Friday, September 20, 2013

Strategy Information Begins Outside Your Organization

Organizational strategy plans should be based on information found outside your organization.  Strategy is based on markets, customers, potential customers, technology and the changing worldwide economy and financial dynamics.  The results of strategic plans are visible to your customers and competitors.  Don't measure your results with internal measurements. 

Inside your organization you have only a few key strategic decisions about cost centers.  The real change is happening outside your doors.  You may have a mountain of information about your customers and why they buy your product or service.  Unless you are a major brand holding a majority percent of the market, your customers represent only a small fraction of the market.  Your noncustomers and their changing lifestyles reveal the relevant strategic information needed for growth.

Focus for Strategy Leaders:

1. Do you know more about what is happening inside your organization than outside your organization?  If so, reverse this trend and become the expert of your external environment.

2. Learn about important new technologies in (and outside) your industry.
3.  How much time do you spend understanding your noncustomers and their changing lifestyles?  Make a plan to increase this time on your calendar.

Action for Leaders:  Create a system that continuously collects external information about your products and services.  Become the expert if your organization about markets, customers, noncustomers, technology, and financial economies.

WorldWideTeams Consulting provides services in domestic and international business expansion and solutions strategies.  Contact Bett Mickels at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Change: Encourage it, Respect it, Expect it

Many management consulting organizations provide expertise in change management.  But can leaders really manage change?  Change is the norm in most organizations rather than an event that needs to be managed.  The task of the organization is to lead with change.  Change is in every area of the business.  Change is at every level of the company.  Employees performing the work usually know the areas of change better than anyone else in the company.  

Change should be encouraged, respected, and expected by executives and senior leaders and also every employee in the organization.   Organizations need leaders who see future trends and the direction their customers and employees are moving.  Leaders think that change is risky -- not changing is where the real risk lies.

How to be a Change Leader:

1. Look for changes in your business, department, and industry.  What do you see?

2.  Know where to look for the types of changes that are needed:

     Watch your systems and processes as a bystander
     Act like a customer
     Hold an impromptu brainstorm session
     Ask employees who are doing the daily work

3.  Make change decisions that are effective inside the company and beneficial to those outside the company.

Action for Leaders:  Anticipate the future and encourage, respect, and expect change in your area of responsibility.

WorldWideTeams Consulting provides multi-location strategic consulting services that enhance profitability.  Contact Bett Mickels at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Attention Entrepreneurs: Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast

I am a guest panelist for an Innovation Incubator Conference in Los Angeles on August 23, 2013.  Conference participants were asked to read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Riles prior to the conference.  Riles provides a no-nonsense business startup process for entrepreneurs who develop and sell products and services

In prior work in store operations and franchise management, I saw the results that consistent processes and systems generate.  A quality system can increase profits, delight customers, and make the life of a business owner somewhat manageable.  One process Riles details in his book is Build-Measure-Learn (BML) which is an ongoing feedback loop for continuous improvement.

Build – Turn ideas into tangible products

Measure – Listen to what customers say about the product

Learn – Based on what you learned, either pivot or persevere

Riles also recommends that entrepreneurs should “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast”.  It is not a good idea to “Think Small” and “Start Big.”  But how many failing startups do exactly that.  The startup objective is to determine if the product has the value customers are willing to seek out and pay for.  After perfecting a product that exceeds customer expectations, the startup company can “Scale Fast.”

Understanding how to “Scale Fast” is as much a part of the management strategy as designing the product.  Once a unique product solves an unmet customer need, competitors flood the marketplace.  A recent example is ice cream sandwiches where you stand in line to get ice cream sandwiched between homemade cookies  The “Ice Cream Sandwich Coming Soon” locations are popping up as fast as a franchise or license can be sold.  If you are contemplating a new startup, research Rile's “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast" strategy. 

For multi-location advice in strategic expansion or business solutions for profitability contact Bett Mickels, WorldWideTeams Consulting at

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Facilitating a "Blue Sky" Breakout Session

In April I will attend an international nonprofit conference where one meeting breakout is entitled “Blue Sky Thinking.”  I am facilitating this breakout and decided to make myself a Blue Sky Thinking Facilitation Expert in short order. The definition of blue sky thinking is ‘creative ideas that are not limited by current thinking or beliefs’. That’s the easy part – now to understand how to facilitate this meeting. 
Brainstorming is the number one idea generation strategy used in organizations.  Blue Sky Thinking is a particular style of brainstorming that unleashes creativity and exploration.  My challenge is to turn Blue Sky Thinking into a realistic process with unique and transformational outcomes.
Guidelines for Facilitating 'Blue Sky' Breakout Session 
1.  Ask participants:  “What are the most compelling and visionary outcomes we can deliver in the amount of time that is available?”  Start with the end in mind.
2.  Determine how to quickly develop trust and mutual respect with the team.  It is easy to talk about opinions, facts, and data.  What does the team have in common, what is the one thread that unites team members?
3.  Create ways to move participants out of their comfort zone.  Get everyone talking in the first five minutes – engagement leads to excitement and exploration.
4,  Do not assume – nothing is impossible.  Focus participants towards what is possible – not what will not work because of funding, people, resources…you know the idea crushers that usually comes up.
5.  Let participants know that what they say, do and think can make a significant difference in meeting objectives.
6.  As facilitator, you ask the questions that others in the meeting are afraid to ask.  Push through boundaries and go into discussions that your group never seems to get to.
7.  Don’t sell your team short. You are much stronger united than alone.  Work together – leave your egos at the door.
8.  As the facilitator, do not be concerned about challenging an idea.  The goal is not to be liked – but to create real change.
9.  Encourage people to think in terms of the individual – not the organization.  When it gets personal, people get passionate.
10. Look for those new to the group who has new ideas to share as well as those with the greatest expertise in the room.  Encourage both of these points of view.
The reality is that the sky is probably far from blue in the particular session you are leading as a facilitator.  State the problem up front – instinctively we are better problem solvers that we are collaborators. 
Blue Sky Thinking escalates when members are passionate about the topic.  If group members are not passionate about the topic, find other members, or a different topic.  Engagement, excitement, and exploration are needed to create innovative Blue Sky Thinking.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Communications Tips for Global Team Leaders

I provide consulting services to global team leaders.  Often the leader chosen has never led a global team before. They were assigned the task because of their expertise and passion around the group objective.  Global team members are located in regions all around the world.  In addition to basic team dynamics during team formation, these teams have additional team challenges regarding time zones, English as a second or third language, communication technology, trust, and expectations.

Many times leaders are concerned about the lack of team member engagement as their team is forming.  During discussions with team leaders regarding the reasons for lack of team member engagement, I noticed a trend.  What the team leader called a lack of engagement turned out to be issues unrelated to the team member’s interest or energy around the team purpose. One common issue that leads to a false assumption of team member disengagement is differing communication styles. Rather than being discouraged regarding team member engagement,  find solutions to enhance team member communication.

Even if team members come from English speaking countries, there are cultural sensitivities and differing communication styles.  A global team leader can raise his level of awareness regarding team communication by following these tips.

Ten Communication Tips for Global Team Leaders
  1. Know the mix of cultures of your global team members
  2. Study the communications preferences of these cultures
  3. Send pre-meeting/call information so members can prepare
  4. Create visuals and flow charts - these are easier to understand
  5. Invite members to share and participate (some may be waiting for your lead)
  6. Speak slowly, and keep sentences short, concise, and clear
  7. Avoid acronyms, colloquialisms, and slang
  8. Avoid dry humor, metaphors, and irony
  9. Embrace silence – this allows time for members to think
  10. Confirm understanding through repetition and questions
Understanding the cultural differences of your team members is key to international business success. Keep in mind that communication preferences are cultural but also individual.  Generic country communication styles and behaviors may not always be accurate.  There are several websites that provide reference information on cultural differences.  One link I use is World Business Culture: ( 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three Recommendations for Team Member Selection

Competencies and personalities of team members affect the performance of business teams, and size of the team is important.  Careful team member assessment and selection should take place when assigning team members to project teams. Consider these three team member selection recommendations prior to forming your next project or launch team:

#1. Team member competency trumps availability

Team member selection is a vital component of effective team formation.  Many times team members are quickly assigned to a team based on availability or professional relationships.  Conduct an assessment of the team member competencies needed for superior team results. Competency rather than availability should be the criterion used for team member selection.    

#2. Keep teams as small as possible

The team should be comprised of the smallest number of team members needed to complete the team objectives.  This is often the first critical mistake a leader makes during team member selection.  Each member added to a project team should have a specific team purpose.  Input from operators in the field or functional department managers may be necessary for successful project results, but these individuals do not necessarily need to be added to the project team.

#3.  Select energetic and supportive personalities

Leaders should be concerned about the morale and emotional characteristics of team members.  If a team member is negative, demanding, or rude, you are putting your team outcomes at risk. Team members who are disruptive can quickly derail a team and at times the team spins out of control. Teams need members who are resourceful and positive with a can-do attitude.  Select team members who are willing, supportive, and energetic.

The process of team member selection warrants leadership discussion and compromise.  A clearly defined process of team member selection will lead to more effective team outcomes.

WorldWideTeams Consulting provides multi-location expansion and business solutions for profitability.  Contact Bett Mickels at