OK, So What is With the Logo? –> ē

For my regular readers, you will notice my usual plea for ‘Support Wikipedia’ has been replaced by an ominous green ‘e’ with a bar over top. An explanation:

I have been busy. Since my departure from Nortel I have been working on my new consulting business called ‘Psychē’ and officially (according to the government) called ‘PSYCHE CONSULTING’ in the business of ‘ORGANIZATIONAL DEVELOPMENT CONSULTING’.  Apparently the government likes yelling capital letters.

So why an ‘e’ instead of a ‘P’? ‘P’ logos look stupid IMHO. Except for the Philadelphia Flyers logo, which I only just now realized is also a ‘P’, and it’s already taken.

E stands for engineering, and in this case ‘Human Dynamics Engineering‘ (AKA ‘HDE’) a new term I am coining for what it is I am doing. E is also for ‘Engagement’ which is predominantly what the business is all about, engaging employees in their work environments, large and small. Also, the bar above the ‘e’ is “a macron, from the Greek μακρόv (makrón), meaning “long”, is a diacritic placed above a vowel” to indicate the ‘long e’ sound (‘eeee’ not ‘uh’). This is to distinguish the correct ‘psyche’ from the two possible interpretations:

(Courtesy Reference.Com)

1. The one I intend: psy·che [sahy-kee] -noun “Psychology, Psychoanalysis. the mental or psychological structure of a person, esp. as a motive force.”

2. The potentially unfortunate: psyche [sahyk] -informal verb “to intimidate or frighten psychologically, or make nervous (often fol. by out): to psych out the competition.”

And as a complete piece of trivia, ‘e’ is also the Proto-Semitic ‘H’ which is often used by people as my nickname, and has a symbol that looks like a person with his/her hands up.

Psychē LogoIf you would like to learn more about Psychē please drop by http://psycheconsulting.org. The site is rapidly evolving to become a resource for improving the workplace through ‘HDE’.

While I had always intended to use the ‘e’ with a macron above, the much-improved style of the final version is attributed to my friend and graphic designer Wendy Koch. I will provide a link to her fabulous graphic design website once it actually exists (Wendy: hint hint).

So why have I apparently gone insane, ditched the potentially lucrative field of telecommunications, and started a consulting firm?

In short, during my tenure in the Nortel MEN ESAT team as ‘Career Development Prime’ and then the overall Chair, I spent a lot of time thinking about the business impact of the level of engagement in the organization. I also found a passion for the topic which has led me to study the area ever since, amassing 4+ years of practical experience and research into the field. Based on this background, I have come up with an approach that I think would be very effective in any environment.

Now, off to work…

Oh, and support Wikipedia!!

P.S. I have been receiving a heart-warming quantity of well-wishes for my new endeavour. I am going to need some time to get back to you all, but I plan to do so!

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Success at NORTEL

Now there is two words you probably haven’t heard in a the same sentence for a while!

During a presentation to a large consulting firm on Chip & Dan Heath’s ‘Made to Stick’, things got rather casual/direct and I ended up presenting some of my challenges at moving forward with my next career (which we’ll call ‘management consulting’ for lack of a better term):

  1. How do I package the ‘Made to Stick’ principles for my purposes?
  2. How do I translate this information session into a consulting opportunity for me?
  3. And the biggie… How do I address the fact that the last 12 years of my career has been with a company the public associates more with management ineptitude, than an environment that could foster an effective ‘management consultant’?

One of the attendees said something which took the whole room aback: “Why don’t you use this ‘Sticky’ method to convince people that there was ‘Success at Nortel’?” After a pause, and about a minute of laughter from the room at what was clearly a joke, he says: “No, I’m serious, wouldn’t that prove your point?”

While others in the room suggested that the employee in question may be off some important medicine, I told him I really liked the idea, didn’t see a path to get there, but I would certainly give it more thought!

That challenge stuck in my mind until I had a lunch meeting with one of my previous Nortel managers (ironically).  I was discussing how my new venture was going to be focussed on a systematic process to increasing customer and employee engagement in organizations to boost productivity, boost profit and –in Seth Godin’s words– increase the level of humanity. He matter-of-factly said: “Wasn’t our network planning team exactly that [success via customer and employee engagement]?”

WHOA!

Some background: Network Planning is a function that exists in all companies that build telecom networks, but was rather unique at Nortel because we were a company that sold equipment to build telecom networks, and we offered this service for free. As a simple analogy, imagine an architect who works with you to help design your home for free, before you have have even committed to buy it.  Sounds like a bad business model doesn’t it?  Not so fast!

Vendor-provided network planning services started at Nortel (AFAIK) and became an industry table-stake over the years as clients clearly decided to do more and more business with companies that would help them design their networks, evaluate new technology and specify the equipment required. This was widely replicated by our competitors with all companies in our product segment –even the smallest startups– having this function in some way, shape or form.  Some will charge for it (a bad idea, but that is worthy of another post), others offer it as a free service.  I joined Nortel to become part of the planning team, stayed in it for 7 years, unable to find a more appealing job in the whole company.  Anyone who had experience in Nortel Network Planning will tell you how great a team it was, and most of its alumni have moved on to great success in roles such as PLM, market development, sales and planning leadership roles at other companies.

Gallup Research, in their fabulous book Human Sigma (little to do with Six Sigma by the way) identifies two hierarchical pyramids that characterizes what is required for customer and employee engagement to exist.  Gallup asserts, and I certainly concur, that companies that strive to engage customers and employees significantly improve business results. I am going to apply the elements of one of these two pyramids to Network Planning at Nortel to highlight why it was so successful:

Elements of the Customer Engagement Pyramid

  1. CONFIDENCE : Can I trust the company, and do they always deliver on their promises? The kind of business Nortel is in has long product lead-times and product cycles. It is often very hard to develop a rapport with key decision makers purely through standard interaction on products, especially since these decision makers are far removed from the products themselves (they may never actually see them). The planning function allowed for regular and deep discussions about what the customers problems were, allowing us to help them do their job.  By doing this with great competence, and to schedule, we could build trust and deliver on our promises in a parallel stream to our products. To perform this function needed great trust between the carrier and vendor, because we often had as much –or more– information on their network than they did to do our job well.
  2. INTEGRITY: Does this company treat me fairly? Again, planning was in a position to develop a rapport with decision makers that sales or operations could not.  Sometimes this was even taken to extremes: I can remember one case where the customer was under time pressure, and asked us to rework a network design over the Christmas break, which we did (it showed we had engaged employees!).  Reactions like this clearly showed the customer that we were committed to their business and –more importantly– to the individuals that were decision-makers.
  3. PRIDE: Am I proud to be their customer, do they treat me with respect? I think another company providing you with extremely bright and energetic people to help you do your work is a great sign of respect! The planning teams were often providing these clients with detailed network designs and studies which would in-turn be presented with great pride as their own work. In other cases, the planners themselves became an integral part of the customer’s team, even assigned their own office space in some cases.
  4. PASSION: This company is perfect for a person like me, I can’t imagine a world without this company. What more proof do you need of this than the customers hiring the planners to be their own employees? This happened in several occasions. Because the roles of the people we were interacting with were typically cost-centres (not revenue generating) they were often under-staffed and under-appreciated.  They were asked to evaluate many complex options of how their networks were to evolve, and had many potential vendors & products to consider.  Nortel would come in with great talented people and give them a helping hand, and make our customer contacts look like miracle workers with their own executives. If you had someone make you look like a star to your boss, could you imagine a world without them?

So according to Gallup, we had created a function that created a very high level of customer engagement!

Were the results of having the planning function directly measurable? Unfortunately not*, but here is a few data points:

  • The function still exists to this day. It would seem obvious that functions that do not directly contribute to revenue were great opportunities for trimming in a company with severe financial trouble, especially after >80-90% of the workforce has been cut! The function had such a reputation in the industry, and was so leveraged by other teams like market development, sales, R&D and PLM, that I don’t think it was ever considered for the chopping block, even while many other valuable functions were thrown over the side.
  • Alumni of this function were heavily recruited by established industry players and start-ups because of the relationships these people had made with customers, and their broad network & business perspective.
  • As already mentioned, planners were regularly imbedded as key members of the customer’s own organizations or even hired by our customers.
  • Many of the networks in existence today were designed by planners from Nortel with Nortel equipment (the latter was the big payoff).

If I need to make a case for ‘Success in Nortel’, I would have no trouble positioning the network planning function as a great success story that was about engaging people and not technology.  It built stronger relationships with our customers, allowed a deeper understanding of the customer’s challenges and requirements, and helped Nortel build better products while creating a large pool of Nortel employees who could speak the customer’s language.

So now I have the content of the presentation, now I just have to go put it together.

*I have since figured out a way to do this, but you will have to drop me a line for that advice.

Those That Get ‘It’ Don’t Need ‘It’

But that isn’t what this post is really about, that was just an attempt at a catchy tag-line. Also, this post is also not about those that don’t get ‘it’. But first, what is ‘it’?

‘It’ is the value of the knowledge and skill that you offer as a service.

Consider the following diagram:


On the left hand side of the diagram (around ‘A’) you have the people that really don’t get the value of what you are offering. They don’t get it because their experience has never told them that it might be important, or they have never seen it done successfully. Unfortunately those that really don’t get ‘it’ are often the ones that need ‘it’ the most.  Don’t let this make you think this is a valid use of your time to try and convince them directly*.

On the right hand side of the diagram (around ‘C’) you have the people that really get ‘it’.  These people only need you if you want to be another set of hands to implement their plans.  If they get ‘it’ they don’t need ‘it’.  You don’t consult for these people, you get a job with them (if that is what you want).  Your skills and talents will be leveraged daily.

You’ll notice that there is another variable plotted: The chance of success.

Imagine you are providing a consulting service to an organization that involves the organization actually changing what they are doing <GASP>.  [Note: If you are the kind of person that doesn’t care that your service actually has impact as long as you get paid, you can stop reading here… oh, and sometimes I wish I were you. -ed.] The chances of the initiative having success is directly related to how much the organization (top to bottom) is likely to get ‘it’.

At point ‘A’ they will never get ‘it’ and the chance of success is zero.  At ‘C’ they already get ‘it’ and it is probably already being done well by people in-house.

So, where should you focus your energy? Where do you add the most value?

You’ll notice we haven’t talked about point ‘B’ yet… the golden pentagon of ‘it’ opportunity.  Here there is enough get ‘it’ to ensure that the services offered will have some traction, but still enough need ‘it’ so that the organization needs your help to implement the goal of the service. And there is a reasonable probability of success, which leads to the *other way to get those that don’t get ‘it’ to realize that it might be important for them to do so:

Success breeds success, and it is one of the main things that diffuses ‘it’ (by word of mouth) from the few early adopters into the mass of the early majority.  Once those that don’t get ‘it’ start to see this success, they want to get some of that action. Some time after this point you write a book, get on Oprah, a million other consultants try and copy what you do, ‘it’ gets diluted and gets piled on the heap of discredited quick-fix fads. Why? Well, many of those that don’t get ‘it’ only try ‘it’ because they are desperate and/or have run out of ideas… but they still are unlikely to get ‘it’ and the chance for success stays low. [Hey, don’t complain, you got to meet Oprah. -ed.]

So the moral of the story: If you are developing ‘it’, and you want to be in business for yourself, the best return-on-investment comes from that golden pentagon of opportunity.  Ask yourself honestly, does your client (and their organization) stand a reasonable chance of getting ‘it’?

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