Krishnan Anantharaman Critical Thinking

Krishnan deployed a variety of strategies to execute on the finance transformation. He visited more than 20 organizations to study their CoE deployment and engaged with the Economic Development Board of Singapore, resulting in grants that helped defray the CoE’s operational costs. The National University of Singapore agreed to give J&J first right to hire students of its MBA course on analytics, and allowed the company to offer internships and get involved in capstone projects.

Two-day workshops were held in 12 countries with finance, business unit partners and local board members to establish the CoE brand, its vision and guiding principles, as well as recruit talent for the new facility. Persuading business-unit CFOs to rotate their top talent to the CoE, Krishnan created a talent pool that is a balanced mix of young and experienced hires, 74% CPA, CMA or MBA, and multi-ethnic (12 nationalities, all of them bilingual).

A CPA, CMA, CFA and MBA, Krishnan has been with Johnson & Johnson for more than two decades, after a three-year stint with Indian electrical engineering Bharat Biljee in 1991.

Excellence in Financial Planning & Analysis: Bazlan Osman of Telekom Malaysia

With 2.4 million customers, 28,000 employees and 2015 revenues of 11.7 billion ringgit (US$2.6 billion), Telekom Malaysia generates massive amounts of data. Fortunately for the company, Group CFO Bazlan Osman embarked on a three-year automation program in 2015. Business planning, budgeting and financial forecasting are now automated and extended to all business units and functions, including strategy, human capital planning and customer experience assurance.

As a result, the nearly 800-strong finance team spends less time on manual processes and finalizing numbers, allowing them to devote more of their energies to analytics, performance management, scenario planning and stress-testing. This is allowing finance to provide business units with rolling forecasts and information about value drivers, garnering buy-in from stakeholders on which FP&A’s success ultimately depends.

So far, the outcomes include a revenue assurance system called TRACE that aims to detect and recover revenue leakage by focusing on core leakage points, and a program known as CONCISE that combines multiple credit strategies and predictive analytics. CONCISE allows the business to approach on-time and late payers differently and detect accounts that have a higher chance of being used for fraudulent activity, as two examples.

Bazlan is a Fellow of the Association Chartered Certified Accountants and a Chartered Accountant of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants. Starting his career as an auditor with a public accounting firm in 1986, he was CFO of Celcom Berhad in 2002 and became Group CFO of Telekom Malaysia in 2005 after the merger of Celcom and TM Cellular.  

 On Friday, Krishnan Anantharaman from the Wall Street Journal wrote an interesting article about the new trend of asking questions designed to elicit critical thinking abilities in candidates.  Initially, I was pleased to hear that recruiters are trying to measure critical thinking ability given the fact that only 28% of college graduates are rated as having excellent critical thinking skills yet it’s the #1 workplace skill.

However, the types of questions being used by interviewers really caught my eye.  Here are a few examples from the article:

  • “What did you play with as a child?”
  • “If you could describe Hershey, Godiva and Dove chocolate as people, how would you describe them?”
  • “What is the chance that at least two people were born on the same day of the week if there are three people in the room?”
  • “If you walk into a liquor store to count the bottles unsold, but the clerk is screaming at you to leave, what do you do?

I'll be honest, if I received any of those interview questions, I would be very caught off-guard.  To some extent, that is the point.  Candidates today are so well-coached on the common questions like "Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a co-worker" or "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" that the answers rarely reflect the candidate themselves.  

But do these questions really get to the heart of critical thinking ability?  Given the fact that interview questions are notoriously unreliable  measures of ability, it is doubtful.  However, there is an easier solution.  Use an assessment.  

Not only is the Watson-Glaser II Critical Thinking Appraisal the gold standard for assessing critical thinking skills, but there is also an Interview Report that recruiters/interviewers can use to delve deeper into an individual's assessment results.  

You don't need to come up with silly questions or have someone role-play how to sell an imaginary pen.  Instead, use a psychometrically sound assessment that has a proven correlation with overall job success, occupational/educational attainment, and cognitive ability.

In the Watson Glaser Interview Report, interview questions are generated based on each individual's results on the Watson-Glaser assessment.  This creates a unique interview experience for each candidate.  In addition, the report uses a structured behavioral question format, additional probing questions, and scoring format to guide the interview.  

Which approach do you think would more accurately predict a strong critical thinker- the questions in the WSJ article or the results from the Watson-Glaser II plus Interview Report?

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