56 episodes

Finding Simple Solutions For Complex Situations

Wrestling With Chaos Gary Monti

    • Business

Finding Simple Solutions For Complex Situations

    Urko Wood: Jobs To Be Done

    Urko Wood: Jobs To Be Done

    In this episode Urko Wood, with Reveal Growth Consultants, discusses how business-to-business (B2B) companies can grow in a predictable manner using a method — Jobs-To-Be-Done — which also sustains value and profitability. The process is described in the seminal book, Jobs to be Done: From Theory to Practice, by Anthony W. Ulwick. Urko also has a free white paper, 3 Steps to Consistently Fill Your New Product Pipeline with Only Good Ideas, you may find quite beneficial for developing new products. The discussion opens with the reality one can’t just prepare to do Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) via a major in college. His initial contact with the method was with improving existing products and services. At the time it was not necessarily good at discovering new products and services that could be offered in new markets because the method was limited to existing products and services. Eventually he read an article in the Harvard Business Review and connected with Ulwick, the CEO and founder of Strategyn and became a part of his team from 2005 to 2012. From there Urko founded Reveal Growth Consultants, working mostly with small to midsize B2B companies. The conversation switched to VOC (the Voice of the Customer). The problem with that approach is it tends to focus on products that are already in place. With JTBD the opportunities lie with unmet needs. And in line with that it is important to separate the need from the solution, per Theodore Levitt, because “customers don’t want to buy a drill, they want to buy a hole.” A laser may do a better job than a drill. The customer wants to get the job done! The key is shifting from what we know how to do to what it takes to get the customer’s job done. The #1 reason for product failure is not understanding the customer’s needs. With JTBD the first goal is to discover the customer’s unmet needs. In line with this Urko approaches the customer defining 7 key terms: 1. Innovation 2. Customer need 3. Customer unmet needs 4. Opportunity 5. A Market 6. A Market segment 7. Creativity All terms need to be defined with the customer for innovation to occur. The client team must have a consistent definition of these terms. Innovation is first discovering the customers unaddressed needs and then integrating ideas to address them. THE SEQUENCE IS CRITICAL! The need must be defined separate from any possible solutions. This increases the odds of achieving a breakthrough. Failure to put solutions first can create real problems. The example was given of the cell phone industry switching from analog to digital and being disrupted due to analog leaders focusing on solutions first. This also occurred in the image industry with the switch from film to digital. The flow then is to first discover the customer’s unmet needs then evaluate those needs with the client’s team using concepts such as strategic fit, time to market, relative advantage, etc., in order to win in the market place. Innovation always comes before products in order to avoid being tied to existing products/services, e.g., an accounting consulting firm purchasing a digital security firm since most of their clients had that need. Most growth comes from discovering unmet needs, eliminate phantom needs, and then matching solutions with the important unsatisfied needs. The challenges of product management and innovation are often reflected in the company’s internal politics, diluting the focus on relevancy for the customer. In such situations it’s key to have an objective metric against which one can make good decisions. In other words, use the JTBD approach. JTBD uses market statistics to determine a prioritized list of needs, increasing the odds of success in terms of product development. The discussion may take some time and massaging the metrics give a good starting point rather than, say, the CEO’s pet idea. To get this information the conversation turned to methodology. A simple place to begin is asking customers what

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Kent Johnson: Family-owned Business

    Kent Johnson: Family-owned Business

    In this episode Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children, a family-owned business with a majority of independent Board members, discusses a series of topics ranging from his sudden take-over of the CEO position at age 36 due to the death of the incumbent to how the company started to the different avenues of childhood development Highlights pursues. To compound the situation he actually did not want the position since he was working successfully in biotech. Kent refers to the great mentorship he received from the Board of Directors which helped insure assuming the CEO position would be successful. A real plus was governance in terms of having sat with the Board for 2 years prior. The challenge of juggling a wide range of stakeholder populations was achieved by first focusing on the employee population since they were the main determinants of whether or not Kent would succeed, a key determinant of any leader’s success. As to general traits of being a good CEO Kent felt working hard and a willingness to listen are two key character traits. Kent’s father’s work as a scientist and his mother’s work as a politician working in the community contributed immensely to the foundation needed to succeed as CEO. It provided key lessons in diversity and its value in succeeding in meeting everyone’s needs. Humility is key. Fortunately, people are focused on the mission and avoid major, internal political struggles. To support this Kent will tell people, especially when asking a detailed questions, he just needs to know. His scientific training can creep in because he was trained to question everything…details, details. His training does help growth since promoting experiments is key to finding opportunities. Risk Management! In terms of income, Highlights for Children, is not their major source of income. Zaner-Bloser, professional development for teachers, etc. help create an environment where the organization can succeed especially by marketing to government agencies in order to gain sponsorship for their children. Chaos- and complexity theory come into play because there is a constant balancing act required to keep the company balanced, fresh, and appropriate for the markets they serve. Financially, grounding work in risk management is essential because a sunk-cost frame of mind is needed to determine whether or not continued investment in diversification strategies is essential. In turn, these efforts are grounded in a belief of what they can do for kids that will help them flourish. Consequently, a balance is struck in deciding when it is best to stop a highly-desirable project that is failing to show the necessary return potential. This is especially true as the world moves faster and faster. In line with this speed of business the criticality of maintaining balance in a constantly-changing environment is critical. In other words, Kent has to focus on, “How do we need to change in order to stay relevant?” As a middle-market company managers are expected to help in terms of looking at the outside world and how it is changing along with keeping existing workflows moving forward. This includes managing conflict through rules of engagement, e.g., assume a positive intent when there is conflict, work to provide solutions, examine assumptions, examine clarity of rules, examine possible consequences. This leads to clarity and alignment of goals from the Board to the employee. Managers must “translate” from one level of the organization to another. This alignment is critical especially when working with outside partners. Motivation can be a major task encouraging employees to work on change, stay focused on the problem-at-hand, and maintain respect for each other, i.e., an egoless team — hammer the idea, respect the people. Trust is critical. Debate in a trustworthy manner rather than attack resulting in interpersonal conflict. Conflict and fear crush innovation. Trust and discipline lead to thriving. Inclusion is

    • 1 hr 5 min
    Jim Bruner: Child Development - STEM vs STEAM

    Jim Bruner: Child Development - STEM vs STEAM

    In this episode I talk with Jim Bruner who works in child development and who draws on his long history of mentorship to develop diversity, specifically combining the arts with technology. We started with Jim introducing the importance of diversity - turning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). He and his husband bought a farm and with is half Jim dedicated it to gardening and technology. He realized without diversity technology is a destructive component causing isolation and destruction. With diversity technology can be unifying. He works with anthropologists, sociologists, and ethnographers to apply diversity to “gardens” of people! This helps with his search for diversity of skill and talent among his students, working to elevate the individual while promoting team spirit and behavior. A big breakthrough occurred when he realized there was benefit to be gained when the mentoring went outside a focused purpose - the children are unique “gardens,” themselves! Children need to be in an environment where they can thrive and grow, realizing for themselves what they can and can’t accomplish. Ask about their dreams, look at their art, etc., and let them talk about it. This helps children understand they don’t need permission to be who they are. The conversation moved into STEM vs STEAM. The arts are critical to every stage of technology because without a sense of wonder and beauty there is no technology. Art is needed to move technology forward. THERE ARE NO SOFT SKILLS - technology moving forward is about people interacting based on mutual respect. It is grounded in creativity. With STEAM children are challenged to push their own limits to solve problems. This turns creativity on, which is art. Learning to do this within a group and build mutual respect is key. With the “A” for Art, STEAM turns STEM into creativity. It’s teaching children to lean through empathy and understanding. One problem mentioned was the movement from “natural philosophy” to “science.” “Natural philosophy” is a frame of mind about connection across all areas of human endeavor which encourages art to be connected to technology - STEAM. On the other hand, removal of art in order to have STEM (as was done in the industrial revolution) risks dehumanizing and fragmenting the individual thus creating problems for and within children. Jim, himself, lives a diverse life, from his farm, Mezzacello (https://mezzacello.org/) where children study food, technology, and learning, to the PAST foundation (https://www.pastfoundation.org/ ) which partners anthropology with science and technology. “We don’t need more kids to work in factories. We need factories that can work with passion and creativity to reach new horizons.” Maurice Sendak in his book, “I don’t care, Pierre,” discusses how a STEM frame of mind leads to demotivation - absence of love. Technology flows from creativity which is forged in art, history, poetry, literature, love, laughter, and tears. People are the beautiful strange attractors that create chaos leading to invention and technology. But what about kids who don’t care? Kids who are outliers? They need mentorship both from adults but also peer-to-peer. They need to be empowered by learning to trust themselves and others. It has to do with vulnerability and dealing with the associated challenges. We discussed how Apollo 13 reflects what is being spoken. (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo13.html, 13 Factors that Saved Apollo 13) To reflect all this Jim teaches algorithms to children via Tai Chi - 11 movements tied together by a story. He can teach the algorithm to children in 3 weeks! The problem with algorithms arise when they are dedicated to a single purpose, e.g., profits. People then become devises meant only to achieve the goal - their humanity is subtracted. People are multi-dimensional and for childre

    • 52 min
    0060 WWC Recession Prep - processes and employees

    0060 WWC Recession Prep - processes and employees

    This episode is the first in a series on preparing for the next recession, “Recession Preparation - Processes and Employees.” The entire teamCMC contributes their expertise: • Gary Monti: change management, business analysis/planning, people & politics, project management • John Riley, Agility expert • Jeffrey Cochran, Human Resource expert The conversation was based on a point-counterpoint approach, i.e., which is more significant during a recession, a bad process or a bad employee? For this argument the definition of “recession” provided was, “A shrinkage of sales.” John started the conversation by saying organizations frequently want to cut employees were cut products in preparation for recession. He stressed what is important is to look at the efficiency of your processes and the value to the customer of your products. Consequently, the best place to start in terms of recession is to look at the value stream of your product. Jeffrey responded by starting with the observation that separate from a recession the bad employee is affecting your bottom line. A better employee typically has a compounding effect on the organization by influencing a drop in morale, productivity, and added stress for fellow employees. In line with this, Gary referenced an excellent book, “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t,” By Robert Sutton. Jeffrey went on to point out one of the biggest problems with difficult employees is failing to show up for work. The discussion proceeded to talk about the impact absenteeism has on the workplace. The big point regarding this is how organizations will adapt the dysfunction in an effort to keep products or processes moving forward to sustain cash flow. An example was given of how Detroit's Big Three, back in the ’70s when production quality was terrible, argued that Toyota would never catch on in terms of significant sales numbers. The rule at the time was, "you never want to buy a car was manufactured on a Friday or a Monday." The reason being absenteeism was so high. John picked up on that and turn the conversation back towards its impact on processes. He emphasized that with process execution one of most important aspect is retrospectives throughout the product delivery process. During those retrospectives the quality of performance by the team is one of the key elements to be addressed. And one of the key elements in addressing quality is individual team member performance with this issue being addressed directly by fellow team members rather than senior management. The function of senior management is to set the goals and to support the team during execution. The team should be empowered to address whatever it takes to deliver the value to the customer. In other words, the team being very direct with regards to retrospectives conducted on a routine basis is critical for survival during a recession. Vulnerability, then, becomes a key issue because senior management needs to risk turning power over to the team in addition to shouldering responsibility for determining what direction the organization should take. Jeffrey asked an excellent question with regards to owner stepping in and modifying the process in an attempt to adapt to the dysfunction in its present. There is general agreement that this is the case now the company is put it greater risk of failure because senior management is now pulling back ownership of the process by dictating how the team should adapt to the dysfunction. Gary proceeded to point out how power then shifts from senior management to the dysfunctional employee who becomes the tail that's wagging the dog. Once this inappropriate shift of power occurs the company is destabilized to some extent in the risk of failure during the recession goes up accordingly. An example is given of an employee who was guaranteed employment as a condition of her former company being bought out. Feeling bulletproof, the employee

    • 1 hr 6 min
    0059 WWC Influence People by Brian Ahearn - Book Review

    0059 WWC Influence People by Brian Ahearn - Book Review

    In this episode I review “Influence People: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade That Are Lasting and Ethical,” written by Brian Ahearn. In addition to influencing people in general, information is provided for those who need to improve their sales cycle. His approach is very practical, laying out key principles and associated acronyms that can be used to practice sharpening you ability to influence people. His overall tone is about helping the read as an entire person, not just one aspect. The work is based on solid research. He boils the information down to 7 key shortcuts which basically are sound principles. They include: 1. Reciprocity - behave in a way that encourages others to relate to you 2. Liking - people want to do business with their friends or people they like 3. Authority - experienced or knowledgable - use it 4. Consensus - when no authority use how groups are moving in a given direction 5. Consistency - channel a person’s consistent behavior in a desirable direction. Be consistent yourself to develop trust. 6. Scarcity - people respond more to what they might lose than they do to what they might gain 7. Unity - people like to relate with people with whom they have a sense of belonging and with whom they may have common experiences Additional tools are presented: ▪ Compare and contrast - set the stage to make it easy for the other person to go in the direction you want, e.g., “This normally is $799 but since you are here I can give it to you at $599.” Another example is given with wine lists. When the wines are listed in decreasing price people buy more because they feel they are being practical by buying a good bottle but one not so expensive. When listed from lowest price to highest people buy substantially lower priced products because they are only seeing an increase in price rather than an opportunity to “save” ▪ Consistency vs authority. Consistency is driven by client history in terms of thoughts, feelings, and actions traditionally going in a specific direction. Authority is used when your expertise legitimately points the person being persuaded in the desired direction. This especially helps when the client is uncertain. ▪ Conformational bias. Present information that is ethical and honest but plays in the direction the other person wants to go. ▪ “Because I said so.” The word “because” allows people to be gracious and help. This works especially well when put in the form of a question, e.g., “Would you please get your report to me by Monday because I have to roll it into a larger report?” If they say “no” you can have a backup position of Wednesday. “How about Wednesday?” Usually people don’t want to say “no” twice in a row so with this approach you increase the odds of getting their report when you actually need it. They have a sense of reciprocity. Decision making and rationality are the next topics he presents. Most decision-making is essentially irrational, with some researchers believing >90% of our decision-making is driving by the unconscious. What you are exposed to and the order in which you are exposed sets the stage for how the decisions will flow. This gets back to the reality people respond more to concern about what they might lose compared to what they might gain. Several examples are given. Brian goes on to give about 15 tips for improving your bottom line. Case studies are then provided, some of which are fascinating and make it worth purchasing the book. This includes: - How Kodak went from having almost 100% of the image market to almost nothing - JCPenny losing 40% of it’s stock value by making changes that failed to take the customer’s wishes into consideration - How Bernie Madoff used the principles in this book unethically to swindle $65 billion - Why Starbucks is so pervasive even though they don’t advertise. What’s their secret? The etiquette for using social media is discussed. Use it to network and connect…d

    • 26 min
    0058 WWC Coaching vs Therapy - Dr. Katherine Barteck, PsyD, Interview

    0058 WWC Coaching vs Therapy - Dr. Katherine Barteck, PsyD, Interview

    This episode is an interview with Dr. Katherine Barteck, PsyD, about the differences between counseling and coaching. She starts with definitions of therapy and coaching. Counseling, or therapy, is about taking an in-depth look at what is creating the current problems. The person can benefit from psychotherapy without necessarily having a diagnosis. Simply having the desire to explore one's past is efficient to gain benefits from psychotherapy. Also, the person who lacks a specific diagnosis may be going through a stressful period and needs help in sorting things out. The therapeutic process can be used to directly impact behaviors and business. This can be, at times, an essential component of change management. Gary describes, in line with that, the client he worked with who'd been chronically abused as a child. It's critical when doing this work for the coach to understand when it's time to bring a therapist in. On the flipside, work may be required to perform the basic act, e.g., negotiating with others, which a therapist can help with but where there really is no underlying pathology. Dr. Bartek points out coaching is not a protected medical privilege. If subpoenaed, a coach can be required to reveal details of the relationship in court. The coach can benefit by having discussions within the therapist's office, where privilege does apply. The coach can maintain privilege by generating a list of action items, to do lists, or behaviors that need changed in taking those lists with the client out into the business world where they can be discussed and worked on without referencing the therapeutic process. In the end, what needs to be considered is whether or not the client needs a therapist, a coach, or both along with where the boundaries lie between the client and these professionals. The conversation switch to the differences between how therapy and coaching are framed. In therapy the client is in a protected space where they can open up fully and flesh out their entire frame of mind and associated feelings in order to work on improving. In other words, it is a safe space. The client can safely choose what they want to take to the outside world which is where they would work with the coach. The client can then explore in the outside world and bring the results back to the safety of the therapist office. Coaching, on the other hand, can be more open and more diverse and application because the working assumption is the coaches working with the healthy components of the client. Consequently, a psychotherapist has to be careful when they are coaching to avoid going back into a therapeutic session during the actual coaching engagement. It is important to maintain the distinction between the two. The issue of shame and seeking counseling was brought up. An article, "The Very Real Dangers of Executive Coaching," by Steven Berglas was discussed. He talks about how important it is to avoid downplaying psychological issues when coaching powerful people. Specifically, there can be prestige associated with an executive having a coach which can enhance his or her sense of grandiosity. Berglas goes on to distinguish between a "problem executive" versus and "executive with a problem." The former is able to be trained to function effectively while the latter is best helped by psychotherapy. Coaching may also be viewed as a way to get simple answers with quick results while therapy typically is more involved and takes a longer period of time to show results. It is important to set expectations accordingly. Gary provided an example where inability to follow through thoroughly with therapy led to hampering of the client's company's performance leading to the eventual sale of the organization. Dr. Bartek went on to talk about two cautions critical for coaches to pay attention to. The first one being the overplaying of behavioral techniques in order to gain quick responses when therapy is more appropriate, and the second being the avoidance

    • 1 hr 8 min

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