Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Madness Isn't Over Yet!

We have come to the end of the time period US sports fans refer to as "March Madness" - 68 collegiate basketball teams have competed in a single elimination tournament - and UConn has been crowned "national champion".

In the past we have used this event as a reason to perform a statistical project (see Who WIll Be in the Final Four - Lessons From an Analytical Journey).

This year we'll do things a little different.

Be Strong!

George Gallup founded the firm that bears his name in the 1930's. Their initial claim to fame was public opinion polling. Results of their inquiries were often cited in news media (tv, radio, print, etc.), especially around election season. They have to be one of the original data analytics firms.

At the turn of this century a group of Gallup consultants authored a pair of best-seller books - First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths - based on Gallup insights developed over the years from their work with companies and industries.

One of the main themes coming out of this research was, as this Forbes article states, a "ceaseless belief that people should focus on making the most of their talents, rather than struggling to mend their flaws".

One of the ways this was described in the books was that the neurons in our brains form millions of connections with each other, which we can think of like a transportation network. Some connections, reinforced through time, are like super-highways, while others, rarely used, are like back country dirt roads.

The super-highways become strengths, while the others do not.

Ultimately, Gallup distilled the number of these strengths to a total of 34 (you can see a listing of these at this Wikipedia entry).

Are Some Strengths Better Than Others?

The question that has always come up for me is that while all the strengths are positive, for the finance practitioner it would make sense that some are better than others.

Put in a slightly different way, if we were given a listing of 20 people, and the only information we had about these folks was their top 5 strengths, who should be the one that we would hire?

So to have some fun with NCAA "bracketology" while seeking to achieve insight into the issues above, this year we will focus on the Strangthsfinders tournament!

Setting Up The Tournament

Unfortunately, 34 strengths do not fit neatly into a bracket structure, since in each round we need a number of teams that is a square of 2 (1,2,4,8,16,32 etc).

In order to achieve this, we have a 'play-in' round, where 4 of the strengths compete for 2 spots. Once this round is complete we will have a field of 32, which can then be arrayed in the normal bracket structure.

The 34 strengths were taken and randomly assigned to two groups: A or B. In each of these groups, a further random assignment of 'seeds' was performed, from 1 to 17. In the NCAA structure, a 1 plays a 16 in the first round, a 2 plays a 15, and so on.

The play-in games were between the strengths identified as the 16th and 17th seeds.

For the play-in games, I solicited votes within my Twitter and Linked In communities, randomly selecting individuals to answer the question: "Which of the following strengths is it more important for a Finance Person to possess?".

Play-In Teams

The first play-in is between:

Activator - one who acts to start things in motion. People strong in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient

Analytical - one who requires data and/or proof to make sense of their circumstances. People strong in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation

And the second play-in is between:

Empathy - one who is especially in tune with the emotions of others. People strong in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of others people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.

Responsibility - one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments. People strong in the Responsibility theme take psychological ownership of what they say they will do. They are committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty.


Figure A
Play-In Game Results

Figure A shows that both of these games were blow-outs, with Responsibility and Analytical sprinting easily to the win.

Given the number of job roles the finance profession has with the word analyst in it - financial analyst, budget analyst, business analyst, cost analyst, etc. - it only makes sense that this strength would prevail over Activator, which seems suited to business entrepreneuers.

Yet, as @fundingprofiles, one of the survey respondents, noted "Activators are rare in finance. Analytical minds are too, but not as rare", suggesting that while the talent is valuable not many actually have it!

Perhaps those job titles are simply a matter of wishful thinking?

In the second matchup, Responsibility came out well ahead of Empathy. As a fan of Design Thinking (see Should CFO's Be Design Thinkers), this was a disappointing result since Empathy plays a major role in that process.

Yet, given that Responsibility involves "following through on commitments" and "honesty", these are valuable when the books need to get closed and accurate numbers need to get reported, so we can see that while it might be nice to have a Design Thinking mindset, the ongoing day-in, day-out requirements of the finance role make the one strength more valuable than the other.

As one anonymous respondent stated "Both are good but Empathy without Responsibility would not work". Amen to that brother or sister!

The Bracket

With the play-ins complete, the Finance Strengths bracket now looks like that shown in Figure B. There are lots of potential items to discuss as we move through the "games", so stay tuned, either by adding this blog to your reader, following me on Twitter, Linked In or Google + (buttons for all those are located along the right side of this blog).

Figure B
Finance Strengths Brackets

What You Can Do

Vote in one of the next round matchups!

Having first hand knowledge of the abuse of half hour long surveys, I designed each of the following to take less than a minute of your time - each one has only two match-ups. You don't have to do them all, but completing one would certainly help out for the next round.

Thank you in advance for participating!

These are half of the first round games. Others to come once these results are in!

Key Takeaways

Finance people need to have Analytic strengths and a strong sense of Responsibility.

You May Also Like
    ::Do you agree that Empathy without Responsibility would not work for a finance role?
    ::Are Analytic strengths rare in those who hold finance positions? Can you share a story about this?

Add to the discussion with your thoughts, comments, questions and feedback! Please share Treasury Café with others. Thank you!