Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Does your customer really want a partnership – or a Partnerschaft?

December 3, 2013

Inside views from three global procurement directors

The business world is awash with jargon: strategic partnerships; strategic sourcing; strategic intent… but what does it all really mean for B2B sales people today?

I interviewed three global Chief Procurement Officers (CPOs) from Fortune 500 companies to find out.

In the words of one CPO: “The only way I would want a partnership is if I cannot achieve the business result via RFP or competitive procurement activity.”

Another CPO suggests, “If you are a strategic supplier then that means you will give me more discount.”  Another confirms, “When we hear the seller say ‘partnership’ we start to think, ‘What do they want?’  This is another way to leverage us.”  I was then playfully reminded of the German term for Partnership… Partnerschaft.

So, in the eyes of Procurement, what really is a strategic partnership?  One Fortune 500 Bank estimates they have nearly 18,000 suppliers across the globe, but they have just 35 relationships that are considered strategic (under 0.2%). However, these 35 suppliers account for >56% of all money invested (see accompanying model).

Supply base analysisThe real test of a partnership

If that supplier went away, would the customer be harmed more than the supplier? Is there joint investment between the two companies to generate increased revenue; reduce risk or reduce costs to both parties? One CPO claims “unless you have invested, it’s not a partnership.”

So what our panel of procurement leaders suggest is that for many sales people today, a term that they could consider using is “effective commercial relationship”. Customers don’t want a partnership… and they certainly don’t just want a friendship or merely a ‘good relationship’. Develop effective commercial relationships with your customers and save the Partnerschaft conversations for the lucky few.

Andrew's Photo (blog)Andrew@bluesky

www.blue-sky.co.uk

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Could 50 Shades of Grey help your learning stick?

July 31, 2012

It was the conversation over a coffee with friends that made me brave my local bookshop and buy the hottest book of the moment – 50 Shades of Grey.

Even my husband when he saw it in the bedroom (I’d hidden it under a copy of Infinite Jest, another novel I’m trying to get through) cried out “not you as well?!” Yes, it seems that everyone on his commuter train and beyond are mesmerized.

So it made me think ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could design and launch a learning programme that would have the same impact as 50 Shades of Grey?’ A programme that employees would clamour to sign up to and evangelize with their colleagues about the content and learning.

Perform - Handcuffs - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

I am not advocating that learning interventions should involve porn, bondage or domination, just the sentiment that we need to keep designing creative and exciting content to capture employee’s imagination to make learning stick.

And so the Blue Sky 50 Shades of Learning was born by asking our staff to email their lighthearted take on the book and the world of learning. Here are our top 10 for you to enjoy and we want to find the 40 best others from out there in the learning community to make up the 50. If you’d like to send in your contribution, please email hello@blue-sky.co.uk and the top three winners will receive a bottle of Jo Malone perfume or cologne (no handcuffs or gimmicks are involved in this offer!)

The Blue Sky Top 10 Shades of Learning

“Make me cry like I’ve never cried before!” he screamed. “Alright” I said and made him read the entire works of Tom Peters.

“I am your master and you will perform everything I say” …it was then I knew it was time to leave the CIPD.

“I’m curious” he whispered. Never had she felt so deeply probed. She felt exposed from all angles; naked, yet strangely liberated and safe. “So” she said silently to herself, “this is how 360 degree feedback works.”

Wearing my seductive skimpy schoolgirl outfit, I gazed around the room. How was I to know that that was not what they meant by classroom learning?

Once I knew his seven habits…I was disgusted.

He felt his net promoter score rise as she whispered down the phone “thank you, that’s the best customer service I’ve ever experienced”.

My heartbeat raced as I heard him suggest his embedded learning methodology would be different to anything I’d ever experienced before…

He brought a new meaning to the phrase “yes, we can plug the leak in your sales pipeline…”

His PowerPoint presentation was the longest I had ever seen. Slide after slide after slide after slide of animated ecstasy. I died a thousand deaths before I fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

She lay back, disappointed. It was all over so quickly. “Oh” she said, “that’s what you meant by accelerated learning!”

Briege@Bluesky

Briege Kearney - Director - Client Development - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Making Training Stick

April 2, 2012

Lots of organisations now spend thousands or even millions of pounds on training programmes every year. But how many of them actually stick, how many make lasting performance differences or behavioural change? Whilst you reflect on that question, let me share with you one reason why many training programmes are not as successful as they could be. That is they are not followed up immediately after the training, they are not consolidated.

If you have ever been on a training course or seminar before, I am certain you will know what I am talking about. You turn up at the venue and the course may even extend to 2 or 3 days. During that time you are mixing and mingling with either colleagues in the same large corporate company or a mixture of people from different companies and backgrounds. There is usually a buzz about the place as the course progresses and in some instances it can be quite entertaining.

What happens next? Still slightly high on the euphoria of all the new tools and techniques you have picked up, you go out with a renewed kind of vigour, desperate to try them out. Then after a few days, at best, maybe a few weeks the lift has almost gone completely and you find yourself slipping back into that fabulous recognisable comfort zone. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Sustain - Blah Blah Blah - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

So what is it that happens and why, in most cases, does the training not deliver the return on investment that you would expect? A huge part of this challenge is down to something called the Ebbinghaus Effect. Please allow me to explain.

Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out the first experimental investigations of memory in Germany from 1879 to 1895. He discovered that our ability to recall information shows a rapid decrease over a very short space of time. After just a few hours, more than 60% of information is lost. A frightening thought! The decline in recall then eases slightly but, even so, within a month, more than 80% can no longer be recalled. His now famous results are known as the Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting. So you see, it’s not necessarily the training itself, it’s just the natural human trait of forgetting.

A cause for concern maybe? Let’s look at the possible implications. On a course spanning 3 days, more than 50% of the information given on days 1 and 2 will be lost before the training has ended. A further 50% of day 3 could be lost on the drive or flight home. Now start adding those lost days and attach a monetary value to them.

Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting Diagram - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Imagine in the world of sports, would a Premier league manager give a team talk about strategy in the boot room and then not practice that in a game situation? Would a tennis coach tell you how to improve your forehand in training and then wait until a competition to check whether you have understood it? Training is just the beginning, to truly master a skill in particular takes lots of practice, and some say 10000 hours to master any skill. Lots of training does involve role play and real play activities, which are great for practicing. But real plays are not the real world, it is a bit like swinging a tennis racket in training without the ball or court to practice your forehand, but until you practice that forehand in a real situation with another player and then practice it when it really counts in a competition you cannot test whether you have made improvement and changed your swing. It is the same with delegates, you can start the practice of skill or knowledge transfer in the training room, but you must follow it up with practice in the real world with the ball (customer) and the court (the work environment). We call this practice consolidation. So what do we mean by this?

This is about taking the opportunity to practice and receive further feedback and coaching. The purpose of consolidation is to practice what you have learnt and seek additional feedback and coaching, to refine your skills and address any issues that may prevent you from transferring what you have learnt. To make sure you have the time to practice, polish and improve your skills.

Let’s think about the steps to learning, how do you move people to conscious or unconscious competence? Is this achieved in training? I would argue at best you move people to conscious competence. To really master the skill or apply the new knowledge effectively will take hours of practice. Unless the quality of this practice is monitored and supported, lasting change will not happen, people will slip back into their comfort zones, back into old bad habits and back to unconscious incompetence in some cases. This is where consolidation comes into play.

Top tips

Here are just a few things you could do:

  • Get your line managers to attend the training, so they fully understand the skills or knowledge that needs to be embedded
  • Create a Training Sustainability / Stick ability Plan –  Build in time to work with all stakeholders to achieve this, focus on what will make the training stick and consider what road blocks might make it fail
  • Communicate to the rest of the business what training is taking place
  • Build consolidation, resource and time, into your training budget
  • Ramp up your coaching activity for 6 weeks post training
  • Introduce ‘coach the coach’ activity, there is no point ramping up coaching if the quality of the coaching is not there
  • Start to consolidate your training, this means trainers and leaders spending time immediately after training coaching delegates in the live environment to help support them to embed the learning
  • Align your quality process with what is being trained
  • Plan ahead, ensure that there is significant time set aside following training for line managers to consolidate training
  • Provide trainers with coaching skills necessary to embed the learning back in the real world
  • Train your trainers on how to feedback in the real work environment
  • Conduct post course de briefs at regular intervals, to see how delegates present back what they have learnt, how they have applied their learning, what the impact has been and what the next steps are
  • Review action plans, where delegates committed to learning actions in training
  • Conduct post course surveys, following Kirk Patrick’s learning evaluation model
  • Conduct a TNA two months after training to benchmark skill / knowledge transfer and application compared to pre training TNA
  • Measure the quality of your consolidation activities through surveys
  • Measure ROI, link success to training
  • Celebrate success, recognise people for performance improvement and most importantly, behavioural change
  • Catch people doing things right, fill people’s emotional bank accounts and build their confidence
  • Introduce behavioural coaching, to help people address limiting beliefs and breaking old habits
  • Nudge your team post training, provide them little nudges that support key messages in training
  • Conduct skills drills, use team meetings to focus on specific skill areas
  • Test retention of knowledge 4 weeks after training, not just at the end of training
  • Build in refresher training post course, make this modular and focused on areas where delegates are struggling or need advanced skills to take them to the next level

There are many more things you could do, contact me if you want further thoughts or ideas. The key thing is to remember that learning is a continuous cycle, unless businesses stop thinking of training as isolated interventions….. training will not stick. So next time you roll out a training programme ask your self:

“Will the investment I am making be worthwhile or will the Ebbinghaus Effect take its toll?”

Sean@Bluesky

Sean Spugin - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement

Creating the space to lead…how should I spend my time?

October 7, 2011

Should I re-visit our strategy?
Should I take that important client out to dinner?
Should I spend more time on the commercial aspects of that deal?
Should I check the board meeting agenda?
Should I get into the field with the team?
Should I review how we are going hit target this quarter?
Should I focus on getting the right organisational structure?
Should I spend some time coaching my new directors?
Should I spend time writing this blog?

This is called ‘shoulding’ all over yourself and the problem arises because the answer to all of these questions is ‘yes!’ Most leaders are under such pressure today, “it’s like having a fire hose in my mouth, and I just don’t have time to breathe”.

Organisations have become so lean, leaders have a vast array of responsibilities or should I say tasks that they need to complete before they can allocate time to focus on leadership. However will this micro level focus get us out of the current economic downturn?

How do the best leaders actually allocate their time and how can you be confident you are spending your time in the ‘right’ way?

The first step is to make a conscious choice as to how you will prioritise your time and if you are struggling with this question then this is where an executive coach can provide invaluable support.

Get you PA to categorise your diary for the last 3 months to show how you have spent your time – it may just be the shock you need to do things differently.

Once you have a clear vision of how you should best spend your time and a good understanding of the gap, you must follow through with relentless self challenge; Do I really need to be there? Who else could own the outcome? Can I dial in for part of the meeting?

I find that it is useful to sit these questions within the following context:
• The first role of the leader is to make sure that all your people have clarity as to what they need to do and why.
• Every time you say ‘yes’ to something unimportant you are saying ‘no’ to something important.

So I’d love to hear your answers to the following:
How do you think you should be spending your time?
What ideas do you have as to how to ensure your time is dedicated to the right activities?

Marc@bluesky

Marc Jantzen - Blue Sky Performance Improvement

www.blue-sky.co.uk

Blue Sky Performance Improvement