Christopher Davis

Effective Process Redesign Requires Transformational Thinking

I recently had the opportunity to interview Christopher Davis. Christopher is a seasoned  Chief Information Officer (CIO) – and no stranger to transformational change. We talked about an experience he had recently leading a business transformation.

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Christopher: There are two important elements of transformational leadership. The first is to recognize that as your business is moving along a strategic path, there are many opportunities for change and improvement. A transformational leader can see these needs before others. The other element is to be able to influence people in your organization to own and drive those changes.

Steve: Tell me about a time when this was particularly challenging or rewarding for you. What was the situation, what did you do, how did it work out?

Christopher: Sleep Number went through a couple of iterations of process and systems transformation. Essentially, we built a technology infrastructure that would support growth both internationally and domestically. In partnership with several business leaders, we went through a two-year implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management (ERP and CRM). This included the data analytics which required a great deal of process redesign. We were able to implement the entire organization with data analytics, increasing our decision-making capability six-fold with only 50% more employees to support the environment.

Steve: How did you clarify the purpose of your transformation?

Christopher: As part of our process design, we discussed the benefits of cross-functional analytics and repeatedly heard how challenging it was to perform this type of analysis. The new ERP platform would give us the capability to source data from an integrated system. We demonstrated how this could work and kept the idea of new cross-functional capabilities in front of the team.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address this?

Christopher: The dysfunction was in the analytical detail, where the organization would have different definitions for the same metrics. “Company Sales” or “Margin” had different meanings between functions. This made it a challenge to design the solution. We had to drive to alignment on definitions before we could start the design, and this required several meetings to sort out these definitions.

Steve: Were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Christopher: On the upside, we were also working on the total ERP & CRM solution, so there were many conversations. The project encouraged employees across the company to collaborate and be open to change. Also, the organization tends to be more cross-functional, so it made it easier to have these conversations.

The challenge was that sometimes a team thought they were right and weren’t easily influenced, so gaining agreement was difficult. This required us to bring people together to understand differences – and the dialog led to greater clarity.

Steve: How did you enroll others in the transformation?

Christopher: We engaged representatives from every executive team. We met with them regularly to define, design, build and operate. It was the first time we did this, and it worked out well.

Steve: Please comment on the organizational challenges you faced, both structural and behavioral.

Christopher: Time was the biggest challenge. We were required to change job descriptions to ensure ownership of this work and allocate the time necessary for the work. Some teams understood this better than others. We found that it was a function of executive engagement. When the senior leaders made it a priority, it was easier for us to move along the timeline more effectively.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Christopher: Candidly, I had to be a coach because I was an influencer and not a direct- report leader. I needed the rest of the organization to understand the value of our work, and why the investment was worthwhile. I also found that this helped my team understand their role was to partner and coach with their counterparts across the business. They could no longer  drive change on their own. They became internal consultants who coached the organization to identify challenges and opportunities.

Steve: If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Christopher: Listen. Listen. Listen. When you are making significant changes, you need to recognize there are three perspectives: people, process and technology. You need to pay attention to all of them and the technology is the easiest of the three.

Steve: Christopher, thank you for sharing this insightful journey on how to build a successful, transformative, analytics team. Best wishes for great success in the future.

 

Powerful Purpose

How to Ensure that Powerful Purpose Produces

Clear purpose is essential to the success of any strategy implementation or change. Clear purpose that describes tangible outcomes enables lower- level leaders and front-line employees to truly understand and act toward the desired change. As a leader, your role is to ensure you and your leadership team develop this clear purpose with clear outcomes and  model it every day.

Let’s look at this in more detail, through the lens of both structure and behavior.

Clear purpose with clear outcomes drives the structural approach to driving purpose. This means, that at minimum, the transformation team will be structured to drive various elements. For example, if your transformation is about preparing for exponential growth, you will dedicate resources to hire, place and develop new employees. This may include major efforts to reevaluate job structure. Another example, if your transformation is about merging two organizations, you will dedicate resources to understanding how financial statements may need to change, or how to incorporate both sets of employees into the new organization.

These structural approaches are logical and are not often missed. More important are behavioral approaches to driving purpose yet are often overlooked if not altogether ignored.  In the case of mergers and acquisitions, we can cite many failures due to underestimating the impact of culture.

This clear purpose with clear outcomes not only needs to make sense,  it needs to be built from passion.  This passion starts with the leader and cascades throughout the organization. Leaders need to believe the purpose and outcomes themselves, and then inspire their organization to believe it with them.

There are a few things a leader must do to ensure there is a behavioral or cultural element to defining and implementing purpose.

  1. The leader must be open- minded with their leadership team when creating purpose. Recognize that you don’t have all the answers. Leverage the combined knowledge of your leadership team to develop purpose everyone can support.
  2. Drive clarity. Drive to better rather than “good enough.” Remember that once you leave the meeting room, you and your leaders need to be able to communicate this message throughout the organization. If your purpose and outcomes are not clear, it will leave employees wondering and confused about your message.
  3. Support dissenting views. Both in the leadership team and with all employees, invite criticism. Be vulnerable. Allow people to weigh- in. If they don’t weigh- in, they won’t buy- in.
  4. Be truthful. When you avoid telling the truth in the guise of being kind, you are unkind. Employees want to hear the truth, even when it is messy, or puts their jobs at risk.

These actions may seem simple and straight forward on the surface, but they may require a new and different set of behaviors from the leader and their team.

  1. To be open- minded, you must have a degree of vulnerability. You recognize that you don’t have all the answers, and you are willing to listen to others. Further, you are willing to admit when you are wrong. Employees don’t see this admission as a weakness, rather they see it as a strength.
  2. You need to trust your leadership team to do what’s right for the organization, and that they will be open with you about opportunities and challenges. This takes time to build, but if it’s based on the foundation of vulnerability, it will happen.
  3. Honest dissent. With trust in the organization, leaders and employees alike are better able to challenge each other, with the goal of seeking the best solution for the organization.

These behavioral elements pave the way for a more successful achievement of purpose. You can have all the structural elements in place, but if you aren’t also driving the behavioral elements, your success is in jeopardy.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

 

Transformational Leadership Requires Repetitive Communication, Humility, and Belief

Michael Moyer is the Director, Wine and Viticulture Technology at Lake Michigan College (LMC) in Benton Harbor, Michigan. LMC boasts the only school of its kind in the Midwest to teach both grape growing and wine making. The operation, run by students, produces small batch wines. The program operates out of the new Welch Center, a new facility celebrated in an August 27 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Steve: Your history is fascinating. Please tell our readers a little about your entry into the wine business.

Michael: I attended the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. We had a study abroad program, and I opted to go to Dijon, France. At the time, all I knew about was mustard. I knew nothing about burgundy. I lived with a family there, and like most native French, there was a great deal of wine consumed. My first day there, the father took two five-gallon cans to town and filled them from big tanks. One red wine, the other white. This was their everyday wine. He had nicer wine in the cellar for guests and special occasions. I visited many wineries and barrel tasted many wines. I was hooked. When I returned home, I decided to enter the grape and wine program at the University of California – Davis. I began working in wineries in California and then Washington. I worked seven years at Walla Walla Community College, and then spent 5 vintages making wine for Figgins Family Wine Estates, producers of Leonetti, Figgins, and Doubleback (Doubleback has their own winery now).  I met the folks from Lake Michigan College while they were visiting Leonetti. They enticed me to consider working for their new grape and wine program. I was intrigued, but expected Michigan wines to be apple, cherry and sweet. They sent me a case of fantastic wine from three southwestern Michigan wineries and I was impressed. They were making high quality wines. I accepted LMC’s offer, and here I am!

Steve: What does it mean to you to be a transformational leader?

Michael: This is all about transforming the perception of Chicago wine consumers. This means transforming the way we do things in southwest Michigan, from vineyard selection and management to bottling our final products. I am passionate about the potential of southwest Michigan, and the opportunity to make world class wines is tremendous. This takes humility and requires teaching and coaching. You must be open minded and willing to try new ideas.

Steve: Tell me about a time when this was particularly challenging or rewarding for you. What was the situation, what did you do, how did it work out?

Michael: I was surprised at the culture here. Here we were conducting fund-raising events for our grape and wine center, and the organizers would not pour Michigan wines. I found myself repeating and reinforcing the notion that if we are trying to raise funds to raise the profile of our region, we ought to promote our own products. I had a few arguments about this but continued to “beat the drum” to bring folks along.

Steve: How did you clarify the purpose of your transformation?

Michael: We are consistent about our identity and our mission. We repeat this at every opportunity. This requires a great deal of education, communication and repetition. It also requires us to focus on making quality product.

Steve: In what ways did you experience cross-functional dysfunction, and how did you address this?

Michael: The leadership of LMC has generally been very supportive, but there were some exceptions that made it difficult. In addition to showcasing local wines, we also made it difficult for new students to engage with the program. College leaders were not convinced or aligned with the purpose of the program. We have resolved this with more repetitive communication.

Steve: Were there cultural attributes that made the transformation easier or more difficult?

Michael: Within LMC I have a great deal of support. My leader lets me do my job. She recognizes that she doesn’t know everything and lets me be the expert in the room. I also have great support from local industry leaders.

Regarding the area wineries, however, there was some vocal opposition to us selling our wines – those that came from the program and made by the students. Some viewed us a competitor, not collaborators. If you look across the most successful wine regions of the world, it’s about cooperation and working together to market a region. It’s not about one winery being better than another. We have a huge opportunity to make a name for southwest Michigan. We need to work together. This is improving, though we have a way to go.

Steve: How did you enroll others in the transformation?

Michael: At LMC, I just keep doing what I am doing, and repeating the message. I help others realize the importance of our work. And I give them time to sort it out in their own minds.

About the area wineries, I don’t let the argument amplify. We can agree to disagree. I stay my course. I seek common ground where possible. Most are supportive.

Steve: Please comment on organizational challenges you faced, both structural and behavioral. (structural = team structure and make up; behavioral = trust, conflict, humility, etc.)

Michael: My mantra has always been to do what is best for the industry here in southwest Michigan. Sometimes I need to reflect on this and make sure I’m focused in this manner. This requires humility and introspection.

Steve: How did you become more of a coach?

Michael: I believe in what we are doing. I believe in the mission. I believe the best way to achieve the goal is to be collaborative. Get along. Agree to disagree, but don’t be disrespectful, and operate from that platform. We must recognize that if we’re going to put southwestern Michigan on the map, we are dependent upon each other.

Steve: If you could give one piece of advice, what would it be?

Michael: Be a good team player. Invest in the right people. Take care of them. You get what you pay for – extra investment goes a long way. Organizations sell themselves short when they skimp.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please go out to LinkedIn to add your comments.