Tag Archives: Cambridge Network

Here’s to new learning and knowledge in 2014!


End of year holidays – a time to rest and renew our energy for new beginnings

The end of year holidays and the beginning of the New Year are a good opportunity to rest and renew our energy for whatever our chosen direction in life!

They’ve worked their usual magic with me and my enthusiasm for gaining new knowledge has been especially stimulated by two recent BBC productions that I caught through the combined powers of my iPAD (my new toy earlier in 2013) and BBC iPlayer.

Kirsty Young’s “Desert Island Discs” guest Ray Mears on the 5th January was a real inspiration.  He seems to have such a clear and apparently simple direction in life in his career as a ‘woodsman’.  The presenter and no doubt many listeners like myself were delighted by his phrase: “deassimilate from the cyber hive”. (We’ll ignore the fact that that’s how I heard the recording!).

Being a student of or for life?

I also appreciated Ray Mears’ approach as a “student of life”: how he seeks out the very best people to learn from about different aspects of surviving in the wild; his philosophy of deconstructing knowledge to understand all of its elements before putting it together again; and his enthusiastic perseverance in order to thoroughly understand a new area.

Learning from dolphins

dolphin

I was also fascinated by the BBC’s two-part “Dolphins – Spy in the Pod“, the second part of which was on the 9th January.  The team used cameras hidden in mechanical squids, dolphins, turtles and puffer fish to film and learn about aspects of dolphin behaviour.  Some of the ways in which dolphins learn were especially interesting:

  • Young male bottle-nosed dolphins stay with their mothers, in an otherwise all female pod for about two years during which they are learning about different aspects of life all of the time.
  • When they are old enough to leave, they seek out a male pod to join, bringing their knowledge with them, and gaining new knowledge from their new companions.

It was evident from watching the programme that dolphins have great curiosity and a diverse way of communicating with each other by sound, touch and behavioural or body language.

Learning from each other

Learning from others is of course very powerful.  I’m looking forward to doing so in a seven-day NLP practitioners’ course that I’ll be attending in March, and also to learning about something called ‘Emergenetics‘ that I first heard about in December.  I want to explore the range of tools available to help us understand ourselves and each other – something that I’ll be writing about in the second book in my series of “The Effective Team’s” workbooks. (The first was on Change Management, this one will be on High Performance teams.)

I’m also looking forward to continuing my work on enhancing team effectiveness with my associates and clients in 2014.  Interacting with associates and clients is a great way to develop and shape new ideas – both for creating new programmes of work, and for stimulating the rich learning that takes place during workshops and other interventions.

Continuous professional development (CPD) and social media

Nor will I be ‘deassimilating from the cyber hive”!  Although it is good to take a break from it now and then: my idea for this blog came whilst I was on a four-hour walk on a crisp sunny morning in Cambridgeshire.  However, the increasing trend to make social media content rich is certainly a stimulant for one curiosity and one I’ll be looking to support as I gain more knowledge in 2014.

I often tweet (@ecgoodman) about what I’m hearing during APM (Association for Project Management), One Nucleus, Cambridge Network and CILIP events.  And what I learn also sometimes finds its way into my blogs and postings on Facebook, LinkedIn and, more recently, Google+ (I’m currently disentangling my duplicate accounts so make sure you access the right one if interested).

So, here’s to new learning and knowledge in 2014.  What areas of knowledge will you be learning about?

Note

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 (and using coaching as well as training, mentoring and consulting).  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, is a member of CILIP (Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals), and APM (Association for Project Management) and a registered Growth Coach and trainer with the GrowthAccelerator programme.

Feel the fear and do it anyway


By Elisabeth Goodman

Last night I heard Sheri Kershaw & Band at the Royston Folk Club – our favourite twice-monthly music venue.  She introduced her first song ‘Colours of Life‘ with the observation that we will all suffer at some time in our lives, and the suggestion that we embrace rather than resist this experience, as it is what adds colour to our lives.

One of the reasons that I write these blogs is the opportunity this gives me to share the insights that experiences like hearing someone like Sheri gives me.  Combine this with a Harvard Business review blog by Peter Bregman ‘The unexpected antidote to procrastination‘ that I spotted in my twitter feed earlier in the day, and some magic happened that I wanted to share!

Not being afraid to fall

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Bregman writes of his experience of watching surfers, who dare to ride the waves in search of that epic experience, with the full knowledge that they will always end by falling.  Some fall gracefully, others resist it for as long as they can.  But inevitably, they do fall.  He suggests that the reason we put off doing a lot of difficult things in work or in life, put off taking risks even if what we might achieve might be epic or wonderful, is the fear of what might happen, of failing, of falling, of being hurt.

However, if, like Bregman, like Sheri Kershaw, we accept that the intensity of what we might feel, of what we might suffer, is an integral part of life’s rich tapestry, and of what we can achieve and succeed at, then it’s going to be about feeling the pain, and doing it anyway.

The link to engagement, empowerment and change

This brings me to why I’m writing about music and surfing in a business blog, and why I do the work that I do!  I had the pleasure to experience a one-day course on coaching, organised by the Cambridge Network‘s Learning Collaboration, and led by Sue Blow from Management Learning & Coaching.

Listening to Sue and hearing about her approach as a coach reminded me that my work with teams is all about giving the individuals within the team the time, environment and skills to deal with the pain that they have been experiencing.  As a result, the members of the team can become more engaged with their organisation’s goals, and also feel more empowered to do something about the challenges that they are facing.

I was talking with David Bance and John Moore earlier in the week, in our nascent Melbourn Business Association Special Interest Group for Operational Excellence. We were comparing experiences of how empowered people had been to raise suggestions for improvement as a result of participating in Total Quality Management, or Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.  The best outcome was that it gave them the permission, the courage, the skills, the data and reasoning to dare to change situations where they had previously been feeling the pain.  Of course, a successful outcome is also dependent on the management and organisational support to make the resultant changes.

The fear and the pain can be large or small

I definitely do not wish to minimise or trivialise the fear, pain or suffering that people might experience in their working or home lives, and the courage and the risks that they take to overcome them.  I recognise that these can be very great and some of the situations that I come across can seem relatively small.

For example I also recently attended an excellent seminar by Janet Burton, of The Training Manager, where we explored how to develop, prepare for and deliver  presentations.  Even these kinds of situations can feel challenging and require effective mental preparation, a good stretch and taking a deep breath before beginning!

I’m also a trustee of the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, and admire the courage of the students who come in to tackle their personal challenges of recovering from bullying and other traumas that they’ve experienced, so that they can come back to learning again.

The main thing is, as Sheri Kershaw and Peter Bregman suggest, to embrace these experiences and to also remember that there are people out there who will help you if we can.

Notes

  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge management, change management and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
  2. Follow the links to find out about other ways in which Elisabeth Goodmanand RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

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.

Creating and finding those inspirational managers for our teams – a Cambridge Network event


People leave their managers not their companies

“70% of people leave their managers or supervisors, not their company”.  These were some of the research findings shared with us this morning by Sue Gibson, Human Resources Consultant at DoubleG Assosiates LLP, in a Cambridge Network Breakfast meeting on retention and motivation of staff.  She also told us that mediocre managers can do a lot of damage ‘under the radar’ and can pass on stress and stifle employee engagement through inappropriate authoritarian attitudes.

As a trainer and consultant who focuses on ways to relieve the pain of people in teams, by working with inspirational managers who want to improve the way they support team members, as well as equipping the team with tools to improve their work, I was very interested to learn more about this topic!

So what makes for an inspirational manager?

We all shared our own experiences of those managers that we remember to this day or, as Sue described, ‘have a following’.  Those that have inspired us:

  • Have vision
  • Can relate and communicate with everyone in their team
  • Empower individuals
  • Speak from the heart, with passion about what they are doing
  • Have integrity
  • Are happy to recruit people better than themselves
  • Focus on the career progression of the people in their teams

They are also, in the words of one of the delegates who is a school governor: “a critical friend”.  They will give honest, timely, constructive feedback, and are consistent in doing so.

technical competence is not a criterion for becoming a manager

We have all come across situations where people have been promoted to management roles as the only route to reward their technical competence, and that of course is not necessarily the right solution.

People forced into a management route will not necessarily have the passion or aptitude for it and may spend their time trying to find opportunities to still use their technical skills.

Enlightened organisations, and there were some in the room, have developed 2 branches for promotion, so that people can progress according to their preference and strength along a technical or a management route.

How to find and develop those inspirational managers

Sue described how one organisation she supports identifies their existing inspirational managers and asks them to act as talent scouts to spot potential new talent.  These people can then choose whether or not they would like to progress up a management or a technical chain and trains them accordingly for active succession planning.

Another delegate described how they use a buddy system for new managers to help them get up to speed more quickly and effectively.

There was a general consensus that some form of active management training is needed, rather than expecting managers to just learn on the job.

other key considerations for retention and motivation

The seminar was not just about inspirational managers, but about what can be done to retain staff.  Sue stressed that this is not about rules, processes or restrictions but about getting a number of things right.  Her list included:

  • Culture
  • Interesting work
  • Development
  • The mindset of leaders and managers (which brings us back to the earlier points on inspirational managers)
  • Making sure that people know what is expected of them
  • Having clear organisational goals
  • Pay
  • Benefits

We discussed examples of individuals writing their own objectives based on the organisational goals and relating to performance (things they need to do for the job) and also their own personal development.  In Sue’s experience people have also been asked to assess their own performance against their objectives.  I mentioned that this had hints of the situation at Morning Star described by Gary Hammel in the Harvard Business Review, which I wrote about in one of my other blogs: “Why is employee engagement such an important topic?”

We also discussed the importance of showing people that they are valued, and giving managers the scope and authority to show recognition.  Sue gave examples of giving someone a meal out with their partner, including making babysitting arrangements with a professional Nanny, or paying for a week-ends Italian lessons for someone who wanted to learn. As she pointed out, the cost of these kind of recognition packages are far less than the value delivered by an employee going beyond routine requirements, or indeed the cost of replacing someone and of the knowledge lost when they leave.

In the work that I do with teams, retention and motivation is also about creating an environment where people can thrive, where they have time to think and be creative as a result of being able to focus on the key priorities of their business.

managers need to be aware of generational differences in their staff

This is a fascinating area to explore.  I didn’t quite catch everything Sue was saying at this point, so some of the following notes are a bit improvised, but it was along the lines that those aged between 30 – 40 expect to be taught, are generally technology ‘savvy’, will be tolerant of their managers and are OK about change.

Those aged 30 years and under though are more likely to teach themselves, are technology ‘wise’, will work hard if they are interested, expect their managers to collaborate with them (because they are equal) and are likely to be more actively mobile.

So these considerations reinforce what we already know, that managers need to understand their staff and relate to them as individuals, in order to manage them well.

Concluding thoughts

We finished with some discussions in small groups.  Some of the thoughts that came out of these were:

  • In small organisations, when people go on holiday, it gives those left in charge the opportunity to develop. (We’d touched earlier on the importance of giving people challenges outside their comfort zones for the same reason.)
  • There seems to be an optimum ratio of 1 manager to 8-10 staff in order to be able to build rapport, engage with team members and generally manage them well
  • Managers can be blockers!
  • The importance of empowering staff to improve the way they work as they are the ones who will best understand the opportunities to do so.
  • In start-ups, HR should be a foundation stone, not an add on: people can be the biggest asset, as well as the biggest cost!

Were you at this seminar?  If so, and you’d like to add any material that I’ve missed, do feel free to do so as a comment.  Also, if you think I’ve misinterpreted anything that was said, do please set me right!

Notes

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 “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.

 

Why conventional knowledge management, process improvement and project management won’t work with ‘clever’ teams. Or will they?


‘Simply putting clever people together does not make a team’, and, ‘There are many examples of extremely bright and talented groups that signally underperform’.  So say Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones in ‘Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.’ (1) This book, which Elisabeth Goodman, principal consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, picked up as a result of attending a Cambridge Network business lecture delivered by Professor Gareth Jones, should definitely be read cover-to-cover by any leader wishing to fully understand the challenges and opportunities of working with their most talented people.

Although the focus of the book is on how to lead clever people, there are passing references to the implications for applying knowledge management, process improvement and project management to create effective teams. In this blog, Elisabeth Goodman discusses some potentially provocative statements, and expands further on her insights and reflections as to how these disciplines might apply to ‘clever’ teams.

Goffee and Jones define ‘clever’ in the English Oxford Dictionary context of being skilled or talented.  More fully, they define clever people as “highly talented individuals with the potential to create disproportionate amounts of value from the resources that the organization makes available to them”. Their book includes a wealth of examples and insights from a wide range of disciplines and organisations such as Pharmaceutical R&D, Banking, Consultants, Universities, IT / software, Formula One Racing and many more. A few of the examples are quoted here.

Knowledge Management:

Knowledge is power and not to be defined. Personal (or ‘tacit’) knowledge and how to apply it is the currency of clever people.  So, whereas sharing knowledge is at the heart of effective knowledge management, ‘clevers’ might have a sense that sharing their knowledge will devalue them. However ‘clevers’ do:

  • Recognize that in order to be successful, they need to work with others who will help them to translate their ideas into tangible deliverables.  There is therefore a recognized need to share knowledge within a team.
  • Build networks with others like them both within and outside their organisations, and so again there is an implicit sharing of knowledge within these communities.

Effective leaders recognize that risk taking and failure are pre-requisites for innovation by ‘clevers’.  These experiences provide ideal opportunities for learning by all members of the team or networks.

‘Clevers’ are resistant to anything that looks like bureaucracy or unnecessary distractions from their core interest of pursuing their ideas.  Effective leaders aim to minimise such distractions.  Knowledge management processes and systems that require ’clevers’ to spend time in meetings, or filling out information that detracts from their core work could be categorized as such.

The challenge, and opportunity for leaders and for those with a remit for knowledge management is to find ways to harness the conversations that take place in teams and in networks, the learnings from experiences, and the general ‘tacit’ knowledge of ‘clevers’ in as un-bureaucratic a way as possible. This could be an argument for ensuring that organisations continue to have individuals with a dedicated remit, and with the credentials, to facilitate and record conversations within teams, networks (or Communities of Interest / Practice), around learnings, and from interviews with ‘clevers’ on an ongoing basis.

Werner Bauer, chief technology officer of Nestlé, and one of the interviewees in the book, sees knowledge networks, and managing know-how through people (rather than systems), as a key element of his job.  It would be interesting to discover how this is handled at Nestlé.

Process improvement

Many will argue that the role of ‘clevers’ should focus on innovation, rather than processes, process improvement, or efficiency. Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Score Card approach(2) clearly shows how there is scope for both perspectives in an organisation’s strategy.

  • Elisabeth Goodman’s experience of running Lean and Six Sigma workshops for research scientists in Pharmaceutical R&D reinforces the fact that effective teams have an iterative dynamic between the two.  They develop new models and assays, add them into their screens for new drug candidates, continuously review and improve these processes, and innovate some more.
  • Cisco, a highly innovative organisation, has replicable models, and believes this is the right thing to do because it helps to predict the future.  But at the same time, these too must continuously improve.
  • The McClaren team is obviously strongly focused on ‘process improvement’.  Goffee and Jones give a wonderful account of the recent Formula One World Championship, when Lewis Hamilton swept to victory assisted by the perfect timing of the team as to when to change the tires on a slippery circuit.

As management writers such as Steven Covey  and Peter Drucker point out, we should recognize that the nature of organisations has changed, and that the focus should not necessarily be on efficiency.  Organisations are becoming increasingly complex, and built on networks and know-how, rather than pure production or services centered within one organisation.  Examples of these ‘Clever Collectives’ include Google and Microsoft.  This is also increasingly the model being developed by Pharmaceutical organisations.

Project Management

There needs to be a disciplined rigour to ‘kill’ poor projects.  Something that may be hard to do where ‘clevers’ are keen to pursue a particular idea.  Again, this is something that Pharmaceutical R&D organisations strive to do through effective portfolio management.

Good management will involve transitioning projects from ‘clevers’ who may be more concerned with the ideas, to ‘implementers’ who may be more skilled in operational procedures.

A continuous focus on the vision, goals, and ongoing communication will be absolutely key to keep clever teams on track with what needs to be delivered. Goffee and Jones provide good illustrations of how Will Wright, the man behind SimCity and Spore at Electronic Arts, achieves just that with his team.

In conclusion, ‘Clever’ provides a rich source of information and insight for how to lead clever people and teams, not only from a general leadership perspective, but also for those looking to apply such disciplines as knowledge management, process improvement, and project management in today’s increasingly complex organisations.

Notes

(1) “Clever. Leading your smartest, most creative people.” By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Press (2009)

(2) “The Execution Premium” by Robert S Kaplan & David P Norton, Harvard Business Press (2008)

(3) This article focuses on three of RiverRhee Consulting’s 4 main areas of expertise for enhancing team effectiveness for improved productivity and team morale:

  1. Focusing on your customers
  2. Simplifying and streamlining what you do
  3. Optimising information and knowledge assets
  4. Ensuring successful business change

Follow the links for more information about RiverRhee Consulting, and about principal consultant, Elisabeth Goodman.

Deep Visuals Ltd – how Kodak’s knowledge assets did not quite ‘walk out of the door’


When Alan Payne, then Director of Kodak’s European Research team, found out that his 25 strong Cambridge unit was to close in early 2009, he spotted an opportunity that was to prove irresistible.  He suggested to one of the US business heads that they could continue the project they had been working on, outside of the Kodak umbrella, and do so at a lower cost. His US colleague had been very upset by the upcoming closure, and Alan’s suggestion made his day.  Alan’s colleague persuaded others in the US, and, before long, the contract was signed and in place.

I met Alan at one of Cambridge Network’s events, and when he told me about this, I asked if he would be willing for me to put together a ‘case study’, as a response to some of the comments I had received to an earlier blog: Knowledge assets have been walking out of the door – is anyone taking note?’ Alan kindly agreed, so here then is the rest of the case study.

Kodak’s European Research team had itself been the result of substantial organizational change when, in 2005, the umbrella organisation decided to consolidate the previous teams in Harrow, North London, and in France, to create the Unit in Cambridge. More than 200 people had been cut back to just 25 when the new Unit opened in January 2006.

The Cambridge team had been instrumental in introducing a new culture as a result of the transition from film to digital images. Whereas Kodak had previously been one of only a few companies in the world with expertise in film, they were suddenly vastly out-numbered by all those with digital expertise.  Alan, and the previous Director of the unit, Sam Weller, convinced Kodak Research to adopt what became an example of the ‘open innovation’ model.  As Alan describes it, the model is like a pair of scales: you give some of your technology away, but this is vastly outweighed by the expertise that comes in.  Although the US really liked this model, they could not afford to continue funding it, hence the closure of the unit.

Now Alan, and Peter Fry, each with more than 30 years experience at Kodak, co-own Deep Visuals Ltd, and run it with 2 other members of the original team, as well as a 5th team member that they’ve recently taken on.  They provide Kodak with an invaluable worldwide perspective on their client base and on product design and development – an important counterpoint to Kodak’s otherwise strong US focus.  They draw on a wide network of consultants, many from Cambridge University’s student population.  And they use a strong user-centered approach for product design, an important strategy where large organisations often risk relying too much on a technology-centered approach.

Kodak is very supportive of Deep Visuals current attempts to broaden their client base and strengthen their financial footing.  One area that Alan is exploring is museum collections.  He sees parallels between the challenges that we as individuals face in managing our personal historical photographic collections and those that museums have in making their vast collections of artifacts accessible to the public.  He is applying for grants to research the museum sector and to develop demonstrations of what might be possible.

This latter is in itself an example of Knowledge Management: an area that Alan also previously championed within Kodak.  He and his then colleague John Trigg believed that Knowledge Management was all about culture and people.  They were cognizant that people’s knowledge could be easily buried and lost and they promoted the use of electronic Laboratory Notebooks (eLNBs) as a way of making their knowledge more accessible.  Additionally, when the European Research team was due to be closed, Alan and his peers in the US set up a few interview sessions between the UK and US staff to enable sharing of knowledge.  They also ensured that all work in progress was fully documented, and of course that the eLNBs were available.

Finally, the existence of Deep Visuals Ltd itself, has obviously ensured that their invaluable ‘knowledge assets’ continue to be available to Kodak.

For Alan, the experience has been very liberating.  Like many who have spent most of their working life in the corporate world, he assumed that it would be very difficult to start up his own company.  With encouragement from his friends, and the support of Business Link, Alan was encouraged to go ahead, and was amazed at how easy the whole process was.  The hardest thing was coming up with a unique name!  Now, Alan is keen to ensure that the development of his staff is not overlooked.  He is beginning discussions with individuals to understand their technical and personal goals, and to ensure that Deep Visuals continues to be an exciting place to work.

Note:

This case study is one of a series that I am pulling together along my company’s, RiverRhee Consulting, 4 main areas of expertise for enhancing team effectiveness for improved productivity and team morale:

  1. Focusing on your customers
  2. Simplifying and streamlining what you do
  3. Optimising information and knowledge assets
  4. Ensuring successful business change

If you would like to share a case study relating to how your organisation is addressing these topics do please get in touch and I would be happy to discuss documenting it in one of my blogs.

You may also be interested in taking advantage of one of my complementary monthly Friday afternoon clinics

You can find more information about RiverRhee Consulting, and about me, Elisabeth Goodman, Business and Information Consultant, on http://www.linkedin.com/in/elisabethgoodman, and in the Cambridge Network directory, http://www.cambridgenetwork.co.uk