Digital Transformation

April 8, 2022 by

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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 by

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 by

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 by

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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 by

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 by

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 by

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?

Embracing the Creative in a Tech-Philic World

February 25, 2022 by
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FountainBlue’s Feb 25 Front Line Managers Online meeting on the topic of ‘Embracing the Creative in a Tech-Philic World’. My thanks also to our panelists for their participation:  

  • as a People Leader – Tammy Sanders, Lam Research
  • as a Product and Business Leader – Mariah Manzano, Cisco

Our panelists spoke eloquently about how their earliest experiences helped them to be more divergent and creative thinkers, decision-makers and problem-solvers, and how they applied these skills to their day-to-day lives in a world with many technologists. Below is a compilation of their best practices:

Be a Leader

  • Accept that there will be mandates and milestones and diligently push through to accomplish these tasks. But also make it fun to do so, drawing on the ideas of the full community.
  • Ask probing questions which make yourself and others think more broadly and more openly so everyone is more likely to embrace new ideas and suggestions.
  • Conduct scenario planning with clear guidelines and invite creative input within those constraints.
  • Align to the core values of the individuals, teams and organization.
  • Liberally invite creativity, but ensure that the ideas are ethical, practical, and respectful.

It Takes a Community

  • Invite participation from a wide range of stakeholders.
  • Make sure that everyone feels included, empowered and involved, and make it safe for them to contribute.
  • Feel and express gratitude for everyone’s contributions. 

Be Open-Minded

  • Be curious about the things that make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Be empathetic and supportive when divergent ideas are offered.
  • Believe that you too can be creative, even if you ARE an engineer.
  • Humanize the metrics.
  • Just because it’s always done like this, it should be done this way, it’s never worked before doesn’t mean that it’s not what’s needed to solve a problem, make a decision, etc.,

Speak to Your Audience

  • Adopt the voice of the user.
  • Communicate in pictures.
  • Have a basic understanding of technical concepts and the technical world.

The bottom line is that we should embrace the creatives within and around us, for they can be key business and cultural attributes for tech companies.

Leading with Passion, Agility and Resilience

February 18, 2022 by

FountainBlue’s February 18 When She Speaks program was on the topic of ‘Leading with Passion, Agility and Resilience’. Please join me in thanking our hosts at Micron and our esteemed panelists. 

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Our esteemed panelists spoke eloquently and passionately not only about the ‘why’ behind leading with passion, agility and resilience, but also about the ‘how’. Their teams and organizations have definitely benefited from their leadership, fortitude and drive during this type of great change. Below is a compilation of best practices for leading with passion, agility, and resilience.

Know Yourself and Manage Yourself

  • Know yourself and understand your skills, desires and motivations so that you can better manage and lead, no matter what your role and level.
  • Proactively navigate your career path, but do it with fluidity instead of opting for a lock-step strategy for advancement.
  • Take advantage of serendipitous opportunities, for fortune favors the bold and prepared.
  • Manage the voice in your head and consistently make happiness your choice.
  • Have faith that you may not always get everything right, but that you will always continue to learn and grow, even when the future is unpredictable.
  • Internalize the key leadership qualities you need and keep raising the bar for yourself and others around you.

Focus on Business Imperatives

  • Be proactive with your decision-making, so that you can continue to lead with passion and make a difference.
  • Change is a constant, so be flexible and energetic as you lean in to drive a change for the good.
  • Make a business case for the leadership and management changes you desire – for that will more likely get you the funding and support you need to make it happen.

Empower Others

  • Make learning accessible for all, and support everyone in achieving their development and advancement goals.
  • Be empathetic, supportive and authentic so you can better empower others to also lead with passion and purpose.

Keep Reaching for Stars

  • Agilely navigate challenges, and doggedly work with resilience to collaboratively impact the bottom line.
  • Learn to be more professionally compassionate, more authentically and transparently communicative. 
  • Be confident enough to ask questions and curious enough to learn from the responses to those questions.

The bottom line is that if we act as all-one, all-in, we would greatly increase our odds of success while also improving our personal development and satisfaction. 

Supply Chain Optimization

February 18, 2022 by
Feb 18 VIP Roundtable: Supply Chain Optimization

FountainBlue’s February 18 VIP Roundtable was on the topic of ‘Supply Chain Optimization’, with opening remarks by Lam Research. Our executives in attendance represented a range of backgrounds, organizations and industries, but all are successfully navigating the supply chain challenges and opportunities to benefit their teams, products, organizations and customers. Below is a summary of their best practices for supply chain optimization:

Be Strategic

  • Provide a platform which would allow disparate corporate functions (such as manufacturing, operations, hardware and software development) to collaborate and proactively manage supply chain challenges.
  • Proactively manage the supply chain of the wide range of parts throughout the development, customization, integration life cycle.
  • Leverage technology such as AI to understand the current and future risks for your individual vendors, and consequently your own supply chain optimization needs for each of your product lines. 
  • Design foundational architectures which are modular, versatile, and dynamic, while also being easily integrated, easily replicated, and easily adjusted.
  • Upgrade or phase out outdated copy-cut/locked-and-loaded supply chain optimization strategies which served the needs of past products, past eras, past customers.
  • Consider working with simulators and models to plan-fully strategize on a range of supply chain needs.
  • Proactively manage and mitigate the risks around the supply chain flow, making vendor, process and people adjustments as needed. 
  • Work with business professions to ensure compliance with local, national and global part standards, especially around security, materials and quality. 
  • Practice AI-based hyper-automation optimization, enlisting the support of an ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders.

Manage Your Vendors

  • Map out all the individual parts needed for each of your product lines and adopt a multi-tier view for your vendors.
  • Diversify your vendor options, and ensure that your vendors represent the sustainability, diversity, and versatility requirements of increasing interest to partners and customers.

Customers First

  • Strategically plan for and proactively deliver to the needs of the customer, being as flexible and agile as possible to address their changing needs.
  • Manage your customer needs based on supply chain bottlenecks which are beyond your control.

Empower Your People

  • Respect the work-life integration needs of our people – supply chain optimization must be more plan-ful, less emergency-driven and less stress-inducing.
  • Build relationships of trust across ecosystems of vendors, partners, suppliers, customers. 

The bottom line is that leaders and managers at all levels must adopt collaborative, agile and flexible leadership and management standards which would 1) manage the risk, 2) maintain the security and functionality, 3) ensure the optimal amount of quality supplies and 4) ensure the people have a coordinated, informed view of the needs of the customer, and the ability to deliver to those needs.