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Ryan’s Journal: How To Start A Cultural Revolution

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

I had the opportunity to spend some time in Raleigh, NC this week in the Research Triangle. If you haven’t had an opportunity to spend some time here, I highly recommend it. Not only is the area full of beauty, it’s a melting pot of diversity that exemplifies the best of America. The hub of elite universities and top ranked tech companies make this a desirable place to raise a family, but also pursue a career with meaning.

I was here to spend some time with BMC software and was able to sit in and watch first hand on how they train their inside sales teams. I was thinking about how I wanted to approach this topic and this forum allowed for me to point out some real world examples of how a cultural revolution can be started.

A little background on BMC. They are one of the largest private software companies in the world and create products for enterprise IT systems to do everything from track assets, create help desk tickets, manage capacity and sit on top of complex environments to manage jobs.

In a real world example Starbucks is a customer and if BMC’s software failed at any time then Starbucks would be unable to accept any form of plastic.

I say all of this to say they are in big spaces doing the behind the scenes work that is required for us to live this modern life. They were acquired by Bain Capital a few years ago and have been in a massive growth trajectory lately.

One major change that Bain made was the expansion of inside sales teams, BDR’s and inside sales reps.

When you think of sales you think of someone wining and dining with customers and comping their dinners; these guys don’t live that life. They manage the sales cycles through phone, email and LinkedIn.

It is a special skill that is required and it can be taught. These teams add great value to the organization by sourcing leads, closing business and creating value for the customers and field representatives. 

An entry level role is as a BDR, Business Development Representative. My experience at other companies has been that these are young college grads that are hungry.

You have some of that at BMC, but they also have folks that have years of experience in other industries who are starting out in software.

You also have some that just enjoy that role and have done it for years. BMC takes these folks from all different backgrounds and shapes them to its vision and culture.

How do they do this?

One way they do it is by constant feedback and coaching opportunities. Now, this can be done the wrong way, but they seem to balance it well here where people seek out opportunities to learn and improve.

They also spend time highlighting team members who are doing something unique that works for them. They take folks that are young in their career and allow them to teach others. This does wonders for morale and also inspires others.

The last thing that I saw that helps is that they like to have fun as a team. They have happy hours, Vegas trips, president’s clubs. Constant incentives to allow people to reach their full potential.

I was impressed with the way they won as a team and built on mutual successes. They were not afraid to share best practices and they helped each other out as much as possible. 

Now, maybe we can’t all go to Vegas but some of the things they are doing are very scaleable, not rocket science, and can be repeated at any org. 

And then start the revolution.

Image credit: BMC

Where’s the ‘I’ in Team?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

KG’s schedule has gotten so bad that he sends no-words-needed images in lieu of written posts.

Either way he really nails the subject, as with today’s offering.

I in team

It’s not the first time we’ve addressed that issue; in 2010 I posted about what happens when that ‘I’ rears it’s ugly head.

Talent, Talent, Too Much Talent

Monday, October 26th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyngpao/13770174084/

Stars. Everyone wants to hire stars.

Sports teams buy them for astronomical salaries.

Companies use salaries, stock, sign-on bonuses and anything else they can.

Beyond bragging rights, stars are supposed to goose innovation, boost productivity and all kinds of good stuff.

But do they?

In 2010 the Miami Heat bought LeBron James and Chris Bosh to add to the triple the star power of Dwayne Wade — and had a terrible season.

What happened?

Stars want to be stars.

When individual interests take precedence over what is best for the collective, group performance declines. It no longer functions as a cohesive whole. (…) For chickens [another example], businessmen, and basketball players alike, high-levels of performance comes with high-levels of competitive spirit. These status conflicts drive performance down.

Down, not up.

You can still hire brilliant individual contributors if you are willing to put in the time and effort to make them a team.

It takes work, because they won’t become one left to their own devices.

Just remember that all teams aren’t created equal, so be sure your team plays basketball and not baseball.

Bill Simmons referred to baseball as “an individual sport masquerading as a team sport.”

President Barack Obama referred to basketball as “the quintessential team sport

Flickr image credit: Kentucky National Guard

Where Collaboration Pays (and Doesn’t)

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/5438442613/

It’s impressive when a market set to double from roughly $4+ billion to $8+ billion by 2019 doesn’t really solve the problem it claims to solve.

Huh?

The market is collaboration software and, based on new research, it only works for half the problem.

Unfortunately, it turns out that inducing more collaboration may hinder the most important part of problem-solving: actually solving the problem. While connecting employees does increase the ability to gather facts during the early stages of tackling a problem, it also inhibits the ability to analyze those facts and find a solution.

The 21st Century approach that’s been pushed by academics and the collaboration industry has been supported only by research done separately on the two halves.

Solving any problem requires two distinct steps,

  1. Collecting data
  2. Analyzing and using the data.

The first responds well to collaboration; a variety of people with different experiences and world-views are less likely to homogenize their information-gathering.

… the most-clustered groups gathered 5 percent more information than the least-clustered groups…

However, the gain didn’t carry over to a solution.

Clustering also seemed to inhibit the breadth and number of answers that the players proposed. The least-connected networks came up with 17.5 percent more theories and solutions than did the most-connected networks.

17.5% is a significant number — especially when it’s your organization.

Collaboration is a marvelous tool, but it’s not a silver bullet.

As with most good tools it needs to be used where and when it works.

Flickr image credit: Ron Mader

Are You a Great Boss?

Monday, September 8th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/9707305739

What makes a great boss?

What traits do they have in common?

Obviously, great bosses are

  • excellent communicators
  • good at hiring,
  • superb motivators,
  • world-class team-builders, and
  • caring mentors

Beyond those basics, with almost no exceptions, all are egalitarians.

That basic MAP trait permeates their actions and is apparent in their communications.

Great bosses, no matter the level of interaction, speak and act with the same respect, interest, appreciation, and consideration that they would want in similar circumstances.

Flickr image credit: Celestine Chua

Ducks in a Row: Success Requires Everyone

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

https://www.flickr.com/photos/monikahw/14074546688

You can learn a lot from the Chrysler turnaround and here’s one of the most important points.

Fixing the product isn’t enough.

Developing recruiting and retention of knowledge workers isn’t enough.

Fixing basic problems that affect lower-level workers is imperative.

It took five years, starting in 2009 and when Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne finally owned Chrysler (free registration required) the situation in the manufacturing areas was worse than expected.

Marchionne is a smart guy; he knew that no matter how many billions were spent on design and other high-level needs Chrysler wouldn’t turn around without the full support of the blue-collar workforce.

Marchionne said the company also made sure to spend money on the parts of the plant that touched employees more personally — bathrooms, lunchrooms, parking lots and reception areas. Why?

“The state of disrepair, of neglect of the work environment that these people were offered to make a high-quality product that was supposed to compete internationally with the best of the best, right?” You can’t do that when you can’t walk into the bathroom at one of the plants because they’re just not presentable.” Along with retooling and good leadership decisions, he said, the success of Chrysler “was due to the unwavering commitment of a group of people who make up the blue-collar force of Chrysler.”

A lot of people believe that union employees don’t care. Therefore, because it’s hard to get rid of them it doesn’t matter how you treat them.

And it’s not just in unionized areas.

Wall Street is famous for treating its pink-collar and back room employees, including IT, poorly.

Tech companies do everything for so-called stars, while treating the rest as replaceable ciphers.

The bottom line is that bosses who treat any part of their team as replaceable is, at best, short-sighted and, at worst, plain stupid.
Flickr image credit: Monikah Wiseman

Why Cisco is My Hero

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

heres-a-list-of-disasters-where-tacops-has-worked-they-also-help-with-community-events-like-marathons-and-do-safety-training-programs

CEO John Chambers has been successfully reinventing Cisco Systems for 19 years, but his best innovation has a very low profile. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard/read about it in the nine years it’s been around.

The unsung innovation is called TacOps and it’s actually a team of heroes.

TacOps is a combination of people and equipment that bring emergency communications to areas devastated by both natural and manmade disasters.

Cisco has a special team called Tactical Operations that swoops in after natural disasters to get Internet and telephone service back up, so that rescue workers can do their jobs.

TacOps first response was in 2005 for Hurricane Katrina and its most recent to Typhoon Haiyan.

The cost of both equipment and manpower is totally funded by Cisco.

Nor does the team wait until things settle down; rather they are there with the first responders in a crisis when working communications are so critical to saving lives.

And while these deployments may showcase its equipment in a positive way you can be sure that’s not the driving factor.

If it was, we all would have heard a lot more about it over the last nine years.

So hats off to Cisco; it sure would be nice if more companies emulated its efforts in their own way.

Image credit: Cisco TacOps

David Beckham and Your Brand

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gowestphoto/3921758575/In these days of social media too many people put more time and effort into building their brand and raising their Klout score than they do raising their kids or supporting their team.

Many personal brands rest on nothing than the person’s ability to manipulate social media (especially true about Klout).

But what really fuels my dislike is the arrogance and ego in which the same folks like to indulge, saying if it’s good enough for Larry Ellison, Donald Trump, LeBron James or Alec Baldwin it’s good enough for them.

There are many ways in which to build your brand, but no matter how you do it the result should reflect your values.

It also helps to have a role model who reflects similar values, so if your goal is to be admired, appreciated and just plain liked you may want to consider David Beckham.

Beckham was not merely an athlete; he was an international brand that smartly fused a handsomeness that bordered on beauty with athleticism, marketing savvy and an eager embrace of the role of pop idol.

Beckham just announced his retirement from MLS, but that’s unlikely to diminish his brand.

Unlike many athletes, Beckham’s brand isn’t tied to his sport, nor did he set out to build it. He had a dream of playing soccer and played his best for every team he was on, no holds barred.

And unlike many stars, Beckham never acted, and probably didn’t think, he did it alone.

The difference is that instead of buying into the frenzy surrounding his looks, talent and skill he stayed a nice guy; one that everybody liked.

Stefan Szymanski, British co-author of the book Soccernomics and a professor of sports management at the University of Michigan, says, “Beckham is like that [the Queen Mother]. He never puts his foot wrong. He’s nice to everyone. You could never fault him for not giving his all. He doesn’t have enemies. It’s hard to dislike him unless you’re deliberately perverse.”

Beckham is proof that you can pursue your dreams and win big without being, or turning into, a jerk.

Flickr image credit: tpower1978

Entrepreneurs: It Takes a Village

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Branson says, “Do well by doing good.”

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The women of Water Valley, Mississippi have embraced both attitudes.

But why limit your entrepreneurial energy to just a business when you can save a town at the same time?

What does it take to change the world or at least your little corner of it?

Desire and belief.

A passionate desire to push the change and a deep belief that you can make it happen.

What isn’t required is a no-holds-barred, do-anything-to-make-it-happen desire that rejects 1188949_almish_working_the_farminput from others and stomps on their ideas.

Because no matter how brilliant you are; no matter how amazing your vision; no matter how deep your belief and passionate your desire…

You can’t do it alone.


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Questions? Email or call me at 360.335.8054 Pacific time.

Sxc.hu image credit: merlin1075

If the Shoe Fits: Team Trumps All

Friday, July 15th, 2011

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

Research has shown that culture trumps strategy and the most important component of culture is people.

Without people there is no company.

With the wrong people there is no team.

It is the team that makes your vision a reality.

It is the team that draws investment.

It is the team that lets you pivot when necessary.

It is the team that saves your ass when you screw up.

Your team is made up of the people who focus on the success of the company, knowing that its success ensures their own, not the people who work primarily for their own success.

A strong team always trumps a group of individual players—no matter how good.

To ensure you have a team and not a group you need a rock-solid hiring and compensation (salary and stock) philosophy, method and process, because the needs of the team trumps any individual’s credentials, experience, previous title and company.

Option Sanity™ strengthens teams

Come visit Option Sanity for an easy-to-understand, simple-to-implement stock process.  It’s so easy a CEO can do it.

Warning.
Do not attempt to use Option Sanity™ without a strong commitment to business planning, financial controls, honesty, ethics, and “doing the right thing.” Use only as directed.
Users of Option Sanity may experience sudden increases in team cohesion and worker satisfaction. In cases where team productivity, retention and company success is greater than typical, expect media interest and invitations as keynote speaker.

Image credit: Bun in a Can Productions

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