Author Archive

One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend

April 22, 2022

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FountainBlue’s April 15 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation. Our esteemed panelists talked about the importance of data as we lead and manage our day-to-day work and communications. Data will remain the life’s blood of our work, as we all manage people, processes and technologies. We need the data to:

  • coordinate, communicate and collaborate with others
  • design and develop solutions which address the needs of the customer
  • measure and report on progress on specific goals
  • manage and optimize resources 
  • ensure privacy, security and access

Below is a compilation of best practices around the usage and management of data.
Get the Right Data

  • Make sure that you have the right data – that it is secure, relevant, up-to-date. (If you have garbage going in, you’ll have garbage going out – the GIGO principle.)
  • Strategically decide how that right data can inform problem-solving, decision-making, road-mapping, planning, etc.
  • Ensure that there is enough data from the wide range of sources so that accurate conclusions can be drawn.
  • Create filters so you collect the most relevant data.
  • Incentivize the team to collect the data so that all can better anticipate and address needs of the customer. 
  • Develop the processes which make it easy for everyone to add feedback and data to the system, with the intent of better understanding how we can all improve.

Strategically Leverage the Data

  • Use data as a framework to get buy-in for projects and programs.
  • Succinctly communicate project status with overviews and tables, with details linked to an overview report.
  • Collaborate with all parties to ensure that the data is relevant and timely, so that it can inform everyone on progress.

Protect the Data

  • Ensure that your data and network are safe and secure, especially as many of our equipment, devices and appliances are inter-connected across the network.
  • Configure layers of access to sensitive data and closely manage that access to minimize risk of data breaches.
  • Store and protect all data so that it can be efficiently and securely accessed. 

The bottom line is that it’s NOT about whether we use the data, it will be about HOW we use the RIGHT data so we have the relevant information to make the right choices for ourselves, our teams, our organizations, our customers.

Building Employee Experience as the X Factor

April 16, 2022

FountainBlue’s April 15 When She Speaks program, on the topic of ‘Leveraging Employee Experience as the X Factor’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Gigamon and our esteemed panelists. 

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Clearly, our panelists are great leaders and managers who are consistently passionate about delivering exceptional employee experiences not only because it’s good for business, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Although they represented a wide breadth of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences, our panelists had much in common:

  • They humbly led by example, building trust and follower-ship through authentic, courageous, on-point connection and communication.
  • They worked with leaders at all levels to ensure that clear objectives are declared, that milestones and results are delivered, and that clear and transparent communication is maintained.
  • They each consistently think, speak and act through a lens of inclusivity and empowerment, ensuring that others have the confidence and resources to further support the vision and goals. 
  • They are each curious about the perspective of others, and open enough to learn from others.

Below is a composite of best practices for building employee engagement:

  • Lead the way, while being receptive to the input of others at all levels. 
  • Embrace diversity as a catalyst for innovation.
  • Keep building positive momentum and energy with a learning and growth mindset.
  • Consistently communicate with authenticity, openness and vulnerability. 
  • Welcome the whole person to work, and make it easy for people to fully participate at work. 
  • Just say no to inappropriate and unproductive behavior! It leads to a bad experience for everyone.

The pandemic has made us think differently about how we can keep our employees engaged and inspired. The in-person incentives like free food, ping pong tables and networking events may not be enough/right even if/when we return fully to work.

So re-thinking about how we keep our employees engaged and committed and delivering exceptional employee experience will continue to be that X Factor. It’s clear that our panelists will continue to lead the way in this regard.

Leading Industry 4.0

April 15, 2022
Leading Industry 4.0

FountainBlue’s April 15 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Leading Industry 4.0’, with opening remarks by Intel. Please join me in thanking our executives in attendance for their remarks and input.

Water and steam brought on Industry 1.0, which brought people and things efficiently from place to place. Electricity brought power to a large mass of people, bringing huge transformations characteristic of Industry 2.0.Electronics and IT and the underlying networking around it enabled the advances for Industry 3.0. Now connected devices and networks are bringing on the Digital Revolution foundational to Industry 4.0. This revolution will continue to enable the convergence and acceleration within and between industries, even those not traditionally in tech. Specific advancements across industries include:

  • accessibility to data
  • mobility of devices and robots
  • simulations leveraging hardware and software
  • innovations on the edge
  • advanced connectivity
  • storage on the cloud and on devices

The opportunities are great, but the risks and challenges also exist, including the need to balance privacy, security and access, the need to manage data so that the relevant data informs decision-making, the need to overcome resistance to the adoption of digital technologies, tools and processes, the need to upgrade policies and protocols, etc.,
Below are recommended best practices for leading Industry 4.0 in manufacturing:

  • Manage a ‘dark fab’ which would best leverage automation, robotics and co-botics while also ensuring that humans are actively involved in the design and oversight of the same.
  • Optimize the supply chain to proactively plan to meet manufacturing and customer goals without compromising quality and integrity, while respecting the work-life balance for team members. 
  • Use scenario-based planning to optimize the visioning, planning and execution around manufacturing goals.
  • Leverage the expertise and insights of a wider range of backgrounds and industries – including chemical engineering, data science, energy generation, material science, – to more broadly address the challenges and opportunities.
  • Collaborate to design, plan and deliver solutions which are energy-efficient, cost-efficient, resilient and sustainable, while optimizing for performance and versatility.
  • Innovate in collaboration with others so that you can more effectively design solutions which address a broader range of needs for a longer period of time.

Below are examples of cutting-edge thoughts and ideas which will drive the next level of innovation around manufacturing:

  • Carbon-neutral technology which would help more efficiently and effectively support manufacturing goals
  • AR/VR Immersion solutions leveraged by field service engineers to more efficiently serve customers with personalized solutions
  • LEAN manufacturing solutions which help develop supply chain resilience and even at times make qualified projections for future needs
  • Industrial automation solutions which are seamless and integrated
  • Proactive waste management planning across the manufacturing process
  • AI solutions which help filter and manage data, and make recommendations based on data
  • ML solutions which make projections based on past data trends 

The opportunities and challenges are mind-boggling. But core to success is the ability to: 1) bridge silos and collaborate within and across teams, organizations and industries; 2) jointly create the infrastructure to enable innovation and the platform for collaboration; 3) focus on the ARR (annual recurring revenues) for the choices made for the short-term, while ensuring long term growth; 4) work with organizations to do the right (social, environmental, political, economic) thing by and for others and 5) invest in the people and leaders who will bring it all together, including each of the executives who joined our discussion today.
The bottom line is that the customers are demanding efficient and effective manufacturing to provide the high-quality, customized solutions they need to live and work and thrive. The winners are the organizations and leaders who can collaborate with others to best serve them.

Digital Transformation

April 8, 2022

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FountainBlue’s April 8 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘Customer-Led Digital Transformation’. Please join me in thanking our panelists. Below are notes from the conversation.

We were fortunate to have such an experienced and engaging set of panelists, representing a diverse range of backgrounds, roles and organizations. They had much in common:

  • They took an ecosystem-approach to digital transformation which is strategic, collaborative, and customer-oriented.
  • They addressed technical, business, operational, customer, and other challenges to create the opportunities provided by digital transformation.

Indeed, our panelists agreed that digital transformation:

  • is impacting a wide range of leaders, industries and solutions;
  • is now and will continue to be a key differentiator for adding value for customers,
  • is integral for managing the customer journey, bridging silos across an organization,

Below is a summary of best practices proposed by our esteemed panel.

Be Strategic

  • Create and communicate a vision around digital transformation and the value it provides for all parties.
  • Although nobody can see the future, make an effort to anticipate what the future trends are and how they will impact customers. 
  • Strategically decide which products or solutions would add the most value for your customers and agilely pivot as necessary as things evolve.
  • Understand the factors and weightings which impact product/solution choices made and strategically manage directions and milestones accordingly.

Be Collaborative and Bold

  • Build alignment at all levels around the transformation objectives, milestones and timing.
  • Embrace a growth opportunity rather than hanging on to how things used to work.
  • Enable your workforce to fail fast, and fail forward, so that learning takes place.

Be Efficient

  • Provide personalized solutions for your clients, but make it easy to efficiently do it. (Sometimes that involves creating modules of code around micro-services…)

Be Customer-Focused

  • Be clear on who your customers are and how best to serve them.

Communicate Clearly and Consistently

  • Ensure that the message, messenger, and metrics are clear across the customer journey, navigating multiple groups across the organization.

Our panelists concluded that digital transformation is one of those inevitable directions. Leaders at all levels need to choose how and when digital transformation is adopted. The Winners will do so efficiently and proactively, with a focus on the needs of the customer.

Building Engagement

April 1, 2022

Experience is that X-factor, but the goal of experience is Engagement. Engagement is the secret to recruiting, retaining, reskilling, developing, growing and advancing the workforce. And the workforce, our people, make-or-break an organization’s success.

Sure, you have to start with creating a product with high and growing demand, and yeah, you have to compensate fairly, providing ample opportunities for growth. Indeed, you need a culture where it’s safe for people to bring their full selves to work, an organization who cares about the community, sustainability, and social justice. So right that you need to inspire with the vision, mission, and day-to-day work…

But let’s say those foundational pieces are solidly in place, and leaders at all levels are well positioned to grow traction in many good ways. This does not mean that your work is done.

It means that you can focus on building the kind of engagement which makes your people proud to show up at work, eager to go the extra mile, excited to bring impact in ways inside and outside their job descriptions. Below are some best practices for building engagement in the workplace.

  1. Be authentic and true: Consistently think, speak and walk the talk at all levels.
  2. Build connections and community within and outside the organization: These intertwined connections and sense of community are the fabric which helps people stick together.
  3. Make it safe to show up fully: Model and reward engagement, inquiry, and commitment.
  4. Showcase successes at all levels of the organization: Celebrate wins and empower, encourage and reward all to contribute to these wins.
  5. Reward curiosity and out-of-box thinking: Stretching our view of what’s normal and what should be done will help us all be more agile and more innovative.
  6. Fearlessly model the way: Authentically communicating with vulnerability and transparency builds trust and culture as well as commitment and loyalty.
  7. Value the divergent mindset: Encourage serendipitous discovery – find the magic in coloring outside the lines, in unintended innovations.
  8. Focus on the why and the what and not the how: Inspire with the why, communicate clearly on the what, provide resources and support on how things get done.
  9. Provide ample access to resources, data and support: Enable outstanding execution through generous support.
  10. Connect people to the projects, connections, and technologies which would stretch them: Provide continued access to the people, technologies and processes which would help your people to grow and thrive.

The bottom line is that providing our engaged people with rich and fulfilling experiences will support everyone and make for a richer culture and better business results. The opposite is also true: providing enriching experiences will also lead to more engaged employees! 

One Plus One Makes Eleven

March 25, 2022

FountainBlue’s March 25 Front Line Managers Online program on the topic of ‘One Plus One Makes Eleven’. Please join me in thanking our panelists Marla Fields, Charmy Ruparel and Prajakta Naik. Below are notes from the conversation.

Our inspiring interactive discussion was as much about team dynamics as it was about bringing out the best in individuals and in teams. We were fortunate to feature experienced and diverse team leaders who shared their strategies and best practices. Although they represented different backgrounds and experiences, they had much in common:

  • They each adopted can-do learning mindsets which helped them to manage and lead their teams through challenging projects.
  • They each successfully built relationships and networks of trust which are foundational to their ongoing success.
  • They connected and communicated with the executives who granted them the influence and resources necessary to address mission-critical projects.

Below is a compilation of their advice.

Manage Your Team Well

  • Know the strengths and needs of your team, and recruit the diverse breadth of people who can help you and your team succeed.
  • Regularly check in with your team for shorter lengths of time, to ensure that they are getting the resources they need, and that they feel connected with others. 
  • Build relationships of trust between and within teams. 
  • Be curious about conflicts within the team, and help each member connect and communicate more proactively. 
  • Recruit people who can be that multiplier for your team, but also curate the skills and influence of others who are not natural multipliers, but could become so under the right conditions.
  • Focus on the strengths of individuals and teams, and work on that rather than focusing on the negatives.

Provide Opportunities for Your Team to Collaborate and Succeed

  • Frame a conversation to positive and productive directions to increase your ability to address and solve a problem.
  • Invite collaborations between disparate groups for we all have pieces of the puzzle.
  • Teach your team to be efficient and effective, and to measure their progress.
  • Where appropriate, welcome the input of non-technical people to solve complex technical issues. Although they may not be able to solve the problem, the way they view and tackle the problem may help others to actually solve the problem.

The bottom line is that an empowered team is an effective team, and he/she who empowers that team will reap rewards.

Managing Your Mindset

March 18, 2022

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FountainBlue’s March 18 When She Speaks program was on the topic of ‘Managing Your Mindset’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Cisco and our esteemed panelists. 

Our inspiring, experienced and resilient panelists spoke humbly and eloquently about why we should each manage our mindset, and how they have been successfully able to do so, especially during challenging times. Below is a compilation of their advice and best practices:
Know Thyself

  • Know your north star around values and around purpose, and regularly center on that north star.
  • Positively frame your personal and professional journey and celebrate your learnings and victories.
  • Know your strengths, your weaknesses, your buttons, and use this knowledge to manage your own mindset.
  • Manage your mindset with a pause when you feel emotions rising. 

Model the Way

  • Be confident enough in your value and competence so that you’re comfortable tackling projects and assignments just beyond your reach.
  • Be generous, gracious, kind, and curious about the other person’s perspective.
  • Accept your initial responses to uncomfortable new opportunities, and make the best of the options in front of you.
  • Be Open to learning new things, trying new experiences.
  • Never Settle! Keep reaching for stars.

Create a Build a Resilient Culture with a Positive and Proactive Mindset

  • Practice the Multiplier Effect – amplify the impact.
  • Manage to the needs of each individual, and inspire them to be confident and bold.
  • Be the translator and mediator between contentious parties, to manage the energy of the team, the mindsets of individuals on the team. 
  • Celebrate and enable successes. 
  • Stand on the shoulders of those who have come before you, and reach down to help others also stand.

Keep Centered

  • Surround yourself with the sponsors, mentors, friends, family, etc., who will keep you centered on your values and your purpose.
  • Frame your self-talk to be more growth-centered, more proactive, more productive. 
  • Choose activities and actions which would help you manage your own body, mind and spirit, whether it’s exercise or nature or singing or dancing.

In a time when change is a constant and the future is unknown, it becomes more critical to manage your mindset, so that you can be more productive, happier and more content both at work and at home. 

Innovating on the Edge

March 18, 2022

FountainBlue’s March 18 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Innovating on the Edge’, with opening remarks by Micron. Our executives in attendance had a wide range of experience and perspectives on the challenges and opportunities around innovating on the edge. Below is a compilation of their advice.

About Edge Computing

With the continued evolution of technology, there will be continued consolidations, aggregations, innovations, etc., but edge computing will be a foundational piece of current and future technology trends.
Advice for Managing Innovations on the Edge

  • Strategize and manage to ensure optimization and continuous improvement, even when we can’t predict our future.
  • Take an end-to-end management perspective to oversee all the moving parts which could positively or negatively impact your ability to deliver customized solutions on the edge.
  • Design hyper automation (extreme automation) algorithms based on data delivered from the edge.
  • Look for areas where technology innovation on the edge could greatly improve a process, and more efficiently deliver an accurate result.

Thoughts on Challenges 

As we continue to develop more devices/sensors/phones etc on to the edge, there will be amplified needs to:

  • ensure the privacy, security and access for individual users while aggregating the most relevant content for immediate and future use
  • minimize latency times so that automated actions can take place – lives are at times at stake!
  • securely and efficiently manage the huge volumes of data for immediate, short term, and long term usage
  • manage multiple operating systems and applications on individual computers to ensure efficiency, productivity and security
  • integrate legacy and bleeding edge solutions into applications which serve current need
  • consider supply chain issues which would impact the hardware we design, manufacture and distribute to be placed on the edge

Opportunities for growth, including:

  • designing sensors which capture temperature, vibration, sound, photo and audio input
  • producing devices on the edge which can check their own status and even automate processes based on these checks
  • creating always-on sensors which use little power and only act when triggering events occur
  • offering predictive analytics based on volumes of data collected
  • managing collected data to ensure privacy and security while gathering relevant aggregated data  
  • focusing on specificities around locations which may help multiple entities manage solutions in specific areas

In the end, as we look at innovating on the edge, we must look at the journey of the data (as it touches the software, hardware, apps), the needs of the customers (for privacy, security and access), the infrastructure and requirements (policy, broadband), and need to manage the old and the new (tools, technologies and people). Now that’s a TALL order. The innovators and collaborators will have an ‘edge’ in this market.  

The VUCA Reality – It’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous

March 11, 2022

FountainBlue’s March 11 Front Line Managers Online program was on the topic of ‘The VUCA Reality – It’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous’. Please join me in thanking our panelists Roxanne Dos Santos, Nancy Moreno and Sam Gupta. Below are notes from the conversation.

Manage for Success in Times of Great Change

  • Collaborate with others to deliver on product and service milestones, based on a wide range of customer-defined requirements. 
  • Embrace the discomfort in ambiguity, and do scenario planning to mitigate and manage risks.
  • Fail fast, fail forward, and be agile about shifting to another direction, plan, or strategy.
  • Accept that there will be pitfalls, and that you will likely need additional resources, different designs, more financing, etc., as things shift.
  • Quantify the ambiguous so that you can better plan for unknowns. 
  • Define the ‘good-enough’ criteria so that everyone doesn’t overthink and overanalyze when it’s difficult to know for sure what will happen.

Empower and Engage Others to Participate

  • Create a culture of psychological safety so that people feel confident about speaking up and sharing ideas and expertise. 
  • Integrate ideas and suggestions and reward those who do speak up.
  • Seek the input of a large range of people to address problem solving, decision-making and innovation challenges.
  • Welcome the input of people not-like-you, as together the team is better.

What to Expect in the Next Normal

  • There will be more collaboration to manage more complex projects.
  • There will be more modular designs, smaller building blocks for complex solutions so that the inevitable changes can be more efficiently addressed.
  • There will be shorter delivery cycles for more complex solutions.
  • Relationships with customers will be a key to success, and creating an exceptional customer experience will help build and maintain those relationships. 

The bottom line is that nobody will ever be able to predict the future, but being able to ‘roll with it’ and agilely respond to this future and proactively plan for a future will increase your likelihood of success.

The WHY Behind FountainBlue

March 1, 2022

Facilitating innovation and leadership for tech leaders one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time is my passion, my mission, my cause through my work at FountainBlue. We’ve been doing it since January 2005. This blog is about the WHY…

Linda Holroyd, Founder and CEO, FountainBlue
I’ve always been a world-changer. I get a visceral response when I experience cruelty and injustice, especially when the under-served, the un-empowered, the majority are the victims of that injustice.
One of my earliest memories is of my five-year-old self objecting to our assigned homework by cajoling my uncle to do it for me. When asked by my teacher ‘who did your homework’, I responded truthfully that my uncle did it upon my request. The teacher sent me back to my seat, and assigned less homework to everyone. As I walked back to my seat, I saw a sea of faces saying clearly – ‘Who are you to ask this for us – you, who are 5 years old, an Asian, and a girl at that?’
I didn’t fit in. I don’t often fit in, but I can’t help but make a stand against injustice, even if it means that I didn’t have special someones to wish farewell as we journeyed from my birthplace in Hong Kong to America.
I earned scholarships and worked my way through college as an office worker – learning typing, administration and management – as a notetaker – learning communication and information synthesizing – and as a preschool teacher – the best leadership training ever. After graduating from college, I began my career as an elementary school teacher as I wanted to educate and empower others.
I taught elementary school for six years, but then realized that I wanted to make a broader impact, leveraging technology and innovation. I provided sales, marketing and operational support for three start-ups before co-founding a web consultancy alongside my techie husband. During that period, we also had our daughter, now a young adult. I learned a lot about technology, business, management and operations through that period, and applied those skills to a nonprofit cause, as I wanted to focus on doing well while doing good.
From there, I brought together my passion to make a difference, my skill for integrating technology and business imperatives, and my talent for connecting leaders and innovators into my work at management consultancy, FountainBlue.

At FountainBlue, we support innovation and leadership one conversation, one leader, one organization at a time through our on-site and now-online programs, as well as through our executive coaching, leadership consulting, and strategic advisory services.

Now you know WHY I’m passionate about doing this work day in and day out, and also HOW I wound up doing what I’m doing. What’s YOUR story? And What’s Next for you?