7 examples of effective branding of Super Teams

July 9, 2011

Value of Branding

Most consultants and change agents will agree that giving a critically important project a common, bland, functional name, is OK for record keeping purposes. But if it is desirable for a larger part of the organization to take note of the changes and improvements undertaking by the work group… then the project must be effectively branded.

Most of the Super Team projects we have been asked to deliver, have served as excellent examples of the internal marketing value of branding the project. Each project activity will become more effective if it is branded with a name and tag line that is meaningful to all participating teams. Why?

The brand helps create a binding identity for which all Super Team participants  can mutually identify. This is sometimes called  the “boot camp effect”. This loosely translates into, “We did this hard work together – and it has paid off nicely for the effort.”  And as a result of Super Teams workshops and associated program, the program participants now feel they are…

  1. Better prepared,
  2. Bonded with our teammates and partners
  3. Confident we can handle situations which formerly created conflict and negativity between teams
  4. Able to produce much-improved outcomes for our company
  5. Each more personally satisfied with our contribution to the overall effort

Examples of Past Brands – for highly successful programs

NOTE that in each of the following case the brand name was developed by workshop participant teams,  working with the project consultant team. It is true that in most cases, the brand name eventually determined for the project was given considerable thought and testing before the final decision was made.

For expediency, the 7 examples provided here have been given only small, bulleted highlights of some of the key notions associated with the brand and its corresponding project. Give us a note if you want to know more…

1. SOS  Project:

  • This project provided a process, work-flow, and rules of engagement for substantially improving the effectiveness of working together by the Sales, Delivery, and IT teams in a large international data center.
  • It initially was formally branded the SOS Project, as an acronym for “Sales-Operations Success
  • Upon implementation, this same project informally gained the coffee-urn acronym interpretation… SOS = “Save Our Sales”; sales productivity had been sagging, and it had been believed this was due to poor response by the org… except each team blamed the other two for the reason for the lack of success
  • The informal acronym meaning was not planned – it came about from the troops, many of whom were not even involved directly in the project.
  • Thus this brand actually gained its own additional power, and the brand became a focus for the whole organizational rallying effort.

2. Leadership for Results [LFR]:

  • Brand name for a global internal partnering program calling for specific teams, focused on critically important business problems – come together under the Super Team cross-functional model to assure successful execution of solutions to internal critically pressing issues
  • Referred to the point that leadership in business, is not for power, admiration, prestige or privilege… but actually to realize concrete outcomes that serve the business (not the individual managers)
  • Although kind of cliché, this brand had tremendous meaning to these teams, who had labored under a business “Aristocracy” management model for 20+ years
  • The key meaning of the brand, referred to past history, where many leaders insisted on being treated like royalty due to their position in the company, not because of their results… many of whom were actually lousy, ineffective managers.

3. First Choice Partner

  • Brand name representing the actual tag line of the corporate advertised goal, “We want to be your first choice partner for… <the company’s marketed services>”
  • Referred to a specific partnering program involving the Sales Team and specific Customers [similar to Delivering the Promise]
  • In this case, the targeted partners were the customers that were the most publicly critical of our client’s services – representing potential marketplace negativity, etc.
  • This program played on the cognitive dissonance principal, that if the formerly critical customer became a public advocate of our client, then the win was substantially more powerful in terms of market impact
  • This particular project produced one of the most remarkable results in the company’s 50+ year history… in which a group of Customers offered our client an unprecedented array of free resources and thought leadership in helping our Client dominate the region in which the Customers operated.

4. Delivering the Promise:

  • Brand name for a partnering program involving Sales Teams and specific Customers
  • Referred to the sales & delivery teams actually giving the customer what they ordered – but included the promise of surpassing expectations
  • Under this program, the Company [our client] brought Sales and Sales Support Teams together with Customer Teams to jointly plan and action our client delivery of products and services to their Customer.
  • This was a highly unique program at the time in our Client’s industry.
  • None of its competitors physically involved their customers in highly structured sales planning events in which the customers actually forecast — well in advance — their anticipated purchases over the upcoming 2-5 years!

5. WinManagement Program:

  • Brand for a full cycle, sales, solution, delivery process for major deals – with minimum of three teams [sic.] from each sector in planning process of each and every deal
  • This brand alluded to the idea that winning was simply a part of managing the process – we have control, if we execute, we will win… end of story.
  • The brand name came from actual field survey with focus group-type inputs and evaluations of branding
  • NOTE: the brand reinforced the historic track record of this particular selling approach for large, complex sales, which included a 92% win ratio over the previous 5 years

6. Co-Op Project

  • Brand name was giving to represent Central Office Operations, for an international security services company
  • There was a historically critical relationship between certain departments within world headquarters and a specific field operational site — that the Co-Op project sought to improve.
  • This brand logo implied that relationships between HQ and the filed operations needed greater coordination, harmony, mutual respect, and that HQ needed to more strongly consider the good ideas coming from the field.
  • The Co-Op team actually ended up producing its own newsletter that over a 2 year period became acclaimed as the most popular field-generated internal communications piece in the 100+ year history of this international company

7. CRB Partners

  • Brand name for a Super Team program between three regional government law enforcement agencies having different but overlapping roles in anti-terrorism law enforcement – CRB stood for “Catch the Rat B@$#^rds”
  • Sensitivities for classified information prohibit us from revealing much about this one, but the Super Team model was used to address inter-agency cooperation and improved cross-functional communication
  • The specific solution we offered provided tangible processes and reminders of the ultimate purpose of the joint mission – keeping their combined purpose always in the forefront
  • The attending senior officers were so impressed with the Super Team approach and immediate results, at the end of the first workshop we were invited back for a refresher within 6 months.
  • The agencies involved went on to accomplish outstanding results in improved inter-agency cooperation – and subsequent landmark arrests between the 3 agencies.
  • To be clear, we make no claims whatsoever that our Super Team program made any contribution to the success of these agencies in anti-terrorism. We were simply asked to delivery the concept. We did that.

This is a fascinating topic, this branding stuff. It is often overlooked by companies undertaking significant change. We are willing to treat this topic with greater depth and breadth in this blog, if the readers indicate an interest.

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Joe Bob teaches Kim his first lesson in Business Leadership

June 9, 2011

(A true story)

I was first starting my professional career, many years ago. I was in my late 20’s, and was recently out of college with a Masters in Psych. I had always been told I was pretty smart, a myth which I tended to really want to buy into, but somehow believed down deep, that perhaps I was only beginning to wake up.

I had become pretty successful in the social services arena in Dallas/Ft Worth. At that time, I was the Director of a Drug Abuse Education, Information and Referral organization.

But I was also starting a family and decided I could better support my family if I got into business. Great idea, but unfortunately… I had no background in doing business, no training, and my Mom and Dad were school teachers. Nothing about business in my genes.

At that time, we lived in “Cow Town”, Ft Worth, TX. One night I decided to go to a nightlife area in Fort Worth called the Stockyards, on the North Side of town. Not sure why I did decide to go there, as I rarely went much further than the taverns in our neighborhood. I had $40 in my pocket, all the disposal cash I had to my name.

Early in the evening, I found myself sitting at a classic Fort Worth bar a few seats down from a cowboy, probably in his mid- or late 50’s. He was wearing a $5 Big Mac work shirt from JC Penny’s, very dirty Levis, cowboy boots covered in cow poop, and a sweaty red bandana around his neck.

We got to talking and I offered to buy him a drink.  His name was Joe Bob, and he seemed to know a bit about life. I guessed he was a classic “good ol’ boy”, hard working, tuff cow hand out to relax for the evening with a few drinks at his favorite “waterin’ hole”.  So I asked him a few questions, and I found interesting what he said.

As the conversation progressed, I began to believe he had real, if not refreshing wisdom about life. I figured he had had a tough life, not because of what he said, exactly. In fact he was very positive and upbeat, but in a very practical, matter-of-fact way. Very likeable guy. .

After a while, and a few more drinks, I asked flat out. “Joe Bob, how can I be successful in business… do you know anything about business you can tell me?”

  • “Son. You and me struck up a friendly conversation at this here bar. We never met before, but you kindly offered to buy me a drink. That’s bein’ neighborly.
  • “Then we talked for 2 hours, you bought me 8 more drinks, and I have not paid for a single drink since we started. I think you paid for the drinks because you were interested in what I had to say. That’s doin’ business.
  • “You are young, probably don’t have much money, yet you still spent all your money on me. I own the 3rd largest ranch in North Central Texas. I could have bought you a few drinks as well. In actual fact, I could buy this bar and 20 more just like it. In truth, I have enough cash in my pocket right now, to buy a fully loaded Cadillac outright. But I let you buy all the drinks, because you wanted to. That’s business leadership.”

He then raised his glass to mine, toasted me, threw down his last shot, and walked out of the bar.

I turned to the bartender, and asked, “Was he pullin’ my leg? Is he really that rich?”

The bartender just gave me one of those knowing smiles, the kind that comes from a casual observer who just watched a young well-meaning, but really naïve kid get schooled. “Son, did Joe Bob mention the oil wells all over his ranch?”

Some guys are educated in business at Harvard, Haas, Wharton, Kellogg. I learned in 2 hours and $40, a single, priceless lesson about business success. Joe Bob Business.  I never saw him again, nor do I even know his last name. But it’s been 30 years, and I have never forgotten him, nor the difference between doin’ business and business leadership.

It took me another 5-10 years to begin to understand what Joe Bob was saying. I’m still working on it. But this lesson rarely has let me down.


The 100 Questions Rule – Part 1

June 1, 2011

How ignorance made me smarter

A number of years ago, very early in my consulting career, I found myself sitting in a London office with a client, a respected Senior Manager of a global industry leader [an icon company in this market referred to herein as “our client”]. Accompanying me in this session was a learned colleague, a senior consultant on this project who had asked me to participate in this assignment.

My colleague and I had been asked to address a particularly difficult marketing challenge for a new product with a relatively new theme for our client.

I was a brand new consultant to our client… in fact I was a fledgling rookie to the client’s industry. As of that sitting, I had logged about 3 weeks of billable hours previously with our client – a $2B, 50 year old industry icon.

We began at 08:00 hrs with the classic consultant tools… note pads, an easel pad, and masking tape [to hang the easel paper on the walls].

I was a bit nervous in this session. I knew almost nothing about our client’s product, nor the new marketing theme. And I certainly did not know enough about the industry market environment to even broadly speculate on what the challenges might be that our client was so concerned about. To sum, I honestly did not feel worthy of wasting the client’s time by being there and I had already determined (to myself), I would not bill our client for my time on this particular day. I at least had some integrity here.

Fast forward to 20:00 hrs, that same day.

The “Ah Ha” moment was a complete surprise

My colleague had just left the room for a bathroom break. At this point the Client turned to me and asked, “Where did you receive your education in our industry?”

“Pardon me?” I was taken back. I just knew the hammer was about to drop. We had been going at this discussion over 12 grueling hours of consultancy, and I was guessing the client had had enough of my questions. I could not remember what (if any) consultancy-type advice had come from me throughout the entire day. My colleague had been offering recommendations all day long, and I was real impressed with his professionalism and command of the situation. I was about to tell the client, “Didn’t I mention that I was not billing you for my time today?”

The client continued, “I had to wait until your friend left the room, but he has been giving me advice all day long. And frankly, I still do not think he understands the problem! I have found most of his recommendations to be nearly useless.” I was shocked and a bit embarrassed. The client went on, “You on the other hand, appear to have this strong insight into the heart of the matter….”

“Through your guidance I have gained an entirely new perspective on the situation, its complications, and a plausible solution. In fact, you are the first guy to come along that has convinced me that with a good plan, we will solve this issue. This single day alone has been one of the best investments in consultancy that we [our client] have engaged in quite some time. ”

The value of ignorance

It was at that moment that I realized what had happened. Throughout the day, due to my grossly inadequate background on the client, the market, and the industry, I had asked a truckload of questions. And because I was so intent on fully understanding the problem space and its associated issues, I had literally not offered a single shred of advice, over the entire 12 hour period.

The scope and depth of my exploratory questions had forced the client to address the overall problem in ways that he had never thought about previously. It later came to light that somehow in that process, the client had experienced more than a few moments of self-discovery… in this case, ALL of which he attributed to my “brilliant” understanding of the market, and how his company will best capitalize on this opportunity.

By direct contrast , my approach to the think tank session was continuously interrupted (from the client’s perspective) by my learned associate, who our client saw as an increasing distracter to his own discovery process. As my associate would offer sage advise and recommendations, it continued to aggravate our client who saw this advice (he later admitted) as “consultancy positioning”, not relevant to what he was gaining in the Q&A process.

Driven by my own ignorance and quest for a complete understanding of the entire situation, I had inadvertently stumbled upon a core lesson learned bounded by at least two fundamental truths about serving in an advisory capacity:

  • Asking a lot of good questions does not demonstrate ignorance.
  • A person will most of the time learn much more through self discovery, than he will from someone else’s advice.

This not only becomes a fundamental rule for consultancy practice, but also reveals a fundamental truth about the knowledge supply chain. Context is the key without it, content is meaningless.

Coming in the near future, a post “The 100 Questions Rule – Part 2” for how this Best Practice actually applies just as much to the Knowledge Supply Chain, as it does good consultancy.