Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Some years ago I was asked to do a presentation to an international sales and service team in the medical device industry. I attended their global sales meeting, with my presentation planned for the last day… it was to be motivational… “get them to achieve more with their customers” was my direction.
I attended all of the three day meetings to get used to the technology they were selling and servicing… good thing, since it became clear to me that my planned presentation was totally wrong. This group of people had a long way to go before they were a team, and if I could recognize it, the customers could, too.
The internal and external sales, service and marketing functions all had managers who were in silos, reporting to the President/CEO. Each had his own set of goals and incentives… and upon analysis, some were at cross-purposes. While this wasn’t going to change, it became clear to me that it needed to become more seamless. The teams didn’t trust one-another… sales felt marketing wasn’t giving them the right tools; marketing felt sales didn’t know how to sell the product; service thought sales over sold product capabilities, leaving them to clean up the too-high expectations.
The company also had product problems with the customers who, it appeared, felt the product did what several other incumbent products did… and was more expensive. This was leading to frustration throughout the company, and a low productivity level (sales to FTE ratio) that was not sustainable.
After discussions with the CEO I asked to do a very casual presentation with all three groups attending the meeting… sales, service and marketing… the teams had direct interfaces with customers, and each other. It was to be a low-tech discussion… flip chart, markers, casual seating (it turned out to be a dinner presentation), after-dinner drinks on the tables!
I worked through the issues that I saw… and new needed to be addressed:
a) The teams had no credibility with each other, or the customer.
b) They were focused on telling about their product, instead of positioning it visa vis the status quo, in each account. They were unable to differentiate their product as a result… customers were not buying it.
c) This enterprise group was the most up-tight I had met; almost disliking each other as teams, and as individuals. They were not having fun, and turn-over had become a problem for the sales and service departments.
Credibility is the currency of success… establishing it as a team, and as individuals internally in companies, is critical to success. This is done through strong internal communications before, during and after products are developed, tested, launched and sold. All commitments should be made realistically, so that success is achievable. Product, market analysis, selling tools, product training and so on, should all be coordinated before launch. I liken this to selling among the internal teams (ensuring marketing knows sales’ needs; sales knowing what service needs to achieve its goals, and so on). Ensuring that those needs are satisfied first, helps with achieving the enterprise’s goals. Transparency throughout the process is critical; to get it right with one another, before trying to get it right for the external customer.
Credibility with the customer is a similar situation. A sales person, internal or external, needs to establish her credibility, before customers will trust the company. Then the company has to come through with a product and service that meets the expectations that were established by the sales person. Credibility soars when things go wrong and the team comes together with service to ensure the product issues are resolved.
Once the teams have internal credibility with one another, they have a better opportunity with the customer.
Differentiation is the second area of opportunity I wanted to address. This is the problem of the customer not recognizing the utility of the new product verses what they already had been successfully using… the status quo. Learning how to differentiate product from competition and status quo is a fundamental of selling. Sales people cannot successfully sell if the marketing and engineering teams don’t give them product, selling tools and training to clearly define the new product.
Differentiation necessitates a deep understanding of the customer’s processes and the competitive products and companies. As marketing and its allied teams develop product specifications, this should be a core strategy… even products with clear advantages may not be differentiated to “the tipping point” * where customers will rationalize the price and conversion cost differences. Training programs for sales people have been in place for years to try and establish this situation… but without product, selling tools, sales support, service and so on, all combining into a strong proof… customers will not recognize it, and not buy it.
As I discussed the concept of differentiation with the full group, I could see heads nodding and questions/statements started. It became clear that if the teams worked together, they could also impact their credibility with each other. Just fifteen minutes into the discussion, I asked the teams to introduce themselves, with a one-line statement about whatever they wanted the others to know about them. Then I asked them to switch seats at their tables or between tables… clearly there was discomfort… the personalities, history and so on between desperate groups was significant… no less so, just because they are working for the same company.
I then started discussing the apparent silos between each group and how it was causing a clear lack of enjoyment, enthusiasm and fun at the meeting. Employees spend 40 to 80 hours a week with other employees… depending on one another. If it isn’t some level of fun, it is not worth doing. I actually encouraged the teams to find a way to have fun at the meeting and subsequently, in all interactions. When you aren’t having fun, you may as well be somewhere else… shocking the executive of the company, I encouraged those not having fun, to leave… even to leave the company. Shock treatment is old school, but sometimes works…
It wasn’t long before the participants were joking about having fun! It became fun to be with the team. A subsequent presentation that evening from the head of the sales team echoed several of the themes I had initiated, and it became OK to be talking across team lines, that evening.
I ended the presentation by taking the first letters of credibility, differentiation and fun and making the acronym CDF! My final exhortation to the company was “go CDF yourself”. They did, and the company gradually found ways to success… not just with CDF of course… but subsequent corporate successes were grounded in the concepts from that evening.**
*Malcolm Baldrige… The Tipping Point
** Yes, in the following year, I was honored to become a manager in the company, and utilized the “CDF” as part of my signature. It took years to really accelerate the business model, and it happened not only because of CDF… but it was a beginning that can work for any company with silo management issues.
Friday, October 28, 2016
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
So what is the 2016 election really all about?
As usual there are different things for different folks… from being a historic GOP or Dem full ballot voter; to those checking all the issues that impact them personally; and finding a candidate or ballot issue that matches each, as closely as is possible. This probably doesn’t give anyone satisfaction, since democracy is not that granular, therefore individual needs cannot be assuredly satisfied with a single vote.
Democracy is not many of the things we believe it to be. As an example, it is not a “majority rules” form of government… except in 22 countries of the world who require all eligible voters (usually based on age) that are listed here http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/22-countries-voting-mandatory/ … In effect, the rest of the countries are being ‘ruled’ by the leadership of the winning political party that received the majority of the votes of those who did vote… Usually much less than 80%.
An example of non-democratic voting processes, is the USA. In 2012 just 57.5% of eligible American voters actually cast a ballot. In 2000 only 54.2% voted in the election that ultimately put the USA into a war in 2001 that is (fifteen years later, it is still not over). Interestingly, the outcome of that election, was in effect, decided by only the nine members (5 – 4) of the Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) that stayed a Florida State Supreme court decision of 4 – 3 and ultimately elected George W. Bush president. All of which means that a change of around 1,500 votes overcame the majority of the votes in the country based on the arcane Electoral College system established by the US Constitution Articles and its 12th Amendment. Hardly a democracy by the definition… but here I digress!
So, if one is not choosing to vote based on specific line item issues… what is a reasonable way to consider the election of 2016. It is relatively simple, in my opinion to see the number one issue on the minds of Americans… not war, not healthcare, not the deficit… it is more likely the issue of “government not working” at the federal level. Without attaching blame, let’s look at the mechanics of the “government not working” issue, and the resulting legislative acrimony.
To start, it is important to understand the structure of the US Government at the federal level. There is a separation of power between the President of the USA, the Congress and the Supreme Court of the USA. These three branches of government have different responsibilities that allow government to work (Congress) and to manage disagreements/interpret the US Constitution (Supreme Court of the USA, (SCOTUS))
The President has certain responsibilities under the constitution. S/he is primarily responsible for any international agreements, policies and non-declared wars (the type of which most USA military activity in the 21st Century, have been). The President is also the “leader” of the administration of the country within the boundaries and laws established by the US Constitution and Congress. S/he is also the morale leader in times of trouble, and celebration.
The ‘framers of the Constitution of the USA’ established the US Congress with its two houses… one, the Senate is made up of two Senators from each state (50 x 2 = 100, today). With an age requirement (30 years old), and six year terms (a third is replaced every two years). The Senate was established to take the edge off the House of Representatives (which is based on population dispersion). The Senate is perhaps intended to be the wiser, more sedate, less tumultuous governing body in congress. Because of that, it was also chosen to give the President ‘advice’ relative to international wars; the nomination of Federal Judges; and leaders of Federal Agencies. In these situations, they are also required to give ‘consent’ to the ‘major’ nominations like Supreme Court Nominees, Ambassadors and Cabinet Members.
The House of Representatives, on the other hand, is based on each state’s population density percentage of the national population (there are 435 members of the house… eg: 27 are from the populous New York State and only 8 from Wisconsin a much lower density population state); the members serve only two-year terms (however there are no limits to the number of terms a Representative can serve).
This makes the House more volatile and prone to swings in policy based on the happenings of the day. Things like unemployment, healthcare, education and other personal issues, often cause significant swings in the politics of this legislative body. The wisdom of the Senate which must pass each of the House of Representatives’ legislative recommendations, prior to it going to the President, for promulgation, was seen by the framers of the constitution as having a ‘calming’ effect.
The President can refuse to sign into legislation (veto) policies to which s/he disagrees. The Congress can over-ride a veto with a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. President Obama’s vetoes, for example have been overturned only once in eight years. So the ‘veto’ is a big hammer that the President can swing on the Congress.
The foregoing is an overly-simplified version of what happens in the legislative process of the USA. It is however critical to understanding why government is not working. If the leadership of either the Senate or the House of Representatives (or both), is in disagreement with the President for political, economic or other reason, they have the ability to hold up any, and/or all new legislation the President wants to pass*. This is critical in the 2016 Presidential election, simply because promises made by a Presidential candidate may not necessarily be passed into legislation, if the leadership of the House and Senate cannot, or will not agree to it.
So in my opinion, there is only one issue in 2016 Federal Election… when a President is elected on November 8th, 2016, will s/he be able to accomplish the goals to which they aspire?
It is the structure of the government that may give us the answer, if the past 20-year-history can lead us to better judgement, in the future. The President of the USA, for all the apparent power s/he may seem to have, cannot move the country in a significant way, without having agreement with the Congress, and in many ways, the Supreme Court.
The twenty-year-trend has been toward polarization between the President and Congress, so legislation has been very slow to pass. Yet, clearly there are significant domestic issues that need to be addressed. Based on structure, it is my opinion that the only way to deal with the needs of the country (infrastructure, healthcare, domestic security, social security, education) is to elect a President who can manage the relationship with congress on a win/win basis. There is a secondary issue that ‘might’ help… that being, to elect a President and Congress (House and Senate) from the same party in order to get legislation flowing. Although absent managing the relationship with Congress, even same party officials often disagree on issues (Obama’s first term for example).
Primarily the election of a President should be based (again in my opinion):
1) on electing a person who has demonstrated the ability to understand and work with all branches of the federal government;
2) it is critical for the incumbent to also understand, and be capable of working with the military, Governors of State legislatures, municipal leaders and leaders of other countries
3) on understanding that the USA is a daunting leadership quagmire, one that is very different from being a business or institution
4) knowing the gravitas of also carrying the mantel of decisions that perhaps could impact the globe… pollution, power, human migration and nuclear proliferation to mention a few.
The main crux of this note is that it is important to vote… but also to understand what is in the balance of our votes… and it will be the union of many votes that gets our Legislative Bodies to work with the Leadership through rightful and thoughtful use of our obligation.
Notes: * (an exception to this is the budget of the USA: there is legislation in place that states that if the new budget request from the President in any one year is not passed by a pre-determined date, the budget of the prior year is repeated).
This is an interesting website: https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2016
Thursday, October 13, 2016
The Election in the USA … this is a long post, but not when comparing the time to read it, and then “think” about the election, and the impact on our personal lives.
One should be sensitive to surroundings these days when ‘thinking’ about the 2016 Federal Election in the USA. I write ‘thinking’ about it because it has such a huge potential impact on the future of America… it is important to ‘think’ about what action to take in the voting booth.
The election is important because of things that can happen in the four-year term of the next President… as well as the long term impact of decisions made by the President, Congress and Supreme Court. This cycle will see significant global changes requiring the next President to wrestle with such issues as:
a) a) in global life (human, animal and plants) because of environmental issues (weather, carbon fuels, global warming) that will strain not only relationships between countries, but between individuals within many countries
b) b) strains in global/macro-economies because of the rise of major population areas’ (India, China, Brazil) economies through better education; lower and fluctuating wages; the impact of conflicts and resulting migration; the application of significant technological breakthroughs in machine learning and applications of the digital revolution and robots
c) c) the hierarchy of countries based on the ability of one of many to wage nuclear war and the change in propensity to use such weapons whether the country is a super-power or not… Russia, India, Pakistan, Ukraine, Israel, North Korea among others can deliver a weapon, somewhere in the world that could start a chain of events leading to disaster
In the domestic cycle of four to eight years the next President has to make decisions that lean on each of the global issues above (among many others), and importantly lead and influence decisions that directly impact domestic life… such as developing and implementing strategies:
a) * to improve infrastructure such as highways, bridges, airports… in order to ensure there is not a breakdown in the ability to move goods and services
b) * to protect the colossal amount of data developed by the government agencies from cyber attack
c) to ensure the banking, patent, internet and investment systems are robust, fair and protected from conflicting influence.
d) *to revamp the education systems and motivation to maximize the use of education by the population to regain leadership in technological and societal evolution
e) * rebuild the delivery of quality, affordable medical services, and motivate the population to utilize more, healthy life-styles to reduce the costs of poor health on the economy
f) * to manage the debt in a way that keeps it serviceable, without international leverage
The leverage that the President will need to use will be based on his/her ability to work through the various levels of government (municipal, state and federal), and the political parties, not to mention significant regional bias. A problem with the “big picture” issues above, is that all of them depend on the interaction of the layers of government and leadership of each, to get things done. Without effective up/down and across communications among the governments, things like policing, education, banking and so on, cannot be impacted or work effectively.
The most critical jobs of the President of the USA are in the areas of international affairs, defense of the homeland (military, environmental issues) and so on. In these, s/he can act somewhat independently as long as budgets are available. Beyond these, the President must work with Congress to accomplish the goals of his/her platform. If there is symmetry in the goals (based on the political numbers in the Senate and House of Representatives) of the two governing layers of the country, it is easier to accomplish shifts in strategy that are likely needed to move the country in a significant way.
Without getting too deep into the issues of governing with less symmetry, one can reasonably assume that it is important to have symmetry. When big change is needed in the USA (the issues listed above are “big change”) the President needs to have his/her party in control of both the Congressional House of Representatives and the Senate.
At the same time, the country needs to have a judicial system that is capable of timely decisions across the federal civil, criminal and family court structures. While this starts with the Supreme Court, it is important to have all levels of courts functioning. The next President will have the opportunity to nominate several new Justices to the courts, including the Supreme Bench… starting on Day One with a replacement that will again give the court nine justices.
So, these are large issues, and our vote in November looms larger with the reduction in days forward to make a decision… as I write this, we have 30 days before finally voting. The surroundings that I mentioned being sensitive to at the outset are important because the very process of becoming educated on the issues means listening to, watching or reading sources of information that also insert bias more than at any time in the past. The process of “reporting” is no longer pure enough to trust “reports”. In effect, much of what we get as “news” is in fact commentary.
So once one’s store of information on policies, personalities, status quo is informed, I think it is important to find a way to metabolize the available information and come up with a decision on how to vote the ticket that will be presented in the voting booth. This means voting what is called the “top of the ticket” for President… and the down ticket… for Senator, Congressman in each district, and Judges, mayors and for many different “issues” that are on the ballot around the country. There is interaction between the top and all of the others… but particularly the Senate and House… important interaction that can facilitate a rational President… or keep him/her in check if necessary.
It is very hard to get away from momentary influences and the situation this year seems more dynamic than in any election in which I have participated. But that dynamic nature means it is even more important to make an educated, thoughtful decision. The issues of personal conduct, in my opinion are important… what conduct, in what conditions are important in the elimination of a candidate anywhere on the ticket? Not for me to judge, but for us to contemplate.
This election is about avoiding a nuclear war, and the genocide of millions of people based on one or another leader’s whim. It is about ensuring resolution to awesome issues like global warming; human migration and suffering; potable water and safe food availability and so on. It is of course also about national issues… as listed here… but if America wants to be the big dog in the world, it has to get off the porch and become a welcome leader, again. Leadership isn’t about the bite anymore (too many nuclear warheads), it is about influencing rational development of our globe and beyond.
This is what we are voting about in November… it is more than one’s personal benefit, although it is to some extent about that… if we count surviving in a nuclear environment; or one with “storms of the century”, every week; or a country turned on itself with its guns and money.
Along with these issues one can add that it is an obligation, as a citizen, to be an informed voter… and to vote. I hope each of us will.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Consider the $3 Trillion healthcare bill that we had last year…. These are all the costs of generating or curing, hopefully healthy people in the USA, each and every year. For those who know a little about numbers, the “Rule of 70” tells us that if the cost of healthcare continues at the average annual rate of 6%... the cost of healthcare in the USA in 2027 will be about $6 Trillion… that’s $6,000,000,000,000.
That is also over 17% of the USA GDP... that is a GDP that is growing at an annual rate of less than 2.5%.
So, what will the GDP in the USA be in 2027 if it continues to grow at the 2.5% rate. Simple compounding gets us to $23 trillion, or so. By that time, 2027, healthcare will be over 25% of the GDP of the USA. Interestingly, the Federal Government budget is only $3.7 Trillion.
Healthcare costs for the nation seems to be completely unsustainable! Yet, we continue to work in the government as if we can just print money to keep its part floating… but what can the folks who are spending from their own bank account do?
The current model in the US, with the highest per capita costs in the developed world is also getting the poorest quality… aside medical research and cancer survival rates, the USA ranks 10th or worse in each other category (see the graphic below). Again, if the dollars are unsustainable, what will happen to what is already among the worst outcomes… especially when we are paying out over 2 times what the other counties are paying?
The incremental changes we discuss in the government generally keep the ecosystem currently in place for healthcare in the USA the same as it has been since the 1950’s. Doctors, Hospitals, Pharmaceutical companies and Insurance companies are the focus. Regulations and standards are based on keeping them profitable, under all circumstances… regardless of quality. The system is not working!
The focus needs to be on the patient. The patient needs to be in control of her file and able do decide what is best for her and her family. This is not the case today, as anyone with an experience bordering on or including a catastrophic event. If other countries can do it (again, have a look at the chart below), then the USA can do it, too.
But it needs to be brave!
But it needs to be brave!
Saturday, July 9, 2016
Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense, and insight. Yup, I lifted that from my favorite web spot, Wikipedia.
How does one come by having wisdom, without going through the gambits of life, growing up… making mistakes, doing some things right and so on? For centuries this came from parenting, grand parenting, experience and education. There is the sense that the devolution of the family unit has contributed negatively to the transition of wisdom from one generation, to the next. Parent to child and grandparent to grandchild… missing in many families due to distance… in miles and culture.
If this is correct, and if wisdom has value to society, it is likely that the shortage will be in the first thirty years of people’s lives. Also, one can posit that the accumulated wisdom in the last 30 years of people’s lives might also go to waste since it can’t be handed down to grandchildren for the same reason…
Some would have us believe that all of the lost valuables like a grandparent spending quality time with a grandchild teaching an old technique like woodcarving, or talking about family history are useless… I disagree. That allows the genes passed along to be enabled with memories, ideas, creativity and so on.
Parents talking with their older children about keeping an even temper, about how to treat people and how to make life better, also can have a deep impact on how they develop into adulthood. These things play out later in life… and when absent occasionally result in deep rooted problems for next-gen families… money and health problems are examples often of not listening to or having access to wise counsel.
Many of these conversations don’t happen today. It is reflected in many ways, and unfortunately may also be the cause of the dysfunction we are seeing in parts of our society today. Clearly people not being able to absorb change in our society and environment may also be those not having had good family passage of wisdom… or willingness to listen for wise counsel… or a willingness to look for it.
Recently I viewed a re-run of a movie with Robert De Niro and Anne Hatheway as the stars, called The Intern. At one stage he said in-character as Ben Whittaker “you are never wrong to do the right thing”… how could he know that, except that he had over forty years of experience in business. He was, by being the intern (in reverse), passing this wisdom on, to his “boss”. This is a great example of passing on wisdom to person who never had parenting or management because she started the business right out of college (à la Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs).
So, what do we do about this lack of wisdom hand-me-down thing? Honestly, I am not sure.
I know in business there is the potential of using the “Intern” idea. I disagree with the use of
‘consultants’ who are working with strategy … I was involved in some of that and failed in my
opinion, to be of great utility. But as a supporter of a young executive, perhaps I have had
occasional experiences that were more successful. I think similar things can happen between
youth and senior who would stand in occasionally for the missing grandparent. Similar to the
very successful Big Brother and Sister programs… only one extra generation beyond.
Wearable personal monitoring apps and devices… if not used to develop actionable information, what good are they?
There are as many viewpoints on this issue as there are people utilizing the devices… many are actually using them to improve performance. For example, a runner might use a device to not only time a training run, but to manage her heart rate during wind-sprints and track the data with an eye to reducing heart rate while increasing speed over the training period.
My Samsung device monitors my activity by the hour, alarming me to get up and move if I am inactive for the previous 60 minutes. The goal here is to allow circulation of oxygenated blood to the extremity muscles and allow your heart to pace up, your lungs to expel gases, your organs to remove toxins and so on… all good. Later in life this helps avoid leg cramps and poor circulation.
Sleep monitoring is interesting, as well… My Band from Microsoft lets me know my sleep habits. When normally I get my 8+ hours of sleep it tells me that my early sleep was not of high quality… not Stage 3 SWS or REM so to speak (the former helps the body regenerate and the latter, regenerates and organizes the brain and memory). Then it comments that among other things, having an alcohol drink in the hours before going to sleep will disturb several hours, until that toxin is run through the liver and kidneys enough to get it out of the blood stream… then in fact, the better Stages III and IV, and REM occur. When I don’t have a drink for a few evenings, sure enough, sweet dreams early in the rest period. I suppose this is actionable monitoring in which I should participate… hmmm, do drink or not to drink alcohol before bed?
So, in some ways, wearable devices can be useful… but only if we take action, based on the information they are developing. Much of that information has to be trended in order to be useful. If the app doesn’t trend the data, or we don’t record it manually, it usually is useless. As well, if one is going to use it with weekly interfaces with a coach, or with a visit to a physician, it is a must to have trended data… allowing us to know if we are getting better, getting worse… is the new normal being too high or low…
Recently my blood pressure which I have been trending for over three years started to trend higher. My resting heart rate had also begun trending higher, from rest rates around 45 up to 60 and BP moving to 135/90 from 110/70. The trending wasn’t constant when looking at a daily plotting.
I had a cardiac check-up scheduled, so I took my data with me… I had a suspicion that my new work and all the flying I was doing had something to do with it, so I also plotted my flight schedules against the trend lines. Sure enough the daily increases in BP and HR a couple of days following extended flights were significant… and causing the trailing averages to go up. A new medication and pressure stockings for flights put everything back to my target pressures on average and daily… that’s action based on a wearable. When I stop flying for work again, I will return to the past meds and tactics.
If we are not using the information, why have it… I suppose my Microsoft Band or Samsung Gear II look cool… but not as cool as keeping things in a healthful status. It is something that we should work on… how to put all this information to use. There are Bluetooth weight scales, blood pressure and heart rate cuffs, pulse
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- Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!