How Marketing Department Lost It’s Gusto?

There’s little we hear today about Marketing Department (or Division) these days? Don’t we? What we hear about Marketing today is about launching events after events. The department role has become launching organizers. They are very good at dealing with event coordinators, medias and gifts companies. Is that what Marketing department supposed to do?

Well, at least that’s one of it, we called it marketing communication. Ideally, what is marketing? What is the main function of marketing department? How should we measure marketing success? Why marketing matters? Let me.

“What Is Marketing? “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved July 2013 by American Marketing Association – AMA)”

Source: https://www.ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing/

According to Peter Drucker, “The two basic functions of a business enterprise are Marketing & Innovation. All the rest are costs. Marketing & Innovation produce results. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Source: Peter Drucker, What Is A Business?

If the purpose of business is to create customer through innovation (Drucker), the purpose of marketing is to help the organization sees the satisfaction desired by the customers in terms of values and needs. This is where, in my opinion, the beginning of marketing department downfall, lately.

The marketing department as we know it, no longer help the organization sees the customers values and needs, neither, make effort to understand the customers values and needs. Yes, the customers are changing, fickleminded and indecisive. We know these customers behaviours for very long already, nothing new.

Marketing Activities

There are at least four main marketing activities. The 4Ps (Product, Price, Place and Promotion) . The marketing department through its marketing activities, need to drive the decisions in these areas.

In Product – marketing department through its customers research, it will generate new products (or services) ideas and solutions. They will also look at the existing products, are they making profit? Or they are just product line up that is making losses year after year? The marketing team should have enough data on this. Do they have this data? The marketing department can only see what is in the pipeline but can they create new? Does the marketing team knows USP – unique selling proposition of the products (and services)?

In Price – marketing department will help set the pricing policies looking at the varying customer segments in their midst. They will know how much margin or mark up or profit or volume they need to generate for the business to grow. Are they making the decisions today? Or is it done by the finance group? How does marketing team influence this decision?

In Place – marketing department look at the distribution channel of the products. In today’s business, there are online and offline distribution channels. Does the marketing department has the people to do online marketing? Do they know the customers experiences in these two areas are different? How does the marketing team use the data collected? How does the marketing team work with the offline retailers, distributors and wholesellers? Do they have these strategies? Or is currently these being done by customer experience department? Or big data unit that is reporting to IT department?

In Promotion – marketing department set the promotional strategies including sales team deployment. Setting sales strategies, incentives and ammunitions. Is the marketing department still doing this? Or has this been delegated to sales department? Ohh yeah, this is also where marketing runs events to promote and advertise the “solutions” valued and needed by the customers. They do it through communication with the medias and PR companies. In promotion, marketing department also continually asssessing the brand value as seen by the customers.

After looking at all above, it turns out the marketing function as it was, has been broken down to myriad other units that are more specifics, more objective and relatable to the customers worldview as needed by the organization. Because of that, the marketing department is it was, without breaking it into many other units, will become too big, too slow and bureaucratic. That’s how marketing lost it’s gusto.

Wither Marketing Budget?

As a result, marketing department budget now filled with events budget and it become less strategic. In my humble opinon, marketing department too, has to be blamed. The people inside marketing team already out of touch with the customers realities. They department relies too too too heavily from the agencies, vendors and suppliers to give them reams of reports about the customers.

Marketing department rarely goes down to the “market” to talk to the customers. They refused to listen to the customers feedbacks and listen to their stories. Marketing department people prefer to man events at big and posh hotels while drinking coffee and smoke cigars – to them, the hotel is the prestige defined as “great branding” and “credibility” by the customers.

Marketing department create products in their office. They look at the quantitative data without an iota believe that they need qualitative data too – customers insights and pain points stories. Marketing department people do not go down to meet the engineers at the manufacturing plant to see the product development themselves. All they ask for are photos to make brochures and marketing kits. That too, the marketing department ask the agencies to go and get them.

Direction-less Heads

The marketing department also busy attending high flying and international conferences in the name of “benchmarking”, “new strategies” and “power networking”. Funnily, the one that usually get to go to these kind of pampered and full board events are the bosses of marketing department and above.

They go and come back – then nothing happened. The bosses snap loads of pictures of the slides and whatsapp them to the team. Instructing the team to do this and that – ASAP. The next year, the same bosses go again and again and again. It became the viscisous cycle that everybody knew – except the bosses. That’s how marketing department lost it’s gusto. With all the happenings in the marketing deparment, the top management should follow the advise of David Packard (Hewlett Packard), “Marketing is too important to be left to the Marketing Department.”

The marketing department also detest any other department that take away their budget in the next financial year. Now the next upcoming department that, if not careful, will fall just like the marketing department, it is the IT department.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

When Costs Kiss Goodbye!

Image credit: Kraft Heinz loses a lot of cheese as earnings send stock plunging to …

Interesting article about an investment company (private equity firm) that acquire food businesses (Heinz & Kraft Foods) back in 2013 and 2015 respectively. The firm believed these two companies could unlock more values by using ruthless focus on efficiency. They quickly employed radical cost cutting programs.

They fired thousands of workers, shutdown factories, used zero-based budgeting model (justify cost without regard of previous year spending), remove refrigerators (pantry) in the HQ known for stocking cheese sticks, set default settings of office printers (double sided with black toner) and limit meals spending during travel to $50 a day. Guess what happened next?

These initiatives and cost program led to industry-leading profit margins in less than 2 years! The stock price went up to more than $90 in 2017! See below.

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.51 AM

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.55.21 AM

But, unfortunately, it went to nose dive after all the radical cost programs deployed. From my research, Kraft Heinz overlooked the marketing bit, product innovations for their changing customers segments and valuable employees feedback that know how to run your operations especially in different market segments and countries.

Sometimes, big brands and companies make tactical mistakes like this. No doubt long history companies tend to have opportunities to go leaner that it was; things usually get complacent after awhile.

One of the videos, check it out.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/22/kraft-heinz-backers-face-reality-brutal-cost-cutting-isnt-enough.html

Lessons that we could take from here are:

  1. Look at at products and services innovations as growth strategy: There are probably a host of products that could be making money or probably there’d discover that most of the products are obsolete to modern customers. For the record, Kraft Heinz launched new products such as organic version of Capri Sun and expanded its condiment businesses. They tried, probably not enough time to see it through, perhaps these new lineups will grow later.
  1. People are not measured by their salary or price tag, rather by their value brings to the business: I tried looking for some human capital development strategies when the equity firm bought Kraft & Heinz, but I couldn’t find any. Although I may not a fan of “total spoon-feed your talent because you care”, I do believe the management should consider taking longer time to lay offs to ensure the tacit knowledge is transferred to the business. You should pay high for someone that could do more and pay less for someone who can only do routine work.
  1. There’s only so much you can do with cost efficiencies: Key for growth is innovation. I’d expect big brands and companies, should invest in ruthless innovation focus in three areas. First, new products and services that reflect current and future customers needs and wants. Second, leaner processes and automation to bringdown redundancies in capital & assets deployed and reduce wastages. Third, to find market creations opportunities that will need to be invested and R&D. You can read more about this from Clayton Christensen book titled, “The Prosperity Paradox”.

Innovations are for growth. Companies need to spend and invest together with their workforce to improve capability and capacity to innovate. I do hope to see Kraft Heinz able to come out from this plunge and see this only temporarily.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

What If You Can Trap CO2?

I was waiting  for my laptop to boot, somehow it takes longer today than any other day. I then turn and flip some magazines  – found a company called Climeworks. They were listed as one of the innovators in climate action business. Pretty cool! Actually their climate solution is focusing on decarbon the air. They call it “Active Air Capture”.

Basically the solution works by blowing air through reusable filters that chemically trap CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). Then heating the saturated filters to release the gas then inject it underground to bind with basaltic rock, which can hold it indefinitely. Wohauu!!

I headed on to their website and found this. Climeworks work with three main sectors namely Food & Beverage, Greenhouses and Energy, Fuels & Materials. What I found interesting was in Food & Beverage – where CO2 is needed to make carbonated drinks, here they want CO2! See below – from Climeworks website

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.17.50 AM

Source: http://www.climeworks.com/our-customers/food-beverage/

Apparently in F&B business, they need CO2 to do this activities such as packing fresh meat & vegetables, gas for draft beers and softdrinks and dry ice for freezing & chilling food.

It is interesting because of the cyclical model of CO2. As it explains in the picture above. The CO2 release will be captured back and used back in carbonating the drinks! Violaa!

As for farmers in greenhouses, raising CO2 level could increase yield as much as 20%! The best part this CO2 is renewable. Check out their table below:

Screenshot 2019-05-18 at 12.22.21 AM

Source: http://www.climeworks.com/our-customers/greenhouses/

Personally I feel this technology works best in certain environment, as Climeworks based  in Iceland. I am not sure whether this method works in other place. The model looks convincing, nonetheless.

Some other considerations is the capacity of capturing the CO2 and release it back as renewable energy into sectors that use CO2. Wondering whether there’s such a thing called CO2 trading online using blockchain technology.

You can get more information here www.climeworks.com

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Why Corporates Need Corporate Innovation?

I will go straight to the point this time, no BS here. 😉

Here are the FIVE Observations that make corporates need Corporate Innovation, within this year:

  1. The corporation no longer effective in capital allocation. It only spend on what it has been doing over the years since its founding days. The growth is stagnant? Right? There have been talks about why the auto market is stagnant, utilities market is stagnant, banking market is stagnant and education market is stagnant? Is it really? Think again. The corporate hiring is all time low, even if they do it is only incremental. How big can you hire anyway? How much capex do you want every year?

  2. The employees in that corporations have been out of touch from the customers worldview and realities – things they go through in every day life. The employees think that if you are an executive or business people, you will need a bank account so you will go to the bank freely without the bank having to promote to you any service. So they hesitantly “provide service” with the hope you will get out the branch quickly. The employees only know their job (think they know?) and only worry (pay attention) to their yearly increment. The employee has never thought how important you are because he is not in the marketing department!
  3. The people in the corporations no longer recognize each others strengths and passion anymore. They know each other by searching the names in the company database by their work title and department. They only care about numbers, bottomlines, KPIs, processes, SOPs and their own bosses. They forget the empathy in their colleagues and the motivation they come to work for.
  4. The corporations are a lot less helping the nation progress and becoming productive. Profiting RM100 million a year isn’t the same as elevating 1,000 people out of electrical poverty or lack internet access. The corporations care-less about the environment they operate and the shared prosperity – they only care about batches of production they need to make, the stuffs they have to deliver. They polluted the areas and take away the prosperous-ness in the areas.
  5. The suppliers and vendors of the corporations are non other than the same big boys instead of local business and startups with creative and innovative products and services with energetic and entreprneurial founders. The corporations with all their busy-ness tending to the bottom line didn’t get out of the building to look for what’s new, what’s better and what’s ahead. They are confined confidently in the comfort of large, air conditioned and well equipped office.

In the Corporate Innovation program, corporations will unbox, rediscover the untapped opportunities within the layers they have and assets they kept are abound; right on their backyard, under their nose and in their neighbourhood.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com 

#corporateinnovation #innovation

Corporate Innovation Not A Department

Corporate innovation is an important feature in large organizations. I wouldn’t suggest it to be a corporate function or division or department as it will create another layer or compartment; bureaucratic and adds extra cost to the company.

I think corporate innovation should be an embedded strategic program cut across divisions. Who should lead? I’ve seen HR doing it, IT doing it and CEO office doing it. Easy way out is CEO office, but I’ve seen CEO has 25 direct reports, how could he adds another? My best bet, corporate innovation mandate should come from the Board as strategic program (with start end period) max 3 years and review every 3-6 months.

Each year is a different “focus” leading towards the objectives and outcomes. Why Board? Because Board changes is a lot less than top management. Besides, Board has greater cohesion between them that can drive management team zand its workforce.

Now, the problem with Board? They lack customers voice and seemingly out of touch of the business realities on the ground. The Board can use corporate innovation to get this mended instantly. Greater customers voices should be heard directly at the Board with wider attention. Let’s get on board. corporateinnovation business relationships #innovation

Brickbats? Please write to donkhairul@gmail.com

Corporate Innovation Champion Is….

In the most innovative and valuable companies in the world, the CIO is the CEO. For innovation to happen, top down & mandated approach has better chance of success. In the meantime, the executive management also marshall the bottom up innovation approach by getting people excited about giving ideas, tweak some process and embrace feedback culture.

When these two strategies in alignment (top down mandate + bottom up excitement), it will eventually creates its own equilibirium and a meeting point. Once a meeting point reached, good to have another round of “workout – GE way” and ask “Where should we go now?”. I can almost guarantee this question when asked sincerely and with gratitude will bring you and your team to next level performance.

Amidst all the BAUs priorities, if at all you want to do it, let’s do it well. innovation #business relationships improvement corporateinnovation success corporatemodel

Corporate Innovation Pain Points

*First appeard on LinkedIn in April 2019

Corporate Innovation Program is the buzz word these days for very good reason. The awareness and action of many companies responding to change is getting better because “innovation” a must have agenda for top management and high level discussion including nations alike. The focus of innovation is “awakened” in the last few years so much so the word leadership has become low-key. I for one advocate leaders with big title if they couldn’t innovate their days are numbered or they should be shown the door. Run!

Innovation for it’s best intention solving pain points of the organizations, also carry it’s own inherited pain points. Well, pain points may sound negative. However negative it may sound, it is almost impossible to resolve it indefinitely before any launch of corporate innovation projects. The pain points highlighted are meant to be aware of, taken into consideration and minimized its negativity impact when possible. Let the goals of the corporate innovation be our guiding light, not the pain points. After all, no pain no gain.

Here are the Five Pain Points:

1.Departmental / Divisional Fiefdom

Fiefdom is there not for a good reason, definitely to be tear down in corporate innovation. The fiefdom stems from who owns the corporate innovation project. It could be the IT, Sales, Human Resource or CEO’s office. This way the budget can be better spent and realized, it is just the project impact is risked. Fiefdom mindset drags collaboration on its feet so much so other department rather sees the project fail than doing well. Fiefdom limits the upside potentials of any corporate innovation project.

Steve Ballmer, formerly CEO of Microsoft once said, “After all the things we want to do is aligned, the final piece of the puzzle is how we work together.” The differences of views and opinions are critical to growth, yet, there are also the stumbling block of productivity when not handled well or fully understood.

2. “Seen All Done All Nothing New” Top Management

It is common these days to include diverse at the top management line up. Diversity is key and we all know that diversity has to be worked on and build. It wouldn’t come by itself. There’s a lot of trust building, empathic engagement and sheer intolerance of incompetent senior management. Their backgrounds while may be helpful on their CV, when put to work they find themselves unable to take differentiated point of views and lack of willingness to change. They like the glory days of their past from other workplaces and using force (and bootlicks) to have it their way. New ideas shunned, opposing views silenced and change is too big to address because they have “seen all done all nothing new” mindset. They block any attempt to change by hoarding resources, veto decisions and play the upper hand with the Board or shareholders.

Top management that deter collaboration shouldn’t be in the line up at the first place. As we grow into leadership role at higher level, it is very much less about us, it is about them; our customers and our team members.

3. Only Pedigree Can Give Ideas

In this kind of organization, ideas are treated sacred. Only certain people deemed can give “great” ideas and only selected alumnus from certain universities can voice their opinions. The pedigree culture blocks other people from participating in what matters to the organizations. To make matters worst, pedigrees get rewarded handsomely that further reinforced unhealthy behaviours among peers and employees alike.

Developmental talent programs such as top talent sometimes create this unwanted differences in the day to day operations. The waiting culture seep in where without the pedigree there’ll be no decision of moving forward. No one is willing to make mistake because of huge career setbacks might affected their standing in the company and future development. The behaviours also could be manifested in negative ways such as bullying, narcissism and abuse of authortity.

4. Customer Voices Not Heard

With all the good business strategies and goals for the customers, there’s huge hesitation to talk to the customers to get feedbacks, opinions and suggestions. By the way who supposed to do it? Some say marketing, some say IT or procurement, maybe human resource? Everyone should do it. Sometimes the organization pressuring those “little” staffs at the counters with huge responsibilities to get feedbacks from the customers. Challenge is those little staffs are receptionists or call centre agents that have little means to understand the complexities of interactions happening with the products and services from across the organizations.

Besides, they also have limited authority to do customers recovery or beyond to directly attend to customers needs and wants. The survey provided with checklist won’t be able to extract feelings and emotions of difficulties of getting the services done.

Additionally, there is tendency to lead the customers to tick surveys quickly with long winded survey because customers are always in a hurry. Not knowing their pain points, struggles or hear their stories could lead to organization that is myopic of the challenges faced by their customers. This also applies to internal customers that are using our processes to get things done.

In some organizations, the quality policy used is different to meet certain standards, such as an independent Procurement department, whereby only the Procurement is certified with ISO 14001 and the rest do not. It is a mess!

5. Tools Before Strategy

It used to be Porter’s Five Diamonds, then Organizational Development, then Agile, then Lean, the Six Sigma, then Blue Ocean Strategies, then Design Thinking, then Heart Thinking and so on. These are tools. Someone said, “A tool and a fool seldom differ.”

Organization should put their business strategies above anything else. What do we want to achieve? How do we get there? What is our value? Who should be our target customers? What capabilities that differentiate us to deliver our value proposition? These are strategic questions called Strategic Five by strategy+business knowledge portal – let’s get down to basics.

Our answers (or no answer!) to these questions will help determine the “mix” of tools you might need. No one tool fits all strategic needs of any organization in today’s environment. One thing for sure, our people and workforce needs to learn more than one tool to make them nimble, agile and empowered in decision making when interfacing with the customers. Always remember, “structure follows strategy”.

Brickbats? Please email to donkhairul@gmail.com Thanks!

Top 10 Great Ideas in 2018 from the Field-Walk

Hey, I am back after long hiatus (exactly 1 year!). Been super busy, I will make more commitment this year. One article at least per month. Let’s work it out. 🙂

This post is about Ideas that I have personally observed that were generated by participant of our Design Thinking Innovation workshops in 2018. I started compiling these ideas and take note how popular these ideas among the participants. I also have super great news that some ideas in 2017 became reality and being implemented (some at national level!), it was thrilling feeling to see this happening.

Now let me share 10 Great Ideas in 2018:

  1. Thrash for Wifi access. This idea came from Sabahan because internet cost for mobile is quite expensive to Sabahan graduates and average household. Therefore they rely (especially youth) on public wifi. The youth willing to collect thrash around the cities and in return they get wifi access (via coupons or digital link)
  2. Smoking ban in public place. This idea came from several groups during early 2018. It was laughed at and ridiculed by mostly smokers because of the wide scope of the implementation. Interestingly, now at the time of writing, smoking is now completely banned in public eateries nationwide and progressing to wider coverage by 2019 end.
  3. Open banking, share all banking data in one app or one source. This interesing fintech ideas came from several banks and customers. It used to be each bank collect their own customer data and they shouldn’t (and couldn’t) share it with other bank. For example if you are a user of credit card from Bank A, if you are applying another credit card for Bank B, they wouldn’t know. This became a problem especially if the customer is a bad paymaster of credit card Bank A. The problem later might spill to Bank B. On the other hand, if you are a great paymaster, your credit ratings improved, your data is shared with other banks, you become a highly sought customers from various banks. That’s the advantage.
  4. Trap rubbish at the river or drainage using mesh. This idea came from people in flood-prone areas. The flash flood usually happened in rainy season and caused major traffic problem. One of the problems are clogged drainages and rising water from the rivers because of thrash! While it is understandable we shouldn’t throw rubbish, I personally found the thrash sometimes from factories because of the quantities are massive. So to effectively and efficiently clean up the river, using wire or nylon mesh to trap the river would be quick.
  5. Auditors and HR staffs are from business departments and branch operations. This fabulous ideas came from multiple banks. The audit and HR departments found out 2 major problems. First, these two departments are not well liked by the staffs because of poor misperception. Second, most staffs joined these two departments are juniors hence little operations and business experiences. Consequently, most of their work deemed lack substance and lack empathy. An insight surfaced, those with experiences that joined audit and HR department tend to be more matured and heightened empathy. They also managed to convince their former colleagues to be more receptive and cooperative in bringing the business to the next level!
  6. Video conference for long distance meeting. This idea came from government officials that live far from the headquarters. Some had to travel 8-10 hours for an hour meeting. To cut time, cost of travel and health bills, the use of video conferencing could effectively and efficiently for both parties. Let’s use meeting for key decision making. Hopefully the next phase of national broadband plan in 2019 will be spearheaded faster than expected. Faster connection will definitely help!
  7. Tax break for donations by the public to schools and universities. It is true and evident the government funds to schools are getting lesser by the year due to various reasons. It is also true and evident, most parents would want to donate (and willing) to donate for schools where their kids studies. Tax is a very good tool for the government to use to invite this “money on the table” by giving tax breaks (double if possible).
  8. HR to drive innovation capabilities development. This idea came repetitively from banks and MNCs pointing that many HR “waits” for business departments request for innovation program. HR in their views still see “innovation” as technical know-how, technology-based and only for selected people. HR as the people builder needs to step up quickly grasp the big gap of innovation capabilities by launching innovation training programs and workshops because innovation today and beyond is everybody’s business.
  9. Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered & gravity dumb-bell. It turns out a lot of people want to get fit by using dumb bell (including me). The insight we found that a lot of people don’t know what kind and how much weight they should do that will effectively help them meet their goals. Using AI & gravity, user only need to buy one dumb bell of this kind and start getting fit progressively, without having to own a whole rack of those bells!
  10. Launch fintech fast to collect data. Fintech is pervasive these days, many local banks turn confused what they should do actually. They found many banks took very long time to think “analytically and holistically” so much so go to market become painstakingly long. The idea is about fast launch of basic fintech products & services for example CASA account, children account or loan application with primary purpose to collect data and learn from it before even considering the full blown product. This could make sense because by the day there are many more technology players in this area, therefore investing in sophisticated technology may not pay off in the long run. Think about it.

 

Hope you enjoy this piece. Any brickbats please email to donkhairul@gmail.com 

Happy New Year 2019!

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Beyond Quanti, Factor In Quali

In light of global economic uncertainties in recent years (and still ongoing), I observed many organizations set up Transformation Office, Special Task Force and Delivery Office. These “new offices” are created to ensure the companies are able to be resilient enough to weather the uncertainties. Usually these “new offices” report directly to the Chief of the company.

When I sat down with the leaders in charge of these “new offices” they shared with me their plans. Information shared are from revenues, costs of operating, cycle time, capital expenditure, new business areas, business strategy moving forward, human capital planning, product planning, media, customer services and many others. One thing in common from this discussion, there are all hard data. Almost all (if not all) of them are derived from facts, figures, dollars and cents.

The leaders in charge showed me graphs, charts, prognosis, research papers, BI reports and news and statistics in multiple streams and various thickness level (they are very thick!). In some companies they also show me the Employee Opinion Survey (EOS) which was done by the HR department. Almost all this data above is quantitative data.

I also seek customer datapoint beyond the usual survey, checklist and market reports, and surprisingly not many companies have them. The “new offices” pointed me to the customer service department, but when I asked them for qualitative customer data they don’t have it too. What is qualitative data?

Qualitative data includes customers interviews, pictures of actual customer interactions with services and products, customers complaints list, videos of customer journeys, customers profiles & personas, social media insights, demographics & psychographics information and customers testimonials.

The reason I brought up this topic because both data ie. hard data (quantitative) and heart data (qualitative) are equally important. I also observed that most quantitative data isn’t accessible by most staffs, whilst most qualitative data isn’t reachable by the top management.

Do you now see the datapoints gap? (Image below) That’s probably the reason why, the top leaders have little understanding of customer orientation (for large companies this is common), and the frontline staffs wondering why no new ideas implemented to win (or win back) the customers.

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 11.21.34 AM

I also observed a lot of data has been filtered when going up and going down by middle managers, supervisors and team leaders who are in between top leaders and frontline staffs. We need to start accepting that heart data (qualitative) is equally important to our businesses.

In our design thinking workshop, we focus on drilling into the qualitative (heart) data points. What customers feel, what are the insights, how the staffs feel, where does usually the tension happen, why people buy, with whom the customers like to buy from, why customers prefer that branch compared to this branch and so many others!

Heart data can help you find new business opportunities, obvious profitable ideas and improve customers satisfaction.

Beyond quanti, factor in quali!

Khairul observes when leaders are open to multiple data points, they become likeable!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

 

10 Symptoms of “DTO”

Heard this phrase before? “Practice make permanent?”. My team and I been working and practicing DT back to back with some clients, so much so we forget how much “DT” is embedded to our brain – almost permanently. We think we are experiencing symptoms of DTO. Are you? Here the 10 symptoms of DTO – design thinking overdrive:

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  1. When you see someone carrying brown carton boxes, you think it is a prototype.
  2. You run to a group of people in a mall holding paper folders because you thought they are looking for Testers.
  3. You seriously believe that crazy & wild ideas are ideas worth exploring…
  4. You have Sharpie pens inside your jeans, leather bag, laptop bag, handbag, satchel, wristlet and stucked on your t-shirt!

  5. Joking around is considered brainstorming to you (except everyone else!)
  6. You doodle more and speak less, to deepen the “conversation”.
  7. Every question starts with How Might…..
  8. Sitting down makes you feel strapped to the chair, you stand up to listen.
  9. Everything you can get your hands on can be a prototype – instantaneously!
  10. You sleep on your ideas and think about it meditatively! The next day, viola!

  11. It seems no one can stop you from doing something about any problem. Who’s stopping you anyway?

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It turns out there are 11 symptoms of DTO! It’s really driving us “mutts”!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

or visit us at www.designthinking.com.my 

Demise of Innovation As Good Corporate Culture

Corporate culture means how the company workforce behaves and carry themselves when they interact with the company’s stakeholders. Corporate culture includes the company values (what they believe in). Good corporate culture means the company workforce (including the top management and the rank & files) able to provide highly positive experience during those interactions. They are motivated, upbeat and offer leadership in a good way. Bad corporate culture? Means simply the opposite experience.

In some large companies, entry level executives till mid managers are very afraid to give suggestions and improvement ideas (that makes more than 50% of the total workforce!). They are waiting for orders from the top leaders (as high as board members) and interestingly the top leaders enjoy this “treatment”. Little that the tops realized the demise of innovation under their very own nose. In an extreme case, staffs get warning letters (2 letters!) after giving 2 ideas on how to improve their work. Reasons? Bypassed the managers because the staff submitted the ideas through “Suggestion Box”. This idea of politically correct “touchy-feely-kissy-assy” is a worrying trend.

In most companies, innovation is one of the most important words used in company values. This applies to large MNCs, big local corporates, SME and including micro enterprise. I recalled one conversation with a nasi lemak seller, “I have to make sure my sambal has to be better than anyone else. People around here like it sweeter compared to some place they like it spicier.” Knowing your customer preferences is one of the reliable sources of innovation opportunities. Innovation unlocks company potentials and allow them to compete positively in today’s highly competitive environment in any given niche possible. Often successful innovation focuses on customers needs and wants.

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Innovation is important. Everyone knows that. Alas, not everyone understand how importance of innovation until they hit a roadblock. Often small companies hit many roadblocks compared to large ones. Therefore they usually innovate faster, better albeit smaller steps. Large companies are latecomers when it comes to innovation because the roadblocks that can stall their move are only the big ones, shape shifting and tectonic change. The small roadblocks can be overcome by commanding higher resources ie money, manpower or infrastructure. Hence, the large companies ability to change only happen when they got it big. Therefore the people in large companies are not trained on the job to seriously look at small roadblocks, to them these are just hurdles that they can skip, jump or push aside. You can’t cut queue in roadblocks, can u?

Because large numbers of workforce are not trained to innovate, they simply don’t have the skills to do so. All they know, when they face hurdles, just command more resources. More stuffs stuffed, without having to think what to take out in the process. This has been happening again and again, on and on until some day the resources drained. The roads become stuffed stucked. No more. The big roadblock come, hit them and they become immobilized.

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The top management suddenly realized their workforce machinery unable to deal with it and oppss the machines stop functioning or go much much slower. Only then the top management come down to inspect. Its too late. They are stucked and it is so stuffy.

An example of simple innovation (yet neglected) in companies are many – no I don’t mean technology neither products not services. Let me give you an example. A Process Executive from Project Department said his department job is to receive process improvement instructions from other department. They are the  document controller for processes. All they do is, receive processes instructions from various departments. Although some of the processes are conflicting from one department to the other. But because other departments don’t know in great details of each other’s processes, this issue is buried in the busyness of corporate demands.

Successful innovation comes when the Process Executive decided to bring this up and help facilitate the conflicting processes from the concerning departments. This simple act of creativity, whilst negligible and not in the job scope of the Process Executive (you can embed in job scope but not doing it is another problem), he takes it up and help facilitate to make a difference. Simply because he understands conflicting processes “it is not how the design (processes) should work.”

His refreshing approach is the simplest example of how “re-imagining” can help large organizations innovate at the smallest level. This act by the Processes Executive can be a cumulative and collective acts by thousands more executives and this inspired feelings are contagious. The ripple effects will enable large organizations deal with small roadblocks again or potentially avoid the big roadblock altogether. Alas, big roadblocks are the compounding effect of ignored small ones.

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In conclusion, innovation as good corporate culture may kiss you goodbye even though you have “innovation” printed everywhere in your brochure, website or conference booklets. Maybe a kick in the teeth that you needed the most as wake up call. See you on the other side.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

So Graduates, Job Secured, What Next?

Your tenacity paid off, your attention to your resume works wonders, your responses to the interviewers seem plausible, the way you carry yourself during the interview were convincing, your voice modulation saying that you are confident and voila! You secured a job that you wanted (at least at that moment). You jumped so high that you could touch your house ceiling! Congratulations graduates! I still remember my own moments when I secured a job, it felt so grown up and excited. I told my mum and dad that I can now pay my own petrol and transport. #grin So what next?

How to stay on the job? What to do to get to the next level? When is the right time to showcase your skills? Why your degree has little meaning to workplace? Why it is not important to “be yourself” when starting out? Do you want to be at the next level, faster?

I wish to offer 5 things for you to consider “be” that may guarantee your next promotion in the next 4-5 years after you secured your first job professionally:

  1. Be Hardworking

At the beginning of anyone’s career, you should consider looking for great experience over great salary. Great work experience will make you do multi things (yes you become multi-tasker). You prepare report, make sales calls, go networking events, lead company’s family day and write report again. Sound busy? Yes you should be. Although you may not see the relevance (yet), you will gain because people started to know you and you start to notice varieties of characters and people around you as well. This is important.

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Volunteer to do all these activities around your workplace if you can physically and be positively motivated when doing it. Being motivated is the only difference between being hardworking compared to being overworked. Your bosses will start to notice your face is almost everywhere. You get what we called “attention”.

For those of you that usually skip the university’s events and persatuans, you missed out these moments at that time. Therefore you should take the advantage to pick up again these “getting attention” skills at the beginning of your career.

 

  1. Be Trustworthy

Okay, so you are hardworking and volunteer in a lot of things around your company therefore you are about to walk on thin ice. So you made some mistakes in some of the things you do? The tips is to be honest about your shortfalls and how would you make it differently next time. It is ok to look vulnerable or “weak” because you apologize.

The good news is you project trustworthiness in you to the people around. You will be seen as more open to ideas and feedbacks, this deepen your relationship with co-workers and managers. Remember, trust takes time to develop, you have to invest in it.

For female graduates, don’t beat yourself up so much. Don’t over exaggerate the situation if you make mistakes. It’s enough to just say sorry and “it will not happen again in the future.” For male graduates, learn to say sorry too and please don’t blame others for your own mistakes.

 

  1. Be Resilient

True, there are times things just get so difficult. Not to mention, you received harassment from some dungus, that’s normal. Life’s like that and by knowing this you need to endure it. What is resilient? From Wiki it means, “Able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed.” So after all the gruelling, you still stand tall and chin up. Like what Michelle Obama said, “When people make you feel so low, you don’t stoop to their level. You go high!”

In the course of your 4-5 years during your initial working career, resilient is key for the top management to observe your endurance. Some corporate projects can take 3-4 years to complete therefore the top management is keen with someone that can take things through thick and thin of situation. Corporate projects are such as opening new branch in new country, implementing new system or lead new business area or products. In the absence of knowledge and experience, resilient is your currency for exchange.

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If you are a leading a team, try to motivate your team to be as resilient as you, more is better. Have conversation with them if you find them lagging behind or dragging their feet to work. It is not ok to be seen as one-man-show whilst you actually have a team with you. Bring them along with you.

 

  1. Be Resourceful

Whenever, whenever you feel you don’t know things your boss asking you to do, you either ask him directly for clarification or google it. Say after you asked, and you still don’t quite get it, you can google it too. Find information online and ask smart questions – specific and to the point.

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I remember one time when I had to organize company’s event and I was asked to find media contacts, I said yes to my boss. I googled and found few contacts online, but it wasn’t enough because we targeted 10 media companies to cover our event in their publication. I presented to my boss and said I only managed to get three. You know what? He said, “Good job! I could see you tried hard. Now here’s the whole list!” Yayyy!!

Although you are a project manager, you must know that decision making of the project still has to be discussed with you supervisor, superior, manager or boss. This little known tips could help you build lasting relationship with your upline. Some younglings excitedly make all the decisions without enough consultation, they are in for the trouble. Therefore, being resourceful means that your tentacles reach out to information fast enough and your problem solving ability is above average. Yet, when it comes to decision making, make sure it is a consensus with the team (including your upline).

 

  1. Be Knowledgeable

This is where power reading comes in. Not reading Facebook comments, I mean reading thick book (150 pages above), cover to cover. Some magazines considered reading as well such as Fast Company, The Economist, Bloomberg, MIT Sloan and so on. Reading help you imagine the future you never experienced. For graduates, choose your materials widely.

Read magazines, real books (on management, creativity, science, fiction and so on) and please make yourself available to training programs. I found reading autobiography enjoyable – bios I’ve read are Arnold Schwazenegger, Sidney Poitier, Kuan Yew, Alex Ferguson, Tun Mahathir, Mydin, Boon Siew, Jay Z Gandhi, Jack Welch, Prophet Muhammad, Hamka and many more.

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It is ok to sound smart when you converse with your boss or colleagues. It helps your maturity and boost your confidence level when talking to someone when you know you are knowledgeable. Nonetheless, it is not okay if you pretend to be smart. Trying to goreng things you don’t know have its own limit – worse off when people can catch it. Being knowledgeable sometimes will make people around you feel threatened, do it anyway. Simply because when you become a big fish in a small pond, time to make that jump to bigger pond or go to the ocean instead.

Wrap Up

I believe many of seniors and professionals would agree with me the 5 tips above. There are many more of course, I found the above suffice for you to do and practice in the next 1-3 years of your initial career. If you still get stuck you can write me an email, we can take it offline. Maybe you need different help.

I found male and female graduates are wired differently (of course!). One thing in common I wish to emphasis is to not get overly obsessed to “be yourself”. You can be yourself when you are in private settings or in family environment where people can tolerate “yourself” over and over again. However, in public place or social setting, people are impatient and have very high expectation of each other (although each other know their own insecurities).

Therefore as someone that’s climbing the work ladder, open up yourself to be more accepting others’ and adjust yourself necessarily. Being overly yourself is akin to break the coconut too early to enjoy the coconut juice. Give yourself time to learn about others and pay attention on how you respond and react to those moments – soon you will learn more about yourself, really.

I wish you beshh of luck. Any brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

 

 

How to Take Advantage of Mentoring in Organizational Development (OD) and Leaders Development

In the last few years OD has become very popular framework to redesign holistic people & leaders development for large organizations. In this “renewed” war on talent, where it is no longer about quantity of talent that matters rather it is more about quality or right talent that is in dire need for most organizations. Although we hear several companies in manufacturing, banking and IT are making layoffs, the way I see it these companies are retaining and keeping their best talents braving the perfect storm coming their way.

One common theme in OD is mentoring and coaching. I have worked with several clients to design part of OD components (few get implemented), but often OD becomes a long list of training programs after training programs with various consultants and trainers (internal and external). There is little thought in optimizing the OD outcomes to the organization. I think we shortchanged ourselves by not taking advantage of mentoring. The mentoring portion often not implemented because “too much resources needed” to roll out.

Here I wish to share how organizations can take advantage of mentoring in OD. This is simple, practical and implementable at small scale, which later can be scaled up further.

A. Decide 1-2 mentoring goals. Yes, just one or two goals first. I learn from behavioural change model, once we are able to change one or two behaviours, our confident level improves and we start to tackle other challenges next. Example mentoring goals are:

  1. Developing leaders for non-core businesses
  2. Retaining Gen-Y workforce in key positions
  3. Promoting high performance Gen-X for global expansion
  4. Improve customers base for new products and services
  5. Supporting emerging leaders for career direction
  6. Encouraging leaders to learn and develop each other

B. Find and recruit the people and leaders that most attracted to mentoring and people development. Often not all top executives love mentoring idea because they need to make time for it. However, OD chief needs to be able to present a compelling business case for it. Prep sometime with the CEO prior this engagement. Bring along several key talents in the initial meeting to convince the CEO.

C. Present a business case that outlines the following:

  1. Mentoring goals.
  2. Business SWOT – Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat
  3. Skills available and acquired in the company – identify the leaders (potential mentors)
  4. Skills required and needed in the company – identify the content (potential faculties)
  5. Rolling out plan and scheduling (start small – have 2-3 mentors assigned to less than 10-12 talents)
  6. Guidelines, processes and coordination (keep it minimal and spartan)
  7. Measurement of outcomes and duration (6-12 months is enough)
  8. Monitoring plan and expectations
  9. Proposed investment (only include this once the rest has been thoroughly discussed with CEO and CFO)

D. Say if you still find it difficult, here you can do it the stealth way:

    1. Find organizational leaders that love people.
    2. Find talents that show exceptional performance and demonstrate leadership qualities.
    3. Conduct 30-45 minutes behavioural interviews with your colleague or partners.
    4. Find good matching between the leaders (mentors) and talents (protégés)
    5. Speak to friendly direct supervisors of this plan (recruit the direct supervisor to oversee the development)
    6. Prepare some basic guidelines for mentors and protégés.
    7. Roll out under stealth mode.

I personally feel that mentoring has strong and deep developmental advantages other than training programs. Mentoring has talent retaining effect too!

Having a basic level mentoring program would enhance training programs done in the company because the participants will contextualized what they learn and relate it back to the organization when meeting with their mentors.

Besides, the developmental programs can be more targeted and expanded based on feedbacks from the mentors.

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

Identifying Tough Cookie At Work

Tough cookie can be real tough. There is a title of a book by Robert H. Schuller, “Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do”. When was the last time you had to deal with these people? Apparently part of journey to become top leaders, a leader must face off with tough cookie.

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“Sometimes the only thing we did is pray.”

Remember those days when we were kids, we could simply shout, push back and kick those bad guys in the pants – hey how sometimes I wish that might work at work place. But, tough cookie at work place operates differently. Right?

Let’s do the acid test on how to identify tough cookie at work place:

1) WORD-LESS – these people neither give suggestion or feedback. They just shut off and continue their work the way they believe is right. Often, you need to keep going back to correct the same mistakes.

2) SARCASTIC JOKER – humour me can be fun but sarcasm doesn’t work well when its too much. They like to talk about things that don’t work aeons ago and magnify disproportionate risks on new ideas.

3) SEE BUT DISBELIEVE – they prefer to see situations as “no solution” after first few attempts. Saying “no” is their automated response. Instead, we should learn how to see “what’s the real problem is” and have faith in search of excellence.

4) PERSON BEFORE PROBLEM  – “whatever coming out from his mouth is fouled”. Blanket accusation like this is a dysfunctional behavior. Their inability to evaluate and be critical to the problem at hands can jeopardize decision making for the organization.

Dealing with tough cookie is no monkey business. Can be a real pain.
Dealing with tough cookie is no monkey business. Can be a real pain.

Here is the advise from the best. Ram Charan was asked, as leader “What can’t be taught?”. He answered, “Leader needs the mental capability and tenacity to knit their inferences into something meaningful and the imagination to think of new options. Leader needs the courage to go on the offensive based on your subjective judgments. You can’t be a wimp – make the tough calls.”

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com