Due to the popularity of our Collaboration Experiences, we are continuing them on a weekly basis for the foreseeable future. Here is the latest- a report after a two day session with a leading manufacturing company. They are resistant to change, creativity, data, modeling and the details...
• Validate current XYZ offering and the sources of value
- Centers of Excellence
• Validate proposed entry strategy and customer targets
• Determine pro’s and con’s of each strategy/customer segment
• Refine value proposition for customer to join the group
• Culture – These are engineers, and are used to working for a huge company that makes big, complex things that take a lot of time and require careful assembly. Designing a new product takes years. They don’t get excited at being in the environment; they don’t like being hurried from one breakout to another; they don’t see why they should turn off a cell phone; and nobody seems to own a problem in a personal way.
• Sponsor style – Yes, that was sponsor, not sponsors. Sponsor X is low key, soft-spoken man, needs to sleep on a decision, and whatever the quality is that lights up a room—he has the opposite. He decided to brief all the participants thoroughly on the agenda during the introduction. Oh, and if you have any business to take care of back in the home office, be sure to make that phone call. The general effect of all this non-energy was, well, non-energy. They got the work done, created what was needed, but it was dry and without passion. Interestingly, they like our work, and plan to use it for the next phase—a meeting with a whole bunch of companies. They prefer this collaborative way of working with consultants, “a whole lot better than all those other consulting firms.”
• Account team – Low energy client, lack of enthusiasm among the participants, and no evidence that a culture exists that can make a success of a service-style business are something that the account team has taken note of. Their reaction to this problem was to guide, push, and try to infuse all the energy that seems to be missing (I am not sure this was conscious). They lay out the path they feel the client should follow and work to make it as easy as it can possibly be. Three or more consultants accompanied sponsor X whenever a conversation was going on. He would ask a question and an account team member would (literally) leap in front of me to show how that point might be addressed. They arranged for dinners each evening, and personally shuttled the clients to and from the hotel in a fleet of rented vans as if they might otherwise wander off like children. During the event, the account team did about half the report outs (not for lack of trying to get someone from the client to do them). If Sponsor X asked for something, anything, he was instantly accommodated. They saw it as listening to their client, and I was later spanked for telling him we wouldn’t do something one way, that another would get us what we wanted. They were so protective and intent on helping the client along that it made them very difficult to work with from my perspective.
• Sponsor planning – The upshot of this was that I did not have much time to build any relationship with Sponsor X (I also had a schedule that didn’t allow me to physically go to the home office to meet him). Since this was the second session, the account team treated it much as they would an ordinary facilitated session. They wanted the team essentially ready so that the sponsor walkthrough would be as short and prepared as possible.
• So what? – Well, when you facilitate ‘cold,’ cold is exactly what you get. There is no opportunity to establish a relationship you can build off of during the event. They truly were a difficult group to engage with and get to ‘own’ the problem, and I never figured out how to do it. I have never felt so disengaged from a client group—the introduction was very rushed, it was a smaller group, had a very ‘workshop-py’ feel, and the people were un-engaging in general. I don’t know that more connection time earlier on would have made a difference, but it couldn’t have hurt. So:
o You have to physically meet the players. If possible, see their native environment—it might give you some clues on how to unlock them. The sponsor walk-through is too late to develop a relationship you can use to cause the right things to happen.
o Working an agenda with the account team in the client’s absence is a recipe for facilitator frustration, unless they are good people to design with. These folks were much more interested in managing the client’s experience than anything else—to be fair, there wasn’t much mystery in this session about what the work was, more in how to get there. But I was logistically limited to phone calls, and all parties were frustrated with the arrangement.
o The facilitator was being marginalized. My mission is to deliver a successful session, which we have been able to do in a number of trying circumstances. But being shouldered to the sidelines by the account team minimizes the effect I can have (they would tell you that they are just doing careful planning). I believe the way to tackle this is challenge is to have a heart-to-heart with the account president, which I wasn’t able to do until a day before the walkthrough—and even then it was by phone, which isn’t the right medium to articulate and solve this problem satisfactorily.
o Sometimes you can successfully distract over-organizers by giving them another task and convincing them of its importance. If you can shift the conversation away from agendis detailitis (an annoying and uncomfortable condition that affects facilitators and can affect the health of an event if unchecked) by saying, “Look, this input information is really critical, and it is imperative that we get it right by the day before the session. That is the focus!”
Here are some of the other insights from the session:
• Lots of Data & Modeling – The account team assembled a LOT of data for the session. (One of the reason they were so much of a pain about the agenda was that they had enough time to be.) That made our session very data and knowledge rich. The knowledge workers were used as information brokers in a very healthy way.
• Company Survey – We often have sessions where the customer is a missing or unknown element. In this case, the account team had been taking a survey for the client on their behalf—interviewing CEO and managers at 15 customers, so that we had a very clear picture of what they customers wanted in this case. This is an excellent practice, served as the proxy for the customer, and told the client that they were on the right track.
• Paper Airplanes – We decorated the space with paper airplanes—lots of them. We had a blast folding and hanging them all over the place. I liked the look a lot. You would think a bunch of engineers would play with them, but it was if mobiles of origami hanging from every light fixture were completely unremarkable. The nearest they came to engaging with the environment was to blow on the airplanes to test the balance points.
• Agreed upon Offer
• Pro’s and Con’s for each entry strategy/customer segment
• Value proposition for each customer segment
8:00 – 8:30 Introduction
• Each person introduces themselves and gives “sound bite” of article they read over breakfast
• Sponsor covers what we are here to achieve and brings people up to date on the project. Emphasis on deliverables at end of the year and how we are here to finish crafting a design, not start with a blank slate.
• Facilitator on how to get the most out of your session
8:30 – 8:45 Customer Segment Teams – split participants into a set of teams representing the five customer segments. Ask those teams to identify important areas to listen for in the series of trade show presentations to come. 1 page overview of segment to be handed out.
• Customer Group 1
• Customer Group 2
• Customer Group 3
• Customer Group 4
• Customer Group 5
8:45 – 10:45 Trade Show, 3 rounds, 40 minutes each – the participants will each attend three 30-minute briefings/discussions on the Survey and parts of the project design as it stands now. Objective is to get them familiar with the work to date, hear their input, questions and challenges, and get their validation of the high-level approach. Everyone attends all three on a rotational basis, but does not have to stay with their constituent team.
• Survey Results
• Centers of Excellence
• Ownership & Control
10:45 – 11:45 Secondary Market discussions – 3 groups breakout to discuss how to leverage the Centers of Excellence into the secondary market to increase the pull of customers from the primary market. The group reconvenes and discusses results.
11:45 – 12:30 Synergies/Bundling Material is covered in main room
12:30 – 12:45 Knowledge Wall overview (to share data and information available to the teams
12:45 – 2:15 Market Segment Definition – Getting back into the same Customer Segment teams:
• Review the 5 segments and discuss whether these are the right segments
• Review their own customer segment for which are the right customers based on
• Review the content of the centers of excellence, control and bundles on their segment
• Review a list of issues and barriers from the previous prep work to determine if there are any additional
2:15 – 2:30 Report & Group Issues – report the 5 issues from each team, group them into 5-7, assign a team to take on each in a Stretch Scenario
2:30 – 3:45 Stretch Scenarios – Each team gets a different issue/barrier. The basic premise is that this is the future and the project has been very successful, particularly in how they dealt with the issue or barrier. How did we do it? What were the particular differences between market segments?
• Regulatory issues
• Industry cultural issues
• Building credibility
• What data management and IT requirements do we need?
• We really did affect production. How? Manage volatility ? Actually produce more products?
• Operational efficiency: standardization and scale
3:45 – 4:15 Shift & Share – participants go back to the same market segment teams as the Issue Identification segment. They report to each other the outcome of their scenario, then move on to the next exercise.
4:15 – 6:00 Create a Presentation – Each team is asked to prepare a presentation to customers that shows the particular recommended product offer the client should bring to their market segment and how it would overcome identified issues (X,Y,Z). The teams will need to consider (but will probably not complete) these questions:
Economics of the project
• What are the current maintenance costs
• How flexible is current cost structure
• Can the project generate much savings
• What value does this bring to the customers?
• What additional risks are the customers accepting/reducing by taking the offer?
• What is the cost of acquisition of faculties?
• How much revenue can come from the customer segment?
• Make some general assumptions to estimate the savings the project can generate
• Derive a range or profitability
• Where are the centers of excellence going to be?
• Are there capabilities that need to be acquired elsewhere?
1. What are the potential targets?
2. How much will it cost?
• Should the customer retain in house e.g. line maintenance etc?
• How will the unions react to outsourcing maintenance?
• What are the communication/cultural environment?
• Should this customer segment come first or after others when the project is proven?
• How will the other airlines in the customer group react?
• How will suppliers react
• How will current MRO providers react?
6:00 – 7:00 Presentations/Dialog – Present each and then talk about the significant pieces or insights.
7:00 – 7:30 Sponsor Team huddle – Review of day, and any aspects that need to be covered on Tuesday are noted.
8:00 – 9:30 Synthesis Conversation – Large group discussion to select the agreed upon offer and divide into teams to flesh out the detail.
9:30 – 2:00 Work in Teams on final deliverables
2:00 – 3:00 Final Report