Category Archives: Focusing on your customers

Selling to customers – partnerships and mindsets


By Elisabeth Goodman, 23rd September 2016

I attended the first run through of RiverRhee’s The First Steps in Selling course this week, run by my Associate, John Hicks.  It was fun to be a delegate for a change!

Delegates completing RiverRhee's "The First Steps in Selling" course, September 2016

Delegates completing RiverRhee’s “The First Steps in Selling” course, September 2016

Although the course was geared towards the small Life Science  or Biotech companies that we work with, the key messages apply to any business that is selling its products or services.

A lot is down to creating a sense of partnership with your potential or existing customer, and to the mindset with which you approach the discussion.

John walked us through a very helpful framework to develop and enhance our selling technique. I won’t share the detail of that framework here, but rather some key messages that I took away:

1.  Selling begins once you have a lead with which to begin a discussion

You can only begin to have a discussion with an existing or potential customer if they have expressed an interest in having the conversation.  So all the work involved in market research and other marketing activities will have already taken place.  The good news is that you will not be going into the discussion cold – however, there is still a lot to do before you can actually complete the sale!

2.  Conduct the discussion in a spirit of partnership

The customer has expressed interest in having the discussion with you because they perceive that you might, in some way, be able to help them.  So the discussion should be around exploring the challenge or opportunity that led them to get in touch, and working with them to find a solution.  The spirit of partnership comes from that collaboration to help them with this.

3.  Create a sense of empathy / build rapport

This will help you to truly understand your customer and effectively explore how you might be able to help them.  Empathy and rapport will help you to have an open conversation that gets to the root of their challenge or the opportunity they would like to explore.  It is likely that there are emotional as well as intellectual factors involved in this.  Understanding these will help to make the eventual solution more effective too.  There are lots of great open questions that can help you with this.

4.  Help your customer to develop their knowledge base

Your customer will be in the best position to make an effective decision about the solution that they want to adopt, if they have the necessary knowledge to do so.  You may find that you are the best placed to help them with that knowledge, whether the eventual solution is to go with your product or service or not!  Which brings us to the next key message.

5. Exercise integrity in your interactions

It may well be that your product or service is not the best solution for your (potential) customer’s challenge or opportunity.  They will value your integrity if you are honest about this.  Even if they don’t buy from you this time, you will have earned their trust for potential future sales opportunities.  And of course, if they do buy from you, you will also have set the scene for future positive discussions.

ABOUT THE author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Advertisements

Engage with your stakeholders more effectively – stop talking about communication!


Guest blog by Fran Bodley-Scott, 25th August 2016

Editorial note: I came across Fran in my work for the APM Enabling Change SIG. She has developed an ‘ABCDE’ model for communication, which she offered to coach me on in support of a publication that we are preparing.

ABCDE logo for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

ABCDE model for shaping communications, from Fran Bodley-Scott

I was very impressed by the effectiveness of this model at taking us through a structured process for thinking about our stakeholders and how we would engage with them. It’s a model that I think would help any line or project manager plan their communication activities. I asked Fran to write something about her approach. This is what she wrote…

Communication plays a big part in the ability of managers and teams to influence others.

Click here for information on RiverRhee's training courses for managers

Click here for information on

RiverRhee’s training

for managing change

Managers and their teams don’t operate in an isolated world. They operate in and are influenced by their environment, and the ability of the team to deliver services and benefits depends on their ability to influence other people (their stakeholders). Partners, suppliers, sponsors, clients, experts and operators need to be engaged, persuaded, informed and supported. So, communication plays a big part in enabling a team to perform effectively. Unfortunately, poor communication can throw all sorts of spanners in the works:

  • Information can be misunderstood or interpreted in different ways depending on an individual’s expectations, assumptions, bias, prior experience or what’s going on around them. Making assumptions or not asking what people understand can result in confusion and mistakes.
  • Too much, too little or complex information can create a barrier to productivity: people become disinterested in working with you leading to delays, duplication of effort or poor quality.
  • A report can go unread, or a business case be rejected simply due to the way information is presented. The subsequent rework, delay and loss of confidence add cost and risk to the project.

Poor communication continues to be an issue

Poor communication costs money and impacts the team’s ability to be effective. This is not new: people have been saying it for years and yet it continues to be an issue: why? I believe there are three fundamental reasons:

‘SOS’ – sending out stuff: We’ve become accustomed to thinking of ‘communication’ in terms of output not outcome. Communication is defined as a two-way process of reaching a mutual understanding, yet discussions about communication frequently centre on what’s going to be produced: a website, a brochure, an email, a newsletter. People leap straight into writing content before considering who it is they need to reach and why.

Complexity: Communication is actually quite complicated. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into account even for something as seemingly simple as getting a yes/no answer from the client. Without enough information about who you’re trying to engage with, it can be easy to overlook key issues that may help or hinder.

Difficulty: Communication also involves a number of different skills. An individual’s ability or confidence can affect whether they perceive ‘communication’ as an opportunity or a problem. The challenge of using social media, creating a video or emailing a senior executive can be a barrier if they feel they don’t have the skills, lack the time to work it out, or don’t want the risk of making a faux pas. If it’s not a priority for them, communication will just not happen.

Focus on attitudes and behaviours rather than communication.

So, if you want to improve the effectiveness of your team, my recommendation is that you stop talking about ‘communication’! It puts people in the wrong frame of mind and introduces all sorts of problems. Be confident about this: the raison d’être of your team is not to do communication. Focus instead on what attitudes and behaviours you need people to have and exhibit in order for your team to be successful.

Here are three simple steps to get you started:

  1. Measure outcome not output: Output is a measure of the team’s activity, what ‘stuff’ has been sent out. Outcome considers how effective the activity has been, whether the intended objective has been achieved. Choose criteria that help you understand how your activity has performed. For example, instead of a tick-box that checks whether a brochure has been received, evaluate how well the information provided has been understood, the level of confidence about using a new process, or motivation to change behaviour.
  2. Create solutions not challenges: Make it easy for the right messages to reach the right people at the right time. For example, provide team members with ready-to-use messages and guidelines for different platforms; format data to integrate automatically with another team’s process so that cascaded information is accurate and consistent; facilitate client feedback by being visible, accessible and flexible.
  3. Be audience-led not technology-driven: Instead of simply doing what’s convenient (eg. sending an email) or what everyone else does (eg. social media), take time to consider who it is that you need to reach and the most effective way to impact their behaviour or attitude. For example, seeing the finished product can influence confidence and commitment much more effectively than receiving a picture via email.
    “If the best way of reaching and influencing your audience is to stand on a box with a loud hailer, do that.” Stephen Hale, Head of Digital at the Department of Health

About the Author:

Fran Bodley-Scott is passionate about helping individuals and teams use communications effectively to achieve business goals. As a Chartered Engineer and Chartered Marketer Fran’s approach is both customer-focused and systematic, applying core marketing principles and the ABCDE communications process in order to drive business performance.

Her company, Marketing In Control Ltd, provides training and coaching in communications effectiveness and stakeholder engagement, as well as consultancy and marketing services. If you are interested in talking with Fran about your project, email scottf@marketingincontrol.com.

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, with a focus on the Life Sciences. (We use training, facilitation, coaching, mentoring and consulting in our work with our clients.)

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  

RiverRhee is a support supplier for One Nucleus, a quality assured training provider with Cogent Skills and a CPD provider for CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals).

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner.  

She is a member of CILIP and of APM (Association for Project Management) where she leads on Membership, Communications and Events for the Enabling Change SIG committee.

Social Media – What’s the ROI? Notes from a @CambNetwork breakfast meeting


By Elisabeth Goodman

Social Media: putting you and your business at the heart of your community

Back in 2010 I wrote a blog about how Social Media could be used as a key tool for sharing knowledge and for business development, and effective ways to go about that. [Social Media: putting your and your business at the heart of your community.]  I had the opportunity to do something of an update on the topic at a Cambridge Network breakfast meeting on marketing for small businesses.

This time I focused on the kinds of returns on investment (ROIs) that Social Media can bring to SMEs, and how to maximize that. I was fortunate to be able to draw on the experience of others attending the seminar, and those interested but who could not attend, through a survey that they had completed beforehand.

Here is a brief synopsis of my presentation, the full slides for which can be found here. [Social Media – What’s the ROI? Cambridge Network Breakfast Meeting for SMEs]

By the way, the main tools used were LinkedIn and Twitter, with Facebook, blogs and Google+ following a little behind.

Social Media tools used by small businesses

Social Media tools used by small businesses

Why are SME’s using Social Media?

Building ones reputation, ones connections and ones knowledge continue to be the key reasons for using Social Media, as illustrated by these responses to the survey.

Main reasons why small businesses use Social Media

Main reasons why small businesses use Social Media

What is the ROI of using Social Media for SME’s?

Interestingly 3 of the 19 survey respondents stated that they had found none, whereas the other 16 had all found some return, even if not all of it was financially tangible.  They cited:

  • The value of Social Media in building strong rapport with existing and potential clients
  • Being able to get past the ‘castle guard’ barrier of more traditional ways of reaching out to new clients
  • The importance of ‘dancing as if no-one is watching’ i.e. being true to yourself and what you have to offer, with the trust that if you do so, people will come..
  • The richness of this source of knowledge about your clients, their challenges and issues, and as a general source of knowledge

We also discussed how we should be using Social Media as a complementary tool to other more traditional methods.  I used my own approach to illustrate this.

My blend of networking and marketing approaches to reach clients and keep informed about team effectiveness

My blend of networking and marketing approaches to reach clients and keep informed about team effectiveness

How to maximize the ROI for SME’s from Social Media?

There is an enormous risk of wasting a lot of time and effort on Social Media.  Whist about 58% of our survey spent less than 3 hours on this per week, about 42% spent more than 3-5 hours per week.

So it is important, as in all business activities, to have a clearly defined strategy for our use of Social Media.  This model may work as one approach to this.

How do develop your Social Media strategy

How do develop your Social Media strategy

Other ways to maximize the ROI, by reducing the (unproductive) time spent on Social Media include getting some good training on how to use the tools and making the most of labour-saving ‘devices’ such as tools that enable you to publish updates to several platforms at once (Hootsuite, the update bar of LinkedIn, the publishing feature of WordPress are examples of this).  And of course there are businesses who specialize in managing your Social Media marketing for you.

Personally, I’ve found the 3 ‘I’s: Inform, Interact, Inspire – a really useful guideline to bear in mind in my day-to-day use of all of the tools.

Thank you To the small businesses who responded to the Social media ROI survey

I would like to especially thank those who participated in the survey, whether anonymously or by name.  Here are those who gave their names:

  • Robin Higgons Qi3 Ltd robin.higgons@qi3.co.uk
  • Karen James, Lilac James
  • QTP Environmental Ltd. infor@qtpe.co.uk
  • Amanda Brown, Managing Director, Alterra Amanda@alterra-consulting.co.uk
  • Mark Collingwood http://www.tonicfusion.com Tonic Fusion
  • Jamie Lesinski, Crossbar-fx, jamielesinski@crossbarfx.com 0, @jamielesinski @crossbarfx
  • Ed Goodman, Cambridge Business Lounge,
  • Richard Wishart, Delivery Management Ltd richard.wishart@del-mgt.com
  • Goncalo Syndicate room
  • Alexandra Murphy Cambridge Network alex.murphy@cambridgenetwork.co.uk

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge management and change management. She provides 1:1 tutorials and seminars on how to use LinkedIn and other social media for personal and business development.
  2. Follow the links to find out about other ways in which Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Getting it right rather than ‘firefighting’…unless that’s your job!


By Elisabeth Goodman

Being a ‘farmer’ not a ‘firefighter’

Some years ago when I was first learning about Lean and Six Sigma, a colleague shared an article he’d found comparing farmers and firefighters. People in organisations are often singled out when they have worked all hours to deal with a crisis, and yet the people who have worked more quietly to anticipate those problems and put preventative measures in place (the farmers) can often go un-noticed.

Lean Six Sigma and Project Management techniques advocate just that quiet and steady farming approach (the FMEA technique described in an earlier blog is one way to do this).  Lean Six Sigma also advocates stopping and addressing problems as soon as possible after they do arise so as to prevent the same thing happening again.

What can we learn from the competitors in the Olympics at London 2012?

It’s impossible to write blogs at this time without referring to the Olympics and London 2012, which has kept many of us supporting Team GB glued to our television screens!

The competitors have been training for 4 years or more for the Olympics. ‘Firefighting’ is hardly an option when you’re up against the clock in your event, and you just have to get it right on the day.  How did the medalists and the other competitors who achieved their personal bests manage to do so?

“Hard work and grafting” was the approach described by Mo Farah after his exciting finish in the 5,000 metres: the culmination of his strategic planning and execution of the race itself.

Contrast this with Brazil’s men’s football team’s desperate attempt to equalize Mexico’s 2-point lead in their final match. In the words of the BBC commentator: they “started sloppy and underestimated Mexico”. They managed to score a goal in the 90th minute but missed scoring a second with a simple header because “it was too much” for the player involved.  Their ‘firefighting’ was just too tall an order.

The quality of the Olympic competitors’ coaches and their ability to pass on their knowledge, experience and expertise will have been a big factor in these games. It was intriguing to watch the dynamics between the pole-vaulter Holly Bleasdale and her coach as she tried to cope with a persistent breeze. She did seem to be in ‘firefighting’ mode and sadly things did not work out for her on this occasion.

Project management heroes

Coming back to the world of project management, Tony McGoldrick Opinion Piece in July’s issue of Project writes about how we can all be ‘heroes’ by doing the basics well. He also queried the all too frequent emphasis on ‘firefighters’.  For him, getting the basics right involves understanding and delivering what your stakeholders want, and getting the quality, timing and budget right.  Incidentally, the July issue of Project also carried an article by Andrew Hubbard on BT’s goal of ‘flawless delivery’ and getting it ‘right first time’ for the Olympic games!

Being the best that we can be

Amongst all the marvelous reflections and pronouncements about the Olympics, I found the following in this Sunday Observer’s ‘The farewell’ report by Tim Adams: “What these Olympics have been about, though, is not the necessity of being the best, but the pleasures of finding out the best you can be”.

Whether through “hard work and grafting”, anticipating and planning for risks, never underestimating the competition, being clear on how we can deliver value to our shareholders, and being committed to doing so, we can all not only become better farmers and heroes rather than ‘firefighters’ in our everyday lives, but enjoy the process of becoming so.

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

Why is employee engagement such an important topic?


By Elisabeth Goodman

My blog on employee engagement (Employee engagement – some interesting data and perspectives for Lean and Six Sigma practitioners) is, of all the blogs that I have written since 2009), the one that has attracted the most attention.  I wrote it in response to an article I read in the business section of the Sunday Observer1 – a very informative study that the Observer had commissioned, rich in case studies and data from FTSE 100 companies.  So why has this blog attracted so much attention?

Employee engagement is the key to organisational and team effectiveness

The Observer article caught my attention because employee engagement, or involvement is intrinsic to business process improvement through such techniques as Lean and Six Sigma.  If people are not engaged, they won’t be committed to the organisation’s goals, won’t be able to communicate those goals as part of building strong customer relations, and won’t be looking for ways to achieve those goals through efficient internal processes.

People also need to be engaged in order to achieve effective business change.  Participants in my Change Management courses sometimes find it a revelation to hear that resistance from those experiencing change is a good thing, something to be welcomed.  Resistance is an indication that people are actually beginning to engage with a change:  that they are considering what the impact will be on them, rather than oblivious to or ignoring it.

And without engagement, people will find it impossible to identify and share the learning and insights, which are essential to healthy and thriving teams and organisations if they are to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.

As I wrote in the December 2011 version of my RiverRhee Newsletter, “The answer comes from within… with the help of others”, it’s only possible to have an effective team or organisation if people are engaged.  Employees have the key!

‘Empowerment’ and ‘Intrapreneurs’

One of the big themes in my life as a corporate employee was ‘empowerment’: encouraging employees to appreciate and act upon the idea that they had ‘the power’ to make decisions and carry them out without necessarily referring to their managers.

As someone who is now self-employed and runs my own business, the idea of acting otherwise makes no sense at all!  I work in teams in an associate relationship, and we collaborate in our decision-making and actions.  I meet a lot of entrepreneurs, and have often wondered what it would be like if people took an ‘intrapreneurial’ approach to working within organisations.  In a 2010 newsletter (‘Finding our voice’ – a route to greater employee engagement and empowerment?), I suggested that what might help people to do this is to take a more active perspective of their careers – so that they view their current job as one that they have chosen, and are in control of, rather than something that they are being subjected to (to put it a bit bluntly!).

What if there weren’t any managers?!

I really enjoyed reading the case study of Morning Star in the December 2011 edition of Harvard Business Review.2   Hamel describes a leading food processor, with revenues of over $700 million and 400 full-time employees, which functions entirely around the principles of self-management.

At Morning Star, no-one has a manager, each employee negotiates responsibilities with their peers and is responsible for finding the tools that they need for their work, everyone can spend the company money, there are no job titles or promotions, and compensation is decided between peers. The only ‘boss’ is the overall mission of the company.

This model works at Morning Star because it combines an individuals’ responsibility (and freedom) for managing their work within the context of the overall mission, and collaboration between peers to define and review individual roles and expected performance.

The article goes into a lot more detail, but one of the many interesting aspects of this model is that engagement and empowerment are not issues at all in this kind of scenario.  As a result of this approach, every individual inevitably has to:

  1. Use their initiative
  2. Continuously develop their skills to enhance the quality of their work
  3. Display flexibility to respond to the changing environment of the organisation
  4. Work in a collegiate way to fulfill their role in relation to their peers
  5. Make decisions that directly affect their work

These are wonderful illustrations of process improvement / Lean and Six Sigma (1,2,4,5), Change Management (3), and Knowledge Management (2, 4) in practice.

Some final thoughts about thriving

I love my work, and welcome Monday mornings as the start of another week of new discoveries, opportunities to work with others and practice and develop my skills.  I meet many others running their own business that feel the same.  It sounds like the employees at Morning Star may also feel like this.

Another Harvard Business Review article3 suggests that giving employees a chance to learn and grow will help them and the organisation to thrive.  This time the managers are in charge again, but some of the themes re-occur:

  1. Providing employees with the discretion to make decisions directly affecting their work
  2. Ensuring that people have the information they need to understand how their work relates to the organisation’s mission and strategy
  3. Encouraging good (civil) behaviour – positive relationships
  4. Offering performance feedback

The authors suggest that these 4 mechanisms will foster vitality (or energy in individuals and in those with whom they interact), and learning (or growth from new knowledge and skills).

Conclusion

It seems that, unless people are running their own business or are self-managing themselves in an organisation such as Morning Star, employers need to study and support the mechanisms that will enable employee engagement and so help individuals and the organisation to thrive.  We’re obviously not there yet.

Why are you interested in employee engagement? It would be great to read your comments.

Notes

  1. Are more firms listening to their staff or are they just paying lip service? Observer, 22 August 2010, pp38-39
  2. Gary Hamel.  First, let’s fire all the managers. Harvard Business Review, December 2011, pp49-60
  3. Gretchen Spreitzer and Christine Porath.  Creating sustainable performance.  Harvard Business Review, January-February 2012, pp93-99

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that helps business teams to enhance their effectiveness for greater productivity and improved team morale. Elisabeth has 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry where she has held line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting Information Management and other business teams on a global basis.  Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and in Lean Sigma and is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management).

The future of Social Media? Notes from a recent NetIKX seminar


By Elisabeth Goodman1

Adapted from the original NetIKX blog: Social Media – what next and what can we do with it?

This was the 3rd of NetIKX‘s seminars on the theme of social media, a topic which sits in the group’s 2010-2012 programme framework for Information and Knowledge Management under “Harnessing the web for information and knowledge exchange”.

Previous NetIKX seminars on this theme have explored whether social media should be taken seriously, and how social media could be used to achieve organisational goals and the implications for organisational IM / KM policies and strategies.

This seminar took a broad look at emerging trends and products, their likely implications, and how social media are being, or could be used.

The two speakers were Steve Dale, “a passionate community and collaboration ecologist, creating off-line and on-line environments that foster conversations and engagement” and Geoffrey Mccaleb who describes himself as a social media  / mobile consultant.

The common themes arising from the presentations, break-out groups, and concluding Q&A were as follows:

1. Social media have been evolving into so much more than plain communication tools.

Most readers will already know that tools such as LinkedIn are now key reference points for recruitment, but Twitter is also a growing reference source for this.

The political and journalistic uses of Twitter are also well publicised.

And most people will be aware of the increasing importance of social media for managing an organisation’s reputation: monitoring and responding to comments made by customers or would-be customers, engaging with customers, and generally generating related publicity.

2. A broader exploration of how social media are evolving

Facebook lends itself well to sharing information on interests and hobbies.  In fact I’m having great fun at the moment with a ‘cooking enthusiasts” group that I’ve set up with my friends, and their friends. There are other tools, such as ‘Pinterest’ that take sharing of this kind of information to another level.

Scoop.it, paper.li, Storify, Flipboard are all examples of how ‘social curators’ can bring together content from several different sources that may be of interest to their audiences.  Although we did not discuss this at length, this might be a tool that Library and Information professionals could use to help their end-users with information overload?

Some tools enable people to manage the sharing of physical resources (referred to by Steve Dale as ‘collaborative consumption‘).  Examples of this are ‘Boris’s’ bikes (the London shared bicycle scheme) and ‘airbnb’ to rent out ones house / bedrooms to visitors e.g. to the Olympics.  Might this be an alternative model for managing information resources between organisations?!

Managing big data is a pet subject of Steve Dale’s, with data sets such as medical and traffic data on the cloud becoming so large that they can no longer be managed with standard database management tools.  Visualisation and infographics tools are one way to make sense of them all.

Game-ification is an interesting exploration of how the ‘game’ attributes of user engagement, loyalty to brands, and rewards might be transferred to a professional social network environment.  In a previous seminar we heard how The Open University Library Services were already experimenting with using virtual reality tools as a support for their services.  Game-ification may take this further?

Augmented reality applications for golf let you know where the nearest bunker is and the direction of the wind.  Pointing your phone at the sky can give you information about the constellations. Augmented reality applications help you to look at your world in a different way.

Location-based tools such as Foursquare enable you to find out what’s near you, check-in, see who else is there, become ‘mayor’ of your local pub(!) etc.  ‘Easypark’ enables you to pay your parking fee and have a count-down to let you know how much time you have left to park.  There is potential for these tools to be so much more than a status update, because they tell others that you like something / somewhere.

3. Some final reflections on technology trends and implications

Technology cycles are usually 10 years long, and we are now 2 years into mobile technology and ‘apps’.  The anticipation is that mobile technology will overtake desktop technology within 5 years.

All the people that we interact with online represents our ‘social graph‘: who we know and who we respect online.  Our online contacts can have a tremendous influence on what we choose to buy – as I discovered when I found myself, somewhat to my surprise, purchasing something on Amazon that others had recommended without even ‘looking inside’ first.

4. Implications of what we heard

We explored several themes in our break out discussions and in the Q&A that followed:

  • The changing role of the information intermediary.  Are we being pushed out of our roles by these tools – or does our ‘cyberlibrarian’ or ‘curator’ role become even more important?
  • The associated information risk.  With a lot of personal information going on the internet / in the cloud, is there more scope for criminal activity and identify theft?
  • How to decide what tools to use and when?  The key is being clear about who we are trying to target and what tool(s) they would use.  Phil Bradley’s presentation and notes: “25 barriers to using web 2.0 technologies and how to overcome them” might provide some good insights on internal organisational barriers and how to address them.
  • Using social media tools within organisations.  ChatterYammer are Twitter like tools being used within organisations, and in some cases have a dramatic effect on lowering the use of e-mail.  Such tools could be excellent for idea generation and problem solving, or ‘crowd-sourcing’ within an organisation.

Note

1. Elisabeth Goodman is Programme Events Manager for NetIKX.  She also runs her own business, RiverRhee Consulting.

2. See also Elisabeth Goodman’s blog on Social Media: putting you and your business at the heart of your community

The “Lean Startup” approach to understanding customer needs


By John Riddell

Notes from a Cambridge Network talk by Eric Ries

I attended the January Cambridge Network meeting, which was focused on a talk by Eric Ries, the author of a new book entitled “The Lean Startup”.

Eric had developed the book based on the lessons learned by entrepreneurial start-ups of software companies that he had worked with in California’s Silicon Valley.  Most of these companies had been driving forward Web 2.0, and had either failed or been taken over.

Opportunities to use Lean to improve start-up success

Eric saw the opportunity to apply Lean principles both to identify value in the eyes of the customer, and to reduce the cycle times involved for gathering and obtaining learnings and so improve on their performance.

He described a “pivot approach”.  This involves “keeping one foot planted in what your idea is and the other moving with learning”.  The idea is that, as you gain feedback on your product or idea, you “pivot” (or change your plan) towards what the customer really wants.

The value of focusing on what your customer wants

The “Lean Startup” approach resonated with me as “focusing on your customers” is RiverRhee Consulting’s first principle for enhancing team effectiveness.  This enables you to identify what your customers want (and not what you think they want).

Of course you need to work out how to find out what your potential customers want, and it might involve recognition of the failure of the bright idea that you were so enthusiastic about!

Experimentation vs. customer surveys

An interesting point in Eric’s presentation was his differentiation between using a customer survey, where a broad range of feedback can be obtained from a wide sample of customers (with the results shaping general direction and strategy), and the use of experimentation.

With experimentation, customers can handle a product (in a trial or pilot), give feedback on the product, and, most importantly, give feedback as to whether they would purchase the product or not.  Once you have that knowledge and recognise that you need to change direction then you need to fire up and go again!

The more frequent the number of cycles in which this occurs the better.

In his presentation Eric emphasised that there is no point in brilliantly executing a start-up plan to produce something that nobody wants.  He also emphasised not leaving change “until the building is on fire”!

Closing thoughts

TV programmes like Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice have given us all more exposure to the concept of entrepreneurs and new business start-ups.

Eric’s background with software company start-ups in Silicon Valley seems a long way from the pharmaceutical manufacturing environment that I’m familiar with.  It was very interesting to see both kinds of organisation connected by Lean principles.

Notes

John Riddell is an Associate with RiverRhee Consulting.  He has held technical, operational and project management roles in pharmaceutical manufacturing working with both small and large teams from a local to a global basis. John is a certified practitioner in Lean Six Sigma and is highly experienced in knowledge management.  He has developed a successful programme to coach leaders in developing teams that have multiple cultures and are spread across global locations.