Embracing Agility

May 21, 2021 by
Embracing Agility

FountainBlue’s May 21 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Embracing Agility’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation.

Our panelists spoke in-depth about the innovation, management, and operational benefits for embracing agility. The quality of being flexible, open and nimble is becoming increasingly more important in a world where technology is complex and distributed, a world where customers are demanding and sophisticated, a world where privacy, security and access are as important as coordination and collaboration.

Below is a compilation of their best practices for embracing agility.

Building and Maintaining Relationships is Key

  • Being open and curious and developing relationships with people within and outside your team/org/ company helps people be more nimble and agile.
  • Don’t label yourself as someone in a particular role/ skill set/ title/function, but do stretch your perception of who you are, where you fit as you build more relationships, more knowledge and skills.

Communicating and Coordinating Increases the Likelihood of Success

  • Making the opportunity to co-design and co-develop products is both more fun and more likely to deliver favorable results.
  • Communicate the agile-minded strategy to key stakeholders in a language best received by the intended audience.
  • Consider the fact that executives have a high signal-to-noise level, so stay on-point, speaking in bullets, drilling down into details only on where there are questions.
  • Take a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) approach to communicating with the various stakeholders across the ecosystem. It increases the likelihood of engagement, sharing, and collaborating.

Adopting Agile Practices Helps Companies, Teams and Leaders Be More Open and Flexible

  • Agile Practices helps teams and leaders make pivots and shifts based on market, business, customer and technology trends.
  • Situational awareness helps leaders at all levels be more strategic while being more open.
  • Becoming agilely aware of new technology and market trends helps you learn new technologies and methodologies while also helping teams build smaller, more modular solutions.

Soliciting Feedback and Input Helps Us All Better Perform

  • Rather than staying in a silo or working solo, be curious about how others are solving problems and how others are looking at opportunities.
  • When you have many moving parts, many unknowns, consider collaborating on a Fail-Fast strategy so you can get more feedback, information and data to inform plans, processes, product definitions, risk assessments, etc.,
  • Clearly defining processes helps manage performance, feedback and results and helps to optimize the flow and integration across individuals, teams, and customers.

Engaging and Mobilizing Leaders at All Levels Facilitates the Visioning, Planning and Execution Process

  • Strategically communicating the value, the risks, the opportunity helps build engagement for stakeholders across the value chain.

The bottom line is that the agile mindset helps leaders at all levels and their teams and organizations be more innovative, more progressive, more successful.

Expanding Your Circle of Influence

May 14, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s May 14 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Expanding Your Circle of Influence’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Oracle and our esteemed panelists. 

We were fortunate to have such a fun and influential set of panelists for this afternoon’s panel discussion. They represented an assortment of companies, roles and backgrounds, but they had much in common:

  • They humbly shared their stories of how they grew their influence.
  • They ‘switched lanes’ frequently, sometimes by designed and embraced each change in role, title, function and geography as learning opportunities.
  • They cherished the opportunities both to learn and grow themselves, but also to spread the knowledge and success to others, paying it forward.

They are movers and shakers who are also easily moved and shaken as they navigate their lives and careers. Below is a compilation of their advice regarding expanding your influence.

Know Yourself

  • Be clear on what you’d like to influence and why that matters to you, to others, to the team, to the organization, to the world.
  • Be self-aware enough to know what you’re good at, where you need to grow, how you’re coming across to others.
  • Be authentic and sincere and uniquely you – embrace your personal style of influence.

Stretch Yourself

  • Dare to be influential, even if if’s not your job, not your role.
  • Be gentle with yourself when mistakes happen – they are the best learning opportunities. 
  • Be open and curious when others disagree with you, for it’s a learning opportunity.
  • Invite and learn from feedback.

Be Strategic

  • Take the opportunity to influence projects you’re targeting, but also be open to influencing projects others ask you to influence.
  • Consistently align your thinking, with your speaking and actions, and ensure that all are in alignment with the corporate/team/industry objectives.
  • Invite participation and engagement rather than commands and instructions.
  • Build bridges between people and groups and silos, and make the combined group more influential.

Be Other-Centric

  • Read the room, read the motivations and intentions of others so that you can better communicate and connect with others.
  • Facilitate a conversation around goals and intentions rather than providing prescriptive advice and orders on how things should be done.
  • How you see yourself is not necessarily how others see you, so be curious about how others see you.
  • Speak in the language most respected by your audience – whether it’s the language of data, images, stories, or bulleted summaries.

Embrace Opportunities to Learn

  • Be inquisitive and curious, and willing to work hard to make things happen. Proving yourself in these ways could make you more influential.
  • Know when to persevere and when to just let go.
  • Own your success and your path to influence and success.

In closing, each of the panelists invite us all to be more influential, and support others in doing the same.

AgTech and FoodTech Innovations

May 14, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s May 14 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘AgTech and FoodTech Innovations’, with our hosts at Honda. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. The biggest takeaways are around the range of innovations for agtech and foodtech. Technology is weaving its way into this slow-adopting industry.

  • Mobility and robotics solutions are doing everything from improving our supply chain to processing more efficiently, to managing the integrity of our production and manufacturing.
  • Planes and drones are collecting the images and other data we need to proactively manage the way we plant, produce, harvest, and distribute better quality crops and higher yields of crops.
  • AI and ML solutions are helping us optimize seeds, plants, crops as well as livestock.
  • Food science and agtech is helping develop quality protein from plants and even from microorganisms.
  • SaaS and digitalization solutions are helping manage things like crop health and food wastage – connecting a wide range of siloed stakeholders. 
  • End-to-end crop optimization solutions coupled with strategic partnerships in densely populated regions will help get quality food into the hands of hungry people in population-dense areas.
  • Food science solutions will help fortify the crops we produce, optimize seeds so that are more productive and nutritious, and help feed more people with fewer resources.
  • Proactively managing food production based on projected needs will help everyone across the ecosystem optimize distribution and minimize waste.
  • Understanding the taste and quality of a seed and a plant before it is reaped helps farmers plan their planting and pricing while helping markets influence availability based on preferences.

We have come a long way, but there are still innovation opportunities ahead. It’s clear that our executives in attendance will continue to excel at leveraging their diverse experience to transform industries, provide value, while collaborating to amplify impact.

Collaboration Best Practices

May 14, 2021 by

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FountainBlue’s May 7 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Collaboration Best Practices’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation. 

Our dynamic and experienced panel of leaders spoke eloquently and provocatively on how collaboration impacts the way we innovate, the way we solve problems, the way we lead and inspire.Collaboration is integral to the idea generation process, and is a vital part of creating customized solutions for clients. Indeed, having a diverse ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders increases the likelihood of success. Below is a compilation of best practices around collaboration.

  • Err on the side of over-communicating, especially when you are working with stakeholders from all sides. Communicating transparently and regularly to help ensure that everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal. 
  • Invite participation from a wide range of stakeholders to ensure diverse input and feedback as you ideate, create, produce, distribute, customize, and scale solutions.
  • Embrace processes to ensure wide participation, thorough vetting, increased input, but don’t be so process oriented that you’re inefficient, especially when problems are urgent and decisions must be made efficiently.
  • Prioritize the problems to be solved, the decisions to be made, and create collaborative models for maximizing input/feedback and efficient operation.
  • Embrace the available data, but make sure that you’re using the right data set to inform each collaborative decision. 
  • Be open-minded and inclusive to help ensure engagement from a larger range of people.
    • Always ask yourself ‘who else can we pull into the conversation’?
    • How can I empower those who don’t think like me to actively participate?
    • Assign roles for each group to invite input.
  • Create and perpetuate a culture where all are rewarded for their input and ideas, where it’s safe to make mistakes and learn.

It makes sense to use data and benchmarks to guide decisions which have been made before, but when you’re breaking new ground and entering areas with no precedent, try doing the following:

  • nimbly move forward with small decisions and actions, monitoring results and adjusting regularly based on results;
  • create a large assortment of options and think backwards about the consequences of each option to help decide the best direction, based on risks;
  • gather input and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders about options and implications so that you can see the options and problems with different lenses;
  • follow corporate/government/team and other policy guidelines

When done well, the Collaboration Edge makes teams and organizations more innovative, more productive, more customer-centric, more agile, more inclusive.

The Ten Ps to Look for in People

May 1, 2021 by
The Ten Ps to Look for in People, a FountainBlue Blog

When you’re looking to grow your network and team, you want to set a high bar and get the right people on-board. But how do you know who’s right for you for now and for the long-term? Below are ten qualities to look for when evaluating someone’s fit: 

  1. Passionate – why do anything half-heartedly? Look for someone who’s passionate about the mission and vision and can bring energy and excitement to day-to-day activities.
  2. Patient – Everything takes time. A patient person understands this and knows when to wait, and when to accelerate.
  3. People-Focused – Work with individuals who put people first. Choose people who are supportive and kind to others, even when things are not quite going as planned.
  4. Positive – Attitude is everything. A positive outlook helps build resilience and perseverance. This fortitude and positivity is contagious and positively impacts others, which is especially important when circumstances are challenging.
  5. Pragmatic – A practical person is more likely to get things done and more likely to be creative in seeking solutions. Pick someone who is pragmatic and practical for your team.
  6. Professional – A professional person knows when to focus on the business objectives and communicates in a way which is not-personal, while also enabling and empowering others. 
  7. Principled – It’s much less confusing to communicate and connect with principled leaders as they are generally aligned with values – in thoughts, words and actions.
  8. Proactive – A proactive leader takes initiative even when it’s not their job, even when it means much more work. Erring on the side of the action also improves productivity.
  9. Productive – A productive leader gets things done – no matter what’s asked of them, no matter the constraints, timelines or challenges. Generally, productive leaders are also versatile, agile and excel at multitasking.
  10. Purpose-Driven – A purpose-driven leader passionately works to deliver to their values, connects with teams, delivers to specifications, and, in general, moves the needle forward for both the business and the cause.

May you find the right people for your team – people you who will work and grow with you.

Note that all ten listed qualities start with a ‘P’ and that the list is alphabetized. It’s up to YOU to decide the weighting of each quality – what the must-haves are, the nice-to-haves, and the OK-to-skip, because nobody can have it all, right?

Managing Up

April 19, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 16 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘Managing Up’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation. 

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We were fortunate to have an experienced and passionate panel share their stories and best practices for Managing Up. Below is a summary of their thoughts.


Proactively Manage Up, as well as you would manage down and sideways

  • Manage up in a way which benefits all, ensuring that there’s alignment on objectives, clarity on progress, agreement on resources and timelines.
  • Listen to the voice of the customer and relay the needs of the customer to the executives as you manage up. 
  • Listen to the voices of your team, and translate their message to the executives as you manage up.
  • Look not just at the surface problems and challenges – look also at the root cause of the problem and address that root cause and its implications.
  • Speak in a language executives respect… Articulate the value and risk/benefits of a proposal and the return-on-investment/ implications and impact for a cause you’re supporting.

Be Strategic and Fact-Based

  • Opinions do matter, but they matter more if they are based on facts. Do trust your gut instincts, but make sure that your position is validated by information and data.
  • It’s great to be passionate about what you do, but when you’re managing up, down or sideways, be the master of your emotions. Stay professional and fact-based while you’re also passionate about a project or cause.
  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives you’re approaching, so that you can plan your message and communication.
  • Be prepared to articulate the current opportunities and challenges, but also prepared to communicate the ripple effect and longer-term implications of a suggested recommendation.

Invite Opportunities to Learn and Grow

  • Take Ownership and invite initiative, even if it’s not your job, even if you weren’t asked to do so.
  • Be confident that you may know more about a potential problem or solution than the executives in charge, and be willing to speak up and step in if your data/information/perspective helps drive solutions which benefit all. 
  • Step into stretch opportunities and learn from each of them. Don’t expect to be perfect each time, every time, but do expect to learn from each experience. 
  • Adapt your strategies and skills to current challenges, especially as it’s hard to predict what will happen next through the pandemic and beyond. 
  • Where appropriate, seek executive sponsorship and resources to unite teams across common goals.
  • Be collaborative and supportive of others at all levels, and invite them also to learn and grow.

Communicate and Connect People and Teams

  • Understand the perspectives and motivations of the executives and customers you’re working with. Translate their desires and intentions to the team to help ensure that you deliver on requirements.
  • Inform executives how changes in their vision and requirements impact those who are delivering results, especially if changes in requirements impact timelines, resources, and features. 
  • Provide ongoing KPIs/data/metrics/reports to executives and customers in a way they understand. Facilitate decision-making and problem-solving based on this dashboard of information.
  • Tell a story about the problem, solution and result so that customers and executives understand.

Our panelists have raised the bar for us, inviting us to directly and authentically manage up, to better serve ourselves, our teams, our organization, And as we continue to grow in your ability to manage up, may we all evolve from direct communication of the facts to the more subtle skills art of telling a story with passion and finesse, driven by the data.

Building a Culture of Trust

April 9, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 9 When She Speaks women in leadership series program, on the topic of ‘Building a Culture of Trust’. We were fortunate to have a seasoned and varied range of panelists to speak on the very timely question of building a culture of trust.Building trust has been especially important as leaders at all levels are dealing with many uncertainties and challenges with the pandemic and its aftermath. Below is a summary of our learnings from the panel discussion.
Trust is essential for leadership and management. It is something that’s slow-to-earn, and quick-to-lose, which makes the stakes high. A team, a company, an individual can’t thrive and succeed unless he/she/they/we have the trust of the many others in their circle. Below are best practices for building trust.


Be Worthy of the Trust

  • Be credible. Work hard. Be clear on what’s required and consistently exceed expectations.
  • Be authentic, sincere, honest and true. Your character will help you build trust.
  • Own up to your mistakes, and be willing to humbly learn from them.
  • Be vulnerable about what you can and can’t do, and persistent about learning what you need to do to perform well.
  • Be courageous and bold, especially when you are uncomfortably doing what you know to be right by others.
  • Do the right thing. Do right by others. Do this consistently. Especially when it’s hard. 
  • Share a vision for what’s next, especially when so much is uncertain. 
  • Consistently walk the talk and talk the walk, building a brand worthy of the trust of others.

Be Other-Focused

  • Listen well and deeply to what the other is saying so that you can understand both the needs and the motivation.
  • Relationships matter. Be sincere, transparent and direct with your communications and act like those relationships matter.
  • Be empathetic and supportive of others. Manage and communicate with grace. We are all working and living in strange, uncertain and at times difficult circumstances. 

Be Collaborative

  • Identify and work toward that common ground, in concert with an ecosystem of others.
  • Set high expectations for yourself and others, and communicate how each stakeholder benefits from collaboratively working toward a common goal.
  • Value those who think and speak and act differently, and invite them to collaborate. 

Keeping Learning and Excelling

  • Be self-aware enough to know yourself and your own strengths and limitations. Keep reaching for stars from there.
  • Never settle – keep reaching and learning and making things better for yourself, your team, your customer, your partners.
  • Assertively make a stand for divergent viewpoints and input. Graciously invite others to do the same.
  • Embrace the opportunities to feel uncomfortable. 
  • The measure of a (wo)man is not just how they behave when they succeed but also how they learn and grow when they don’t.

Be Strategic

  • Ask the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. Make sure that the ‘what’ always aligns with the why.
  • Don’t let the ‘how’ interfere with the ‘what’. 

The bottom line throughout the conversation is to be credible – to provide a constancy amongst the change, the all-in support of others which helps all to reach confidently for what’s next.

Leading Industry 4.0

April 9, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 9 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Leading Industry 4.0’. As usual, our participating executives represented a wide breadth of backgrounds and perspectives. The conversation focused not just on the supply chain, process improvement, automation and robotics which are typical for Industry 4.0 discussion, but also focused on the data management and strategy around it.The first comments are of course about the increasingly larger volumes of data and the increased pressure to respond more quickly and more strategically based on that data. Below are some best practices on how to successfully manage that data.

  • Collect data for strategic reasons, focused around corporate goals, around customer current and anticipated needs, market trends.
  • Create and reinforce a culture where data share and best practice sharing is the norm, where everyone helps everyone else solve problems and make decisions.
  • Share your data and your learnings with other products, other divisions, other organizations, etc., but use your best judgment to ensure that you maintain a competitive advantage and are engaged in win-win collaborations.
  • Analyze the data anomalies as they may point to opportunities or current or pending challenges.
  • Move from Reactive to Proactive mode, going beyond generating and reporting on data, but looking beyond and beneath that to address questions such as
    • what are the data trends
    • what are the implications based on data
    • what are the underlying causes for the data
    • what kinds of decisions should we make based on data

Below are additional best practices for managing Industry 4.0.

  • Add value across the value chain within and across companies, products, roles and geographies. The more of the right partners and leaders participate, the more value for all. 
  • Focus on both the performance of the hardware/software/solution while also ensure that the user interface is intuitive and meets the preferences and needs of the targeted profile audience.
  • The more energy and power you can channel the better, within reason, but make sure that you’re focused on solving the problem and creating the solution which fits your corporate goals and your customers’ needs.
  • Think ahead at all the things which might impact how you can custom-design, create, distribute, manage, support, etc., your solutions to manage the ripple effect. We all learned the lesson about the well during the pandemic 
  • Look not just at the data generated real-time today, but also at the decades of data we’ve amassed to help us better manage the needs of others.
  • With that said, the need for privacy, security and access is of primary concern. No solution is complete and effective without folding in these elements.
  • Look not just at how products are manufactured, but look also at how the innovations around Industry 4.0 will help leaders from all industries better deliver exceptional value to their very demanding customers. 
  • Leverage the latest technologies to keep current, realizing the impact of Industry 4.0 advantages, including Digital Twin and 3D Printing, data analytics, robotic automation, etc.,

Industry 4.0 is in its infancy, as we work to be more efficient while being more excellent, leveraging technology and collaboration. The challenge has been how to vacillate between looking at the strategy and big picture while also focusing on the weeds of the data, the details of the process, the needs of the individual customers and each individual person involved in delivering customized solutions for these customers. 

Resource: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/americas/building-a-more-competitive-us-manufacturing-sector 

Data Trends Best Practices

April 2, 2021 by

FountainBlue’s April 2 Front Line Managers’ Online meeting was on the topic of ‘One Dot a Point, Two Dots a Line, Three Dots a Trend’. Please join me in thanking our panelists for their participation. 

  • Kristen Brastad, Lam Research
  • Claudia Galvan, Oracle
  • Shruthi Koundinya, HPE
  • Nivedita Ojha, CITRIX

Our panelists spoke eloquently and knowledgeably first about how their individual companies leveraged data to address the changing business and technology landscape with the pandemic and its aftermath, and then about the opportunities and challenges around the data itself, from the Validity and Relevance issues to the need to respect the Privacy and Security issues, while managing all the most Urgent needs. Below are some best practices around data trends and management.


Thoughts about data:

  • Not all data is created equal. Some data is more ‘sticky’, more ‘transient’, more ‘relevant’ than other data. Plan accordingly.
  • Not everybody needs to know all data, so reports must be tailored to individual audiences.
  • Look not just on the raw data, but focus on the trends of that data. 
  • Data will be relevant in all industries, so all industries must adopt and embrace the technologies and solutions which will produce the volumes of data necessary to deliver quality products and services. 

Below are some thoughts on how to best filter out the large volumes of data generated:

  • Focus on the data set which aligns best with the goals. Adjust the data generation and reporting plan as the goals change.
  • Create reports on the data which will help individuals make data-driven decisions.
  • Work closely with customers to understand their needs to ensure that the data collected maps to the objectives defined. Collaborate to regularly update those objectives.
  • Focus on the ‘Vital Few’ – the anomalies and non-conforming data set and information which might tell you about what’s broken, what needs to be fixed, how things are really going.

Thoughts on seeing the trends:

  • Consider the urgency of the need, the ‘freshness’ of the data when generating reports on data trends. 
  • The data is generated in a report, but the user needs to interpret the report to see the trend. The user must know what data is needed, which data would generate the report needed as well. 
  • Ask users frequently for their input.
  • Look not just at the data, but also at the root cause of a problem or anomaly. 
  • Look not just at the data but on the workflow and how users acquire and act on the data.
  • Look not just at the WHAT of the data, but the SO WHAT – what are the implications? what decisions can you make based on the data? how are you doing based on objectives?…

The bottom line is that brilliant and agile companies and leaders are leveraging the hardware and software to solve real-world problems, including the healthcare, operational, logistical, manufacturing, supply chain, and other problems introduced with the pandemic, and in the world which follows the pandemic.

Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

April 1, 2021 by
Consultative Sales in the Next Normal

Nobody knows what exactly the next normal will entail, but we do know the following:

  • The Next Normal will not be the same as what we’ve known in the past in specific ways.
  • It’s difficult to predict what will happen in the next normal.
  • Individuals and companies resilient enough to endure the inevitable changes and agile enough to embrace the differences will be the ones who thrive.

Consultative or Solution-based selling differs from more traditional transactional sales opportunities and is more suited to ‘next normal’ circumstances for the following reasons.

Being Customer-Focused When Nothing’s Normal

  1. Consultative sales is more about understanding the problem statements of the customers than it is about the vendor’s product line, business model, or quota and commission. 
  2. Consultative sales is about asking open-ended questions about current and even anticipated challenges. 
  3. The consultative sales professional is fanatically curious about the perspective and challenges of the client or prospect, regardless of whether a current conversation leads to a direct sale in the short term. 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

  1. Consultative sales generally involves research about the prospect/customer and their needs as well as around market trends. This research is generally conducted prior to the meeting.
  2. A consultative sales approach strategically qualifies leads prior to initial conversation, to save all parties time and money. 

Navigating Troubled Waters

  1. To best work with clients to navigate uncertain and even troubled circumstances, the consultative sales professional must at times be connected to and versed enough with megatrends in the business, the economy, and the industry trends to provide relevant information to guide exploration and decision-making. 
  2. With that said, the consultative sales professional would only provide relevant background information if it benefits the client or prospect, not just because it would increase the sales volume.  
  3. Listening deeply to what is said and what is not said, and asking clarifying questions may even help consultative sales professionals to collaborate with clients to brainstorm future scenarios based on risk factors, market trends, or technology development timelines for example.

Connecting for the Long Term

  1. The consultative sales professional will work with the team to ensure a successful delivery of products and services and a deep ongoing relationship.
  2. Because of all of the above, it’s clear that the consultative sales process generally leads to broader and deeper relationships and transactions built on trust. 

And therefore, it is clear that the consultative sales model will increase the likelihood of success for professionals providing products and services in the Next Normal. 

To better support sales professionals in our network, FountainBlue will be offering a four-module workshop series for sales professionals interested in developing and improving their Consultative Selling skills. We invite your initial questions about our workshop series and consulting services.