or a saint? Everyone sees what they want to see or history, as with beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Be aware of your preferences lest they become biases. Frederick Douglass in two speeches on same day he was a black George Washington who treated planters humanely (to white audience) or a Spartacus (to a black audience) evidencing “Negro manhood.”
Jul 18, 2017

In this episode, I consider the leadership lessons which can be drawn from our 7th President Andrew Jackson. I focus largely on the crisis surrounding the charter of the Second National Bank of the United States, which played out over 5 years from 1831 to 1836. This conflict pitted Jackson against most the nation’s political and financial elites, most prominently Nicolas Biddle, the President of the Bank. However, the great politicians of the day, including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were lined up against President Jackson as well.

The crisis came to a head in the summer of 1832 when both the House and Senate passed a bill renewing the Charter of the Second Bank of the US early. Not only did Jackson veto the bill and give one of the most memorable veto addresses of any President, he then took on Biddle directly by removing first removing persons in the administration and government who were pro-Bank and pro-Biddle. In the coup de grace for the Bank, Jackson the gold species from the Bank and moving into state banks across the country. Jackson won the battle completely. His actions were not without negative consequence as the distribution of the species across the country led to rampant inflation and the Panic of 1837. However, by that time, Jackson had departed the Presidency and the fallout was left to his successor Martin Van Buren.

Jul 12, 2017

In an article entitled, 12 Leadership Qualities of An Often-Overlooked President, Matt Myatt, writing in forbes.com online reviewed the leadership qualities of John Adams as laid out in David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography, appropriately entitled John Adams. Adams presidency was glossed over with little more than a brief mention, most probably because he was President between two of our more memorable presidents – Washington and Jefferson. Samuel Eliot Morrison once said that history teaches us how to behave and Adams provides a great example on it. The following list contains 12 qualities that made him a great man and a great leader: 

  1. He valued education. He began his education at college when he was fifteen and he never lost his curiosity. He passed this tenet to his children, stressing education to his children and played a large role in their learning. The more Adams thought about the future of America, the more he was convinced it was through education. 
  1. He strove for a good reputation. As a young lawyer, Adams knew he would get nowhere without a good reputation. The same is even more so today. 
  1. He loved his wife. McCullough’s book made clear the love story that was of John and Abigail Adams. As much as he was apart from his wife, the more he sought her counsel. The benefit for the historian and for us is that such counsel came through correspondence preserved for posterity. Adams never operated in a bubble and neither should you. 
  1. He fought for what was right. Adams knew that defending the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre would harm his reputation and it did but it was also the right thing to do. 
  1. He was a great communicator. This surprised me a bit as I had always thought this was a weakness of Adams. Yet he made himself into both a great writer and speaker, through study of the Classics. 
  1. He recognized his weaknesses and brought in others to fill those talent gaps. When Adams found himself in a situation where he felt inadequate, he did one of two things: recommend someone else, and if that was not possible; he would learn what he had to, and then work diligently to achieve the desired outcome. 
  1. He could spot talent. This is perhaps where Adams shined the brightest, as Adams was the first to submit George Washington’s name for general of the Continental Army, a post being clamored for by many. He also recruited the pen of Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence and the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin to help edit it.

 

  1. Physical courage. Leaders should always stand up for others and exhibit courage in the face of danger and Adams was exception. Particularly during the revolutionary years, Adams demonstrated great personal courage.
  2. He had unwavering integrity. Many people disliked Adams for his political views, but they never could say that he was not a man of integrity. He was loyal to a fault to those he called friends. 
  1. He had perseverance. Adams was in the long line of hearty and dogged New Englanders. Yet when he was a diplomat he found it did not suit him but he preserved and helped negotiate favorable treaties for the colonies and later United States. 
  1. He had the ‘vision thing’. Long before it was so articulated, Adams was able to articulate a vision for the fledgling colonies as an independent nation that many others could not. Being able to see the bigger picture is a trait that leaders must possess if they are going to be successful in the long-run. 
  1. He was a true public servant. The public career of John Adams can be described as nothing other than service beyond self. Adams believed in something bigger – he literally gave his life so that every American might have the freedom and liberty to live the life we choose.

 

 

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