"Finding Common Ground - Best Practices for Marketing New Products and Services "

How do you find common ground and meet your goals and responsibilities when

  • The departments you work with have different priorities and/or
  • The company's (or client's) aspirations are higher than you can deliver?

In this article, the following experts share problems and solutions:

  • Mark Adkins, new product consultant, Turnkey Marketing
  • Deborah Dent, CEO of ad agency Willow Creative Group
  • Ric Sweeney, nonprofit expert and Marketing Director of Children's Hospital/ Cincinnati
  • Vivienne Bechtold, Director Global Marketing and responsible for best practices, Procter & Gamble
  • Bob Howard, VP Marketing of consumer goods manufacturer Perfetti Van Melle USA
  • Mike Mitchell, Marketing Director of industrial goods manufacturer, Mead Paper
  • LuAnne Whewell, expert in services marketing and Marketing Director of Western Southern Life Insurance Co.


  1. What are some of the marketing functions that your department/division is responsible for?

    Sweeney, Marketing for the entire medical center: work with each division within the center and specifically with strategic areas to develop a full marketing plan (relationship marketing, advertising, PR, collateral, web site)

    Howard. Planning, profit & loss management including volume and key spending elements, development & execution of marketing spending elements (advertising, consumer promotion, merchandising), strategic information (primary consumer research, syndicated research), new product development

    Mitchell. Product, pricing, promoting, strategic planning and research.

    Dent. There are three different functions we play in the whole framework of marketing. The first one is for our clients: we develop marketing plans and see that they are executed for those that do not have an internal marketing department. The second for our clients is that we work on the strategic and creative solutions that follow their marketing plan because they do have an internal marketing department. The third function for marketing is internal - that we are in charge of our own marketing that we do for our company by using public relations and direct mail and promotions and events that we do, web presence and different articles that I write.

    Whewell. Relationship building, penetration into the shared wallet, retention, incremental sales growth.

    Bechtold. Driving application of best practices including training and consultation and developing tools that support those practices. The second thing is trying to advance or innovate marketing those practices - new marketing models, current outages that we try to address, how do we increase trial in our brands, try to advance our thinking in that area. The third one is functional leadership which has to do with ethics, policy issues, representations of the function externally, and setting priorities internally. The fourth area is in creating an effective marketing organization, and that would be things like what is the work, the reward system, and the career path. The last thing is insuring optimal contribution from our agency and other key suppliers. That would include our compensation structure, our policies as they relates to our agencies, the evaluation and review of their performance, and ongoing relationship management. We are a corporate function group versus one of the line marketing departments.

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  2. Thinking about those marketing functions, describe some of the difficulties and frustrations that you've encountered.

    Sweeney. The biggest problem in a large non-profit environment concerns the numbers of people involved in the process, everyone from business directors to department directors to clinic directors. You have to work within their schedules as well as work internally to ensure quality. It means lots of approval, lots of people.

    Howard. Prioritization and alignment: making sure everyone knows what's important to do and when to do it and is aligned behind the action of doing it.

    Mitchell. Product in a manufacturing-intensive industry. It is difficult to alter or make changes to the product because you impact all of the significant levels of plans and equipment. Making changes or improvements is a real difficult and long process on the product side. Pricing, because we are in a commodity business, is difficult to get an accurate reflection of what the competition is and, because it is a commodity, our prices fluctuate minute by minute and phone call by phone call, no managing, kind of chaotic. The promotion side is typical across all industries - making sure the promotional efforts are as efficient and effective as possible. In other words, that you are not burning a lot of money on promotional efforts and items that are not really getting a good enough payback. An internal frustration is getting them to realize the benefit of promotion and that there is a discipline and a science to promotion, not just pretty brochures. Strategic planning: the difficulty of trying to keep everyone above, below, and around me focused on the long term view while we wrestle with the short term demands. Frustrations in research are the same thing, like promotion. Getting the organization to recognize that research is necessary. It is a tool and it is not without its flaws, but it is still necessary to know what is going on with your customers and out in the market place.

    Adkins. Companies develop a new product, invest in it, and build it, and then when they are ready to launch it, they have not really thought through the positioning and the competitive advantage. So when they do the promotion of the new product, they are stumped: they don't know what to say in the ad or put in the brochure. Companies do new product development, but they don't do the planning all the way through to the promotion of the product. That is my experience in capital and industrial goods, which is my background.

    (Why do you think that happens?) The people in engineering and manufacturing firms get very into the technology. So when an existing product is not doing well, they embed new technology. But when it is time to sell it, people have not thought about the promoting or selling of their product. When I do new product development, I first develop the ad for the product to find out why I would want to buy a product, what the compelling value is, what the outstanding competitive advantage is.

    (Is this because marketing isn't in the mix from the beginning?) Many times products are production or engineer driven. They will do tremendous technical evaluation to eliminate technical risks in a product and do almost nothing to minimize market risk. Many products fail because they do poorly in the market for competitive reasons rather than they technically don't work. When you look at budgets, they invest hundreds of thousands in testing. But they won't to reduce marketing risks.

    (Can you give me some examples of companies where the marketing has been an after thought and compare that with some companies where the marketing has been integral from the start?) I had a client who had invented a manufacturing tool that was very clever, and he was trying to sell it. He invested all the money in building prototypes and buying materials to build inventory. When I got involved, he had simply invented it because it was valuable. But it turned out that there were competing methods to do what his product did. He had never looked at the competitive products. When our project was done, we did not take the product to market. My recommendation was that even if he built it and sold some, he was not able to make enough in profit to pay for the selling effort. A positive example would be a project that was a machine tool at Cincinnati Milacron when I worked there. We did exhaustive competitive analysis, and not only did we employ new technology, but we challenged ourselves while we were employing the new technology whether it would actually be a competitive advantage or not. There were a couple key technologies that we put into the new product and we were able to show people why they wanted to buy our product instead of brand X.

    Dent. When we are actually developing a marketing plan and trying to execute it, it is difficult with clients who do not understand the true role of marketing in general. So you have got that learning curve with clients when you are in charge of developing their marketing plan for or with them. On the other side, where the client does have a marketing department, sometimes it is difficult for them to accept our strategic solutions if their personal preferences get in the way, rather than what is best according to their marketing goal. Personal preferences can jeopardize the success of the marketing plan. Internally on our marketing, the biggest obstacle or frustration we have is time - the time to do our own marketing and execute it consistently. We always make plans and set deadlines, but the first deadline to get shoved to the side would be our own internal deadline compared to that of our customers.

    Whewell. Most of it is on the execution side. If we are attempting to do a relationship building campaign, we run into some problems with the data quality or execution of the mail house.

    Bechtold. One is in an organization like ours which is global in nature: a lot of this is more influence than it is direct responsibility over. So one of the difficulties is how to get the work done. You do a lot of aligning. A second thing is that we are a large organization, so one of the advantages is leveraging our scale so that when one brand learns something that works or doesn't work, then other brands can benefit from it. But we are not particularly good at capturing our learnings so that other people can benefit from them. Our broader organization that we pull from tends to be very focused on getting the job done today.

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  3. Which of these functions are most prone to problems?

    Sweeney. Scheduling time with the departments. Also relationship marketing, which is new to us; people want to understand how we reach out database and how that affects their personal relationships.

    Howard. Things depending on cross-functionality (e.g., new product development, P&L management), rather than vertically through your dept., because they go beyond your control to include sales, logistics, finance, etc., horizontally across the company.

    Mitchell. Promotion is the most prone to problems because it is an area still under debate. We have watched over the past 3 years advertising and promotional budgets be the first thing to get cut. So that indicates that there is still a lack of understanding and a lack of how sure people are that they really need to do that. Promotion is also the most prone to subjectivity. What is the best ad? People have their own personal tastes and it is open to interpretation. Because the whole process is subjective, you get locked up.

    Dent. The internal marketing. Finding time to do our own marketing is the most problematic. It ultimately pays bills because if you do a great job it brings in more business or establishes credibility, but short-term thinking is trying to get everybody's payable jobs out the door.

    Bechtold. In some ways the application of marketing best practices can be very resource intensive because it involves training and consulting and that takes people and time. The alignment and the influence have a lot to do with the functional leadership. For the fourth function, creating a highly effective organization, if you want to change things like the work or the rewards system or the career path, that can be pretty intensive as well.

    (So the problems are the time and the people intensiveness?) A lot of it is time and people, and the other one is the alignment; getting alignment from other folks to get the recommendations that we might be thinking.

    (You mean the alignment around goals, objectives and procedures?) Yes, because we have different business units, so we might get one that says great, but then getting five of them in line and all believing that the same solution will work for all of them can be challenging.

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  4. What internal staff and external support do you have?

    Sweeney. 5-6 internal and a variety of agencies for execution.

    Howard. Brand management staff, key administrative support, strategic information group. External is primary research people, secondary research people, agency and promotional relationships.

    Mitchell. Internal staff: we have marketing managers and analytic staff, and we have a pricing department. Externally we have communication agencies, we hire research consultants, and an executive coach to mold us more into what my vision is of a marketing department.

    Dent. We have both internal and external PR functions. So I have an internal person but we also have a PR person on retainer. We have internal design, planning and strategy; and writing for the most part we do externally.

    Whewell. We have an internal marketing staff consisting of 4 people, and then we have 2 data warehouse people that support us, and a corporate communications staff that supports us creatively, and a print shop in-house as well.

    Bechtold. We have some internal support in that we have a small corporate functions staff. So there are people that work with our chief marketing officer who lead some of this work. Externally we have the marketing service and advertising agencies that we work with.

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  5. What other departments/divisions do you interact with to meet your marketing responsibilities?

    Sweeney. [see Q#2]

    Howard.Logistics and sales are the key ones. And our key enablers: trade marketing, supply chain and customer engagement

    Mitchell. Primarily operations, finance, human resources, production, and customer service.

    Dent. Our clients' internal marketing departments.

    Whewell. We interact with sales, training, our call center, the data warehouse, corporate communications, the print shop, product development, actuary, and compliance.

    Bechtold. (I find that people who head marketing departments tend to have one overriding issue, which is aligning with other departments. When it comes to managing their own department, they are on top of things, they have their systems and procedures in place, but the difficulty is in cross functionality. This is the kind of issue that you have to resolve all the time. How would you respond in terms of the answers you provide to the departments and divisions in your company?) A lot of it depends on how broadly or narrowly marketing is defined. For us, what is not in marketing but could be considered marketing for other folks might be sales or customer business development (CBD), consumer service - the people that answer the 1-800 lines and emails that come in - we also have external relations who do a lot of the external PR type of things, and then we have a design group that helps do package and printed material design, and market research. Those are all considered separate departments from marketing within our company. But if you think of marketing with a big M, those are all elements of marketing. So those are what we would call "in the seams" where you have to learn how to work with them. One of the key things that we try to do is find where our departments have mutual objectives or overlaps and then try to work those together. That is hard because traditionally our functions have been much more siloed, so you would have a finance corporate function and an HR corporate function and they would be separate groups versus thinking about where the seams might overlap. So we do have conflicting priorities. A good example would be our MRD department. In marketing we view them as a support department for our marketing efforts. We do consumer research in order to support the decisions that we make. So they play a support role. Their own priorities are to forward market research practices to develop new techniques, new tools, so that alone is a conflict in what we see their role as.

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  6. What do you do when the departments you are working with have conflicting priorities?

    Mitchell. That is where marketing has a responsibility to help set priorities that the organization agreed to to begin with so that you don't run into conflict along the way. In our case that includes: what product does this business want to sell, how much of what do we want to sell, and what is our goal for pricing and profitability? When that is agreed to upfront at the beginning of the year in the planning session, then you avoid the major conflicts. Minor conflicts we handle in a typical way whether it is a conference call, in person, or working it out. Setting goals once a year and making a long-term plan kind of negates major conflict.

    Adkins. You can almost always come to a compromise. Or someone would say my position is incorrect. 99% of the time we could work it out.

    Dent. We use a tool called the Strategy Circle. I am in a program called the Strategic Coach, and I use some of their tools with our clients. Strategy Circle gets rid of a lot of the egos and personal preferences and focuses the entire group on the task at hand. What the Strategy Circle helps people do is state what the objective is. Usually when there are a lot of issues going on it is because everyone has their own agenda and perhaps a clear objective has not been set. Under A you list what the project is, then under B you list the specific goals that you have, and next to that you put down all of the obstacles that are in the way of achieving that goal. This is where it can in essence become the bitching session for everybody. They can list every obstacle they can think of, and that is when you are going to hear everyone's agendas. Then you have to turn those obstacles into a strategy that will then produce the end result.

    (How do you do that?) It is done through discussion and give and take. It is not as if you have a moderator to direct the meeting so that they don't have a vested interest in the outcome of it. But if you can first get everyone to establish what the goal is, and you can get everyone to establish the end result, and then let them portray all of the obstacles they can think of, and then turn each obstacle into a strategy to get to the end result, you will take each strategy and figure out who is involved to make it happen and you will implement a date and a framework and the tasks required to do it. So it is taking it into a plan that everyone can agree to provided that you can get everyone to agree to a common goal and a common end result.

    (Is this used among the different functions internally and also used externally?) Right, I also use this with clients. You can use it even in your home life, it is just a matter of if Mike was to take 10 vacations a year and the end result is that I take 10 vacations a year, the result is that I am actually gone. The obstacles could be that I do not have enough money to do that, I cannot get away from the office, I cannot pull my children out of school. You can go through all of these different obstacles to find out how can I eventually accomplish that. What you will find is that, if it is impossible to accomplish, then your goal is unrealistic. If it is possible to accomplish, then you are going to find ways to overcome your obstacles to get to the end result. So sometimes your goal and the end result will not perfectly match based on what you discover while you go through this process. The Strategy Circle is trying to get away from everyone's emotions and what they were hoping to get out of it personally, and getting it into a systematic approach of: if there is a common goal and a common result, then you have to take care of all the messes in the middle and figure out a strategy for each part to then overcome it.

    Whewell. It is one of two things. One is you can go to upper management and have them prioritize those jobs as far as what they feel is most important; or we can work it so that we can minimize the amount of information or time that they will have to support us with, and we can get the job done anyway with minimal assistance from them.

    (Give me an example of working out such conflicting priorities between departments.) There are always information system issues when you are asking for help from the programmers because there are always multiple projects going on there. It is always pretty much determined at meetings by going over the projects, looking at the priority, and a little give on each of the departments as to how we can get all of the projects done, we might just have to move some timing around.

    Bechtold. You have to start at the top. The heads of those different groups have to decide that they need to work together, and they send that message down the line, saying that we deemed this as important. Usually they appoint someone from each of the groups to work on a particular issue.

    (Are we talking about small cross-functional teams working on separate projects?) Yes. (And how does that work hierarchically?) The heads of the functions sponsor the project going forward and make sure it is going to be successful, and they put the people on it to work these small cross-functional groups.

    (But this is all ad hoc, not something formalized?) Yes, right now that is where we are, not formalized. At this point it is still very ad hoc.

    (I interviewed someone who said that approach works particularly well on new product development, but you are saying that this is done across the board.) Yes, more so. Some of the reason is when we try to do cost control, which there is a lot of emphasis on in our company, there are usually not the incremental resources to work on projects. They have to come from somewhere else. So functions that have existing resources have to pony up people to work on these little efforts. Since we don't zero base our efforts every year, generally it requires people coming together and saying they are convinced that this is something worth doing and that they will pony up this person and you pony up that person and then they will work on that project.

    (We are talking about including the finance people, the production people, the engineering people on these cross-functional teams?) Yes. (What happens when the departments have conflicting priorities?) That is where the sponsors of the project have to make the call on what they see as being the key objectives and deliverables. For example, we are capitaling this issue of how do we make our own initiatives as a whole more successful. So we have a multifunctional team that has come together to try to capture what has worked and what hasn't. And once we have identified what has worked to perpetuate that, and once we find out what hasn't worked, to try and recommend interventions on what we should do differently and to get different results. So there are some different functional priorities there, but ultimately you go back to the sponsors of that team and they make the choices on what the recommendations will be or what we are trying to drive in the organization. These are corporate functional type of projects. If we were talking about new brand launch, which is our main business, in general our business units are already multifunctional. They already have finance, market research, and marketing people in the business unit and they just have to pull them off one priority onto another within their own unit. That usually gets decided on by the general manager of that category. For example, we have a general manager or vice president over oral care and they can decide that we have this great initiative, so we are going to pull resources off something else that is in their category to reallocate the resources to something they decide is a higher priority. That is easier because you generally have one line manager that is in charge of a business unit. What I was talking about originally is when things are more functional projects versus business projects.

    (Do you think that cross-functional teams work most successfully in a marketing driven company? I'm thinking that when the company's vision is very clear there is always an ultimate goal, and whatever any departments' different objectives may be, they have to be aligned behind that overall goal or vision of the company.) I do think that that is true for two reasons. One is that the consumer is boss and you have a function whose job is to interpret what is the consumer asking for and therefore what are we going to produce that works really well. The other thing is that with us the marketing function seems to be the leader of strategy as well. In other companies that may not always be the case, maybe sales or brand leads the strategy. But in our case, strategy dictates a lot of the decisions.

    (Do you have any insight or advice on how this could work in other companies that are not so clearly aligned around an overall vision?) You need to start out with the basics, which are what is the vision and what are the driving factors behind the vision. In another industry it could have a lot more to do with sales. Even now, what retailers want has become more and more important and so it has played a greater role in the strategy setting, which causes some dynamics to change a little bit. But in other industries where it is all about sales and not about what we traditionally think of as marketing, then I think it is okay to have something that is more driven by another function. Whoever is driving it needs to represent something that is hand and glove with the vision for what the company is about.

    (Yes. Some marketing directors have felt like they're taking a back seat to sales and that marketing's function is to make interesting brochures or to cover up a problem so that sales can get out there and function. And they feel that marketing should be leading because marketing has the competitive analysis. So it is a real tug between those two.) Yes, and I don't think that there is one right answer. I think that it really depends on the dynamics of the industry that you are in.

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  7. What do you do when the company's needs or aspirations are higher than what you can deliver?

    Mitchell. Keeping everybody informed is the best thing. When I see we are not meeting a goal, which is usually around financials, communicating on an ongoing basis about how things are going, whether we're coming close, are we far away. That ongoing dialogue so that no one is surprised.

    (Dialogue and then what?) Communication, corrective action. But the key to it is no surprises, an ongoing tracking of business results that were reported monthly as compared to our goals.

    Adkins. Sometimes if you have the wrong management they don't want to hear that the goals are too high. The risk with kill-the-messenger type of management is that eventually the company will suffer, but in the short term you are getting killed for delivering the bad news. If you are delivering the bad news or you can't meet the goals they want, you work and you try to educate management and teach them not to kill the messenger. Then hopefully on their side if they see that you are really making an honest strong decision and that your team has made absolutely the best effort, they will understand.

    (Have you seen this kind of thing happen?) People lose their jobs because they could not deliver and were given goals that were not reachable.

    Dent. You talk and realign your goals. If I say I want to have $10 million in sales this year and that is unrealistic, then I am just setting everyone up for failure. I can make that goal and try to do everything in my power to get there. But if it is unrealistic, you need to have checkpoints along the way to realign it. One of our clients had that happen to them last year. The upper management set an unrealistic sales goal for the marketing department to attain, and at the first quarter they were nowhere near it. At the second halfway mark of the year they were nowhere near it, and at that point they realigned it all. They talked with upper management and said, here are all of our efforts, it is not for not trying, but because of the economy, the marketing of the product or its performance, this is an unrealistic goal; and they all had to realign accordingly so that it was attainable.

    (What if your client sets an unrealistic goal for you?) I think the same thing would happen. If we think that we are going to hit it, we are going to go for it. But if you know in your gut that it is not realistic, you have to have a frank discussion with them and say it is unrealistic, and then prove why it is so through data and past experiences and try to realign it.

    We also use something called the DOS. A common question we ask anyone that we are working with is: if you put a time frame like a year from today, what needs to happen for you to feel good or happy about where you are? When they start answering that question, if it is that they need to have an 8% increase in sales, then what we have to find out are all of the dangers that are in the way of attaining that and what strengths might they have to get it, and then opportunities. DOS - Dangers you should try to eliminate, Opportunities that you need to focus on and capture, and your biggest Strengths that need to be reinforced. Then you prioritize the information that is given, and then out of that you can pretty much map out what is realistic to achieve.

    (So phase one would be the DOS and then phase two would be the Strategy Circle?) You can use Strategy Circles at any time. The way to think of Strategy Circle is if you bump up into a wall when you are trying to achieve something. The DOS helps identify some of the things that are in your way like the dangers, but also just on the horizon what opportunities and strengths you currently have. On the Strategy Circle, you have a specific goal and a specific result that you are trying to hit and you are mapping out all of the obstacles, and then you are turning those into the tactics of how you are going to overcome all of the obstacles. They can be used together or independently.

    Whewell. Work harder. Most of the time we do try to take on everything that is requested. When there is a time when we feel that something is going to slip through the cracks, then we will take that to upper management and say, here is what we are working on, if there is anything here that you don't want us to work on in place of this, then we can do this instead. That usually puts a highlight on some projects that they don't feel is going to be so beneficial, and that frees up some time. Otherwise we just talk about timing a little bit.

    Bechtold. There has to be a real honest gap analysis. Our CEO wanted us to be at a much higher growth rate than what the total of the different business units were able to come up with. He encouraged people to stretch goals and to do a lot of new business development to narrow the gap. We got ourselves in trouble because people were not being as rigorous about the numbers that they had to come up with in order to close the gap. That is when we started to not meet our Wall Street expectations. You have to do a really good gap analysis, which is saying if the company's aspirations are higher than what we really think we can deliver, what realistically can be done. It might be that you have to do some type of acquisition because it is not within what you might be able to produce yourself. It might be that we are going to invest in this new business area in order to reach those goals, but recognize that in reaching those goals we are going to take a hit in terms of margin or profit because we are in an investment mode. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Look at the different choices you have for filling the gap and make a call on which approach you would take.

    (What approach was taken?) The company's aspirations were too high relative to what was realistic, and he adjusted that. The second thing was that where we are going to produce is in our core businesses as opposed to doing a lot of new business involvement. So we focused on the big brands we had and making them bigger. We cut a lot of investment spending and new business development and also some acquisitions to start to acquire some of the things that we needed to fill the gap.

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  8. What is your approach to getting all these different functions and agenda working together?

    Sweeney. Lay out our goals on a timeline and build in time for delays.

    Howard. We have a very planned set of marketing brand team meetings on a regular basis with all people who are specifically responsible and accountable for key work products, to achieve the objectives of the brand and the business plan. No big alignment meetings with a lot of people sitting around saying, 'Oh, I didn't know that was going on.'

    Mitchell. I don't think there is a formalized approach. It is more of an art and depends on individual relationships. Outside of planning I don't think there is any process.

    (I am hearing from other folks: cross-functional team approaches and metrics. So tell me why you recommend individual relationships) Cross functionality is good, particularly in the area of new products; in my experience it's usually marketing led. Even managing a cross-functional team is learned and is a skill. So it is an art and it all comes down to how skilled you are, how good a communicator you are, how skilled you are at understanding people or giving them what they need on a professional and, if necessary, on a personal level. Our company is geographically all over the place and it is very difficult to create cohesion and cross functionality when people are not geographically close to each other. At the top I don't think the vision was aligned very well, so you have people in different parts of the US shooting at different goals.

    (How do you do the individual relationships if you are scattered all over the place?) You can manage it some by building relationships and building rapport, but you can only do so much of that and give it so much time. The easiest way to build a relationship is having been there for 25 years, and therefore your relationship with people extends back for years and your business dealings with people extend over half a decade.

    Adkins. (What advice would you give to heads of marketing departments on getting different functions and departments to work together so that the priorities are clear when they go to market?). Take it to their language. In the case of financial people, you have to have an ROI approach to marketing and show what the payback will be. With engineering people, they appreciate the whole risk thing. If I talk to them in terms of risk, they think technical risk and immediately grasp that they don't want that. The advice for marketing people is to have terminology and an approach that is easily understood by the other disciplines like financial or engineering and manufacturing. With production you have to be an advocate of design for manufacturability and make sure the product that is being developed is easily manufactured.

    (Where do company goals come into play to achieve this kind of marketing integration into the whole process?) Marketing as a way to build sales - every company has sales goals. The other area has to do with company image. You've heard of company culture: I found that the brand is the external face and culture is your internal face and brand is how the rest of the world sees you. In companies that pay attention to what they value internally (loyalty, integrity), marketing plays a role in communicating that externally and that is part of your brand and part of who you are, how the world and market views you. The product development process should be very market driven by doing competitive and market analysis and making sure you are developing a new product with your customers in mind. Too often people get enamored in the technology area or cost reduction. So sales goals, culture goals, or new product goals.

    (Do you think that cross-functional teams and the accountability of the teams and each team member is a way to get a more integrated focus in new product development?) Absolutely. I have led cross-functional teams and it is some of the best work I have ever been associated with in my life. You just come out with such a better product when you can do it concurrently with the different disciplines.

    (I hear that is a good idea but it doesn't work in my company because we are geographically all over the place or marketing is just a kind of a reactive function, etc) At Milacron we had engineering, marketing, assembly/manufacturing people, and financial people all very involved and had a lot of really great products come out of it. I think you come out with better product because you need all the input. When you don't do it and - say you don't have manufacturing involved - then when you go to manufacture it you might not be able to make it or there is a big problem in the building of it. If you don't have marketing involved, then you don't have good competitive studies or you don't know where the competition is. If you don't have purchasing involved, you don't bring vendors in and you make assumptions about what vendors can do and then you go into production and find out that vendors can't make schedules or they can't build parts.

    (Does this depend on a hierarchical company where the goals are clearly established in the beginning of the fiscal year and the teams are aligned behind them or is this the kind of thing where the teams are autonomous? Tell me how it should work.) I do think teams need that autonomy, you want to give them that ownership, but you really want them knowing what the company goals are so you don't end up developing a product that is not supported by the company or doesn't fit with what the company wants to offer. On the issue of management versus the teams, we formed what we called a contract between the team and management. The team's obligation was to come out with the product on time and on budget and at the manufacturing cost that we promised. Management had a responsibility to create an environment where the team could succeed. So the management would have to provide the resources they need, the autonomy, the support they need when they run into problems. As long as the team stayed within the specifications, then the team ran the show. It was only when the team went out of bounds, if you started blowing your schedule or budget, you would have to go to management and explain why you were breaking the "contract".

    (Is this contract approach something that you would recommend?) Yes, that is part of my business. I am currently putting a product development process in for a company in Detroit and am modeling it after the process that we had in Cincinnati. We are going to have the concept of the team being in a contract with management - I do my part, you do your part; as long as I am doing my job, give me the freedom and the autonomy to do it.

    (So management sets the goals and the team comes up with opportunities to achieve those goals and that is where the contract is formed?) Management might say we need a new line of widget A because widget B is getting old and we have R&D money set aside. So you should tell us what price it should be, what specifications, and you are promising us what market share we will gain. Management was like the bankers, so we would say loan me $4 million and at the end of the day I will pay it back with this great new product that you are going to make lots of money with.

    (Marketing is setting the price and specs based on market research, and production and engineering and purchasing are all focusing on ) Typically they are focused on the production cost. Marketing says you can sell this for $1000 in the market and the company needs 40% profit margins. So that means that we need to be able to manufacture at $600 apiece. So you go into the project with a target cost, and engineering, manufacturing, and purchasing all work to achieve this.

    (Are there drawbacks to this approach?) There are risks. Sometimes you don't achieve your target costs. How it was done historically was that people would design it, manufacture it, and then find out they could make it for $800 and then would have to sell for $1200 and then find out that they could not sell it. We turned it around and put more of a marketing approach to it. We set the target sales price so you go into the project with a goal. The risks are that you say it is going to be $600, but you might go over. You might find that a vendor says he can make a component for $50, but when he finally makes it he charges $75. Or your plant people say we can make this sub system for $100, but it has never been made before. When they finally make it they say it costs $150, we were wrong. Those start adding up and your product is costing too much to manufacture.

    (What do you do?) You go back and drop your specifications, which you don't want to do because it hurts your competitiveness, or you search for a design which cost less to manufacture, or try to make a component with a cheaper metal, or could we use less machine time smoothing the surface of a component and leave it rough.

    (It sounds like this is where teamwork and contact with management become critical.) As long as you are working within your budget, then management doesn't have to be involved because it is the team members going back to the suppliers and plant people working out this problem. If you can't get it down, that is when you come back to management.

    Dent. Internally we use weekly production meetings and weekly lunch-and-learns. Every Thursday we bring brown bag lunches in and usually work on our business or a topic at hand that is worth discussing. We do recaps at the end of every project, which gives us good information on what went well and also what did not go so well. When you do that everyone is working together trying to figure out how can we make this better. We go on a yearly retreat and spend a lot of time working on individually unique abilities because we firmly believe that if you are doing what you are best at, then you are happier and the company grows because of that.

    (I would have assumed that, and I have been surprised in my research that some people consider developing people to their maximum potential to be of secondary importance.) No, I am firmly committed to developing the individual. We do team things also, but if someone isn't really clear about what their unique ability is and what their role is and what it means to the company, you can throw them into all kinds of teams and that doesn't mean they will function well. They need to know who they are first, and then they know how they can participate as a team.

    Whewell. We try first to bring everyone together and kick off a project so that everyone is there hearing first hand from us what the project is. Then we write up a creative brief or something that is a program timeline to make sure everyone knows exactly what is going on with the program, and as things happen we update that and email it out on a regular basis to make sure everyone knows that other departments are doing their part as well. Then we get together right before the program kicks off and make sure everyone is comfortable with everything before we go ahead and do it.

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  9. Why that approach?

    Howard. We had lots of big cross-functional meetings with topical discussions that didn't necessarily relate to people in the meeting or who left without any task assignments on a regular basis and were just there to be enlightened. People were wasting time. So we went back to iDentifying key work products with key work groups in the building and then build efficient teams of people from both inside and outside the building, with meetings that organized and aligned them around the key business plan objectives. For the others, we have awareness meetings when the time is right.

    Dent. It makes each person accountable to the greater whole. Once they know themselves well, they know how to participate better in a team, and they get to know each other so well that one person's strengths could be your weakness so you know that is a good person to be paired up with on a project, you know together you are going to get a lot done. So we spend a lot of time making sure we know one another's true strengths and do the pairing that way. Each project could have a different grouping of people depending on what skills and strengths are needed for that particular project.

    (Does it spill beyond a person's role? For example, if my expertise is in market research, do I confine my team input to market research, even if I think I have brilliant ideas for creative?) Not for us. We firmly believe that, just because I am honing on 3 unique abilities, it does not mean that I am not capable of participating at many other levels that I am competent at or even excellent at but maybe it is not my passion. We are trying to iDentify a person's passion and make that the top priority, knowing full well that every day they have to do things that they are excellent at but are not their passion. As far as the team goes, we have a rule that anyone can pitch in an idea at anytime and it is valid to hear it. If we are brainstorming and we brought the mailman in one day just for kicks and he happens to come up with a great idea, then so be it. It does not matter who does it, because one person can say one word and spark an idea for another person and because their role is research, who cares. If it is a good idea you need to share it and not get hung up with politics.

    Whewell. Our actual work tends to be a lot in silos where we will work and work and work and we don't know if anyone else is doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Our alternative is to have weekly meetings, and that just takes up too much time because when you are meeting you don't get what you are actually supposed to be doing done. So we try to meet just 2 times and then try to keep everybody up to date as to what is happening by having a program manager that keeps in contact with the key players and updates the program sheets. People feel more comfortable knowing that other the pieces are getting done and what is going on with the program.

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  10. What tactics does this approach entail specifically?

    Sweeney. Talk to all the groups involved including department heads, make sure they're aligned to the project, what everyone's needs are, advance scheduling.

    Howard. A simple, clean work agenda with key goals that are well known and established; making sure that there are regular meetings that bring people and hold people accountable for the development and execution of agreed-to work events that create final work products, whether key supply chain things or key marketing events; making sure people know they're held accountable for the outcome of each team meeting; clear communication of the outcome to the people involved in the work process.

    Dent. We do testing on each person to help them understand better themselves, and we also have them send out an email to about 20 different people that they know in a variety of categories to help identify their unique abilities. So we go through this whole process per person to get them extremely familiar with what they are about. I narrow it down to three people and the whole team interviews them and we make a team decision. Once they become an employee I have them send out that email to develop their unique abilities further. The test I give them is called the KOLBE (website to test distinctive behavior and identify the person's ability to do the job in general. The unique ability part I don't do until they are an employee because it is more time consuming and personal and I do not need much information at the hiring level beyond the KOLBE test. From a job description the test can tell us the type of person that we are looking for numerically, so I can hire someone in that range. That test counts for about 30% of the hiring decision.

    Whewell. We always try to tie it back to the company's goals. If you start up a project and people don't understand how it is going to benefit the company then they don't tend to see why they should spend their time doing that job. We always try to wrap up the program so that everyone knows how the program ended up and what the results were and what the next steps are from that project, what we learned, how we are going to improve upon it in the future. We try to do a recap of the program.

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  11. What are the drawbacks of this approach? Give examples.

    Sweeney. If you're sticking to the timeline it becomes hard to be flexible and change things. If other projects come along it's hard to re-align the resources. We have to look outside to help us get things done and maintain standards.

    Howard. A meeting on top of meetings. People complain that this takes them away from doing their work. You have to remind them that this is their primary work, and this meeting is to organize and align and guide and make sure everyone is on the same page and make sure you're doing the right work. If not this meeting, then there would be a lot of little meetings throughout the week.

    Mitchell. It is difficult for any one new to come into a company that relies on relationships because there is only so much relationship that you can establish, so it keeps new people out and forces new people out as well. The other thing is that it takes things from objectivity: so is someone doing a good job because she has known her for 12 years or doing a good job because they are just really good. It blurs the line when it comes to reviewing or dealing with employees.

    (Before you went to this company, if there wasn't a formalized structure and there weren't close relationships, what was the lever that made people work together to get the job done?) There I think it was some systems, but I also think it was professionalism. It was the recognition that we are here to get the job done; I may not agree with that other department over there, but I know we have to complete this job. I hired an executive coach to supplement people that report to me and to supplement the coaching of the people that report to them. I was dealing with a department transformation. The process was that she understood the whole vision and objective was for this transformation that we were trying to get done in the department. And then what she helped us do is to break that down by layer. In other words, if we were to meet this vision and objectives, she helped me to find what I personally needed to do to lead the department and then the next layer down, what did they need to do in order to get us where we were going.

    (And what kinds of changes were made, from what to what?) Dramatic shift in how people viewed what they did for a living. The marketing department was receptive in the leader department. In other words, people came to the marketing department and said this needs to be done or this needs to be handled. And the vision for the department, which is the reason they brought me in, was, okay, it should be the other way around. Marketing should be coming out throughout the organization and saying based on the margins and based on our areas of strengths and weaknesses, this is what we should be doing and this is what needs to get done. And that is a dramatic difference in just how you view yourself. Literally the difference between you come into the office and handle problems as they arise versus you come into the office and you are looking for opportunity.

    (How did this transformation take place? You said individual coaching. But what was the approach?) The key component was to be outward as opposed to inward focused and that we as a department needed to be the ones that were the most outwardly focused. In other words, instead of thinking about what do we need to do, what is going on in the market place and what do we need to do about it? That is a different philosophy. Some of the systems that were put into place were things like a regular competitive analysis, analysis of business performance, and market place analysis on a regular basis, the writing of annual marketing plans in the process. So the coach came in and helped us install some systems, but what the coach did for me was that she was that voice that said of everything that you did today, did you spend anytime looking into the piece of the business that you are responsible for. What is making it tick? What is driving competitors? What is happening in broad market places? So she gave us some systems, but she was there to be that voice that always pushed people to act like leadership.

    (And did this change internal organization and the way you dealt with other departments?) Yes, it changed the way we dealt with other departments; it was an organizational change too internally within the marketing department. We aligned it to be more aligned around segments of the market place. In other words, if we were a product-based marketing department, it would be you handle this product and I handle this product. Versus here is how the market place segments and your responsibility is to handle and respond to that market versus that product. So it was an external focus rather than an internal focus. There was integration - we had had marketing communications separate from the marketing managers. In other words we had this communication group who was designing all of these promotions separate from the managers who were responsible for the effectiveness of that promotion. So we eliminated that and folded those people in and we had one department of marketing. We formed marketing groups. So we went to 'you are the product manager of this product' to a marketing team that was designed to a market segment. That segment had a team of marketing people in a typical kind of structure of marketing director, marketing managers, and assistant marketing managers. The transformation was from a marketing department that was kind of viewed internally as a dumping ground, where if there was a problem you brought it to marketing. When I first came there I was going bonkers because I could not get anything done because someone was always bringing what I would see as there problem to us to resolve. There was always the excuse that ultimately it always goes to marketing because ultimately we are about selling the product to a customer. That kind of activity started to dry up.

    (How were you viewed, can you summarize it?) Viewed as more leadership. The negative side is that it made us appear to be more independent and therefore being chafed among some people's view of what is team work and what is leadership.

    (Before you were saying that you had to interact with operations, with finance, with HR, with production, with customer service. How did these different departments react when you began being more proactive instead of reactive?) There was a collective change in attitude. What I saw was a healthy organization where if there was a production issue the first reaction would not be to call the marketing department and say that we can't make that product anymore, the response was we will figure out how to make the product and if we are not going to be able to make the product on time then marketing and sales need to know that. There was a switch from it is not my problem to it is all of our problem. There used to be something called an operation-planning meeting where marketing was a passive observer and operations and production guys would go through how the machines were working. It is now a more facilitative and leaderly meeting of marketing participation versus show up for the meeting and listen to the operations guy to tell you what the problem is.

    Dent. It takes time to educate and implement and follow up with each employee to make sure that they are staying on top of what they need to be doing because we also have each person produce a personal mission statement. They also have to establish professional goals.

    (And the personal mission statement is what?) It is their guiding light on why are they here, what are they doing, where are they going in life. We use a book called The Path by Laurie Beth Jones. She goes around to corporate America and helps people put together mission statements. She comes from an advertising background and has a formula she likes to use called the Path, which we use to develop both the corporate mission statement and personal mission statements. She believes it needs to be short and sweet and needs to be memorizable if held up at gunpoint. Here's mine for example: "I discover, create and inspire (you need three action verbs and then a core value) success (need an audience) to myself and interested others. I added the word interested because it is none of my business to share knowledge or inspire anyone unless they are interested in the same topic. So that is what they have to do individually. They also have to do a self-portrait that we hang up on the wall, which tells a lot about them.

    Whewell. I think everyone is comfortable with this approach. A drawback might be if a program manager does not keep the information flowing. If that information stops, then the program kind of shuts down.

    (Do you set up a formalized team or does the program manager get in touch with certain people on a certain project?) It depends on the project. If it is a mail program, there are key people that that person would contact. So it just depends on the type of program, but the program manager knows who the key players are and that those are the people that they need to contact.

    Bechtold. (You mentioned the cross-functional approach formed on an ad hoc basis. Are there some drawbacks to this approach?) The drawbacks are that getting it started can take longer because of getting people to pony up resources and getting aligned to what the team is going to deliver. It is what we call a chartering process. When you get a formal charter down, it takes longer with this approach. In the end we believe that it delivers better results faster, but the initial stage takes longer. By charter I mean an internal contract that says this is what the team is about, this is what the objectives are, this is the business case for it, this is the scope for it, these are the resources that are needed, these are the people that are going to be assigned to it. You get it all down on paper, you get the sponsors to sign off on it, and then you go.

    (And then how does accountability work?) Accountability works in those sponsors holding the people who are leading the project to delivering on the objectives that were set down in the charter. A good charter has good milestones with good deliverables that are not just at the end of the project but are along the way.

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  12. How important is the following to you on a scale of 1-5 where 5=very important?

    To have a set of management approved performance metrics that employees understand and work to improve

    Sweeney. 4 - we get bogged down in setting & developing, though.

    Howard. 5 - you have to begin with the end in mind so you can have people aligned around what they have to do.

    Mitchell. 5 - that way everybody knows what the goals are, so that goes back to people are aligned around a common understanding.

    Dent. 5. We use these scales like DOS worksheet to do that too. We can set a target like where do you want to be a year from now as an employee, and I can say what dangers are in your way, what opportunities can be focused on and what strengths can be reinforced so that you can get there. Out of that they can set personal goals for the year and I can hold them accountable to that, and along they way I can provide education if they need it or get them out and about to meet people in other industries that might help them attain it. So it is not without support.

    Whewell. 5. Everyone wants to know exactly what they are to be achieving and to know what they are aspiring for. To have that goal is very important, and to tie it back to what it means to the company's bottom line is essential if you are going to feel like you are making a contribution.

    To decrease costs per unit of service delivered over time

    Sweeney. 2 - quality and new programs may not be cost-efficient the first time.

    Howard. 4 - you should have a long-term sustainable productivity imperative, but having a goal and measured outcome is more important. Otherwise you could end up anywhere.

    Mitchell. 4. Equipment is expensive. We reduce cost as much as we can and squeeze as much benefit as we can out of all that equipment, but in light of a very competitive market. In other words, we couldn't raise prices so the only way to improve income is to reduce cost.

    Dent. 4. We could become more effective or efficient in the processes that we use, which would help our profitability. The cost of our services to outside people - my goal is not to lower them over time. Internally my focus is to increase profitability through better processes. What I did, and what my article was about, was that I had a lot of awesome people but their unique abilities were not matched to the jobs that I had available, and so I was not very profitable because I was compensating by hiring a lot of external people to make up for what I did not have internally. When I switched the entire team to people whose unique abilities matched the roles, my profitability went up. So even though it is more time consuming and perhaps costly to find the right people and then equip them, it pays dividends down the road because I have fewer internal issues, less problems with morale, higher retention, less reliance on outside vendors to make up for what I lack internally, and in the end you become more profitable by making the initial investment.

    Whewell. 5. The industry I work in has a heavy expense ratio and it is very difficult for us to increase our top line without decreasing our expenses. So it has become something that all financial institutions are striving for.

    To bring out the best in each individual's creative or problem-solving abilities

    Sweeney. 5 - crucial to let people express their talents.

    Howard. 3- that's a thinking capacity but that's just part of the tool kit of a brand manager. They also need to understand marketing strategy and tactics, they need to have organizational skills to be able to align and drive their business. Organizational skills, marketing skills, and thinking competencies all fuse to create great brand managers.

    Mitchell. 5. The organization chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In order to survive you have to have everybody doing his or her best and utilizing the best you can.

    Dent. 5. This unique ability is critical.

    Whewell. 5. We work best as a team. We enjoy working with each other and you have to enjoy what you do to be creative. Without that our programs would very much suffer. Being a team player is important, but everyone needs to have their own individual goals. You can have team goals, because you want to be part of the team and you want the team to do well, but as a person you want to continue to improve upon yourself so that you can continue to move up and become a more experienced person and learn more. Without individual goals I don't see how you get there.

    To instill a sense of purpose and direction between different functions and different departments

    Sweeney. 5 - people work best if they understand the full picture.

    Howard. 5- people need to know why they're coming to work and what they need to do.

    Mitchell. 5. Doesn't that kind of tie into #1?

    Dent. 5. Once you get your unique ability team together, you then work on the unique process of your company and that involves all team members. When are they plugged into a part of this process and when are they out of it, and what is their responsibility along the way to make sure that our products and services are consistent and profitable. (So this is a formalized process?) Yes, we are still developing it. It will take probably another year to get it honed in on, but it will eventually have a name that will be trademarked and it will be our process of handling work here.

    Whewell. 4. It is important, but not as important as the others.

    To complete projects on time and within budget

    Sweeney.4 - important but difficult, especially to get the right quality.

    Howard. 5 - that's an accountability issue. It's all about making results happen. Knowing where you're going and a high demand for results should be the key goal posts for orientation in your organization

    Mitchell. 4 - it depends how critical the project is.

    Dent. 5. That is always a goal. Our software gives us checks and balances on a daily basis to find out where we are on a project so that everyone can be accountable and there are no excuses at the end. Then at the end we do the project recaps so that we can learn from the good things and the things that did not go so well so that the next time we can do it better.

    Whewell. 5. You want to stay employed.

    To have new, more efficient methods of doing things developed by work groups, areas and departments

    Sweeney. 5 - because of the quality of the process and product, it's important to have them develop their processes.

    Howard. 2 - that's an enabling thing; it's only important if you have issues.

    Mitchell. 2. Because it is so plant and equipment intensive - we are talking about million dollar machines - you just don't go in and alter them. So there isn't room for these things. The system has been designed and developed for tens of years on adaptation not innovation.

    Dent. 5. Along with our unique process we have something called the front stage and back stage. The front stage is the total experience that a person has with a theatrical stage setting - it is everything the client sees, every point of contact in front of the curtain with your client. Back stage is everything that happens back at the office that the client doesn't see, but if it doesn't go well they are going to know it. It is our intention to keep the clients at the front stage, because the second the client comes in your back stage it means that something did not go well and now they are privy to information on how you run your company behind the curtain and to your issues. So our goal is to keep our clients in the front stage and make sure that their experience is enjoyable and beneficial to them and that they achieve their goals and it goes smoothly.

    (How does that become a method as opposed to a goal?) Through consistency of using it. (Is it a procedure?) Yes, it is part of a process and it is the philosophy of: there are obviously things going on in front of the curtain and behind the curtain and we have to consistently behave in a manner that clients' experience with us is good. When a job comes in it may be front stage first because we are meeting with them, and then it goes into the back stage because we have to get the job started and we have internal meetings and then we may develop some concepts, and it goes back to front stage to show the client. Then it kicks back into the backstage to do any tweaking or revisions. It zigzags between the two and it is our hope not to let them in the backstage and the only way that we can do that is to develop the processes that are necessary to make it is seamless.

    Whewell. 5. This gets back to the decrease in expenses. It is important to become more efficient as we are being asked to do so much more with so fewer people and less money.

    To have problems openly surfaced and addressed

    Sweeney. 5 - you can only correct problems if you know what they are.

    Howard. 5 - that's a real problem in the Midwest - the Midwest is famous for people not telling you what they mean. We have a kind of code: if you have any issues you have to get them out in the meeting. There's no meeting after the meeting. I don't want people going back to their office and creating a meeting around issues that happened in the meeting.

    Mitchell. 5. In business in general it is a 5, but it doesn't happen a lot. There was an effort put in place years ago to be open and honest and to speak with candor and deal with people honestly and openly.

    (Does this have to do with that relationship emphasis?) No, I think that was counter to that. I think it was an attempt to get past that relationship stuff. So if someone is not doing a good job who is related to you, you are going to have to tell them they are not doing a good job. It encouraged people to be more frank regardless of if they lived on the same street.

    Dent. 5. I am a very open and honest person and we try our best to hire only open and honest people. We are in an open environment so everyone can hear what anyone else is saying at any given time. Because of that we do our best to talk and not let anything fester. If anyone has an issue because it is an open environment we tend to use email to communicate privately or we will go off site and have meetings.

    Whewell. 5. That is how you do business. If you are not open and honest about the problems then they will never go away and they will always be there.

    To set clear performance expectations for individuals, and have on-the-job-coaching and frequent review meetings to ensure targets are achieved or exceeded

    Sweeney. 5 - if it doesn't get bogged down in the process and in micromanaging.

    Howard. 4 - that's an aspiration. I'd love to hold frequent meetings around personal development but in reality they're only on a need basis because of the capacity and pace we work at.

    Mitchell. 4. I think dealing with employees is always a struggle for companies. There are a lot of systems put in place and processes to manage people, but I still think to a pretty large extent that managing people is an uncomfortable situation particularly with a company that has performance reviews.

    Dent. 5. We do reviews with new personnel at the 1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th month and 1 year; for everyone else it is every 6 months. We look at what we had talked about before and see if the expectations were met or not. Then along the way if we see issues we will meet individually, or if they want to meet with me they just ask and we go. We have a mentor here that helps us a lot on different parts, but if someone internally can't help coach, then I have also used external coaching help.

    Whewell. 4. That is important for certain types of people. Coaching and monitoring and frequent meetings is important for some people with their personality, that is how they like to be managed. Others can do very well with little reviews, still having clear objectives and clear understanding of what is expected of them.

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  13. In your opinion, what stands out as the one major benefit or outcome? Why? What's the downside of that?

    Sweeney. "To instill a sense of purpose and direction between different functions and different departments" is the basis of all of the work. All the work has to have a relation to the whole company. That makes it more efficient and enables people to work together better.

    Howard. Delivering results that meet expectations. You're here to lead a productive work life and collectively to meet business goals on a consistent basis. Downside: if everyone is being the best they can be and the company is consistently meeting goals, the downside is only if you're on the wrong paradigm, e.g. Kellogg without a business growth model.

    Dent. The unique abilities because of the morale and personal happiness. The downside is that if that did not occur I would have high turnover and dissension, which is counter to getting client work done.

    Whewell. The one about getting more efficient. (Is that because of this economy or just in general.) In general, if you get more efficient a lot of those other things will fall into place.

    On a scale of 1-5, how effective has teamwork been? 5=Very Effective, 1=Very Ineffective Explain.

    Sweeney. 4 - we meet a lot and it's not always productive.

    Howard, 4 - lots of times we've had to work around teams because they weren't functional in the past. Effective, integrated teams aligned around common business goals is more and more the norm. It's more challenging when you're an international company because you have different business objectives.

    Mitchell. I am a firm believer that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I think our company has stumbled around with teamwork, and a large part of it is driven by people kind of stuck out in these tiny mill towns without a lot of communication. People would not do what I asked them because I wasn't married to their cousin, but I adjusted.

    Dent. We have got the unique abilities working pretty well and our unique team is gelling nicely, but we are still working on this unique process. Last year I turned over the staff by 80%, and that is a lot of change in 1 year. So I recognize that this year is going to be a year of growth and development for everybody.

    Whewell. 4. In team work there is always some give and take. It is like a democracy, you have to all agree. But because of that, maybe some things that could be better don't happen because you are running out of time. With the time constraint you just have to stop debating all of the issues.

    Bechtold. 4. We are still learning how to do these and do them effectively. Also, people have still been territorial, and so we are trying to get them to work collaboratively which has taken some effort.

    On a scale of 1-5, how satisfied are you with the implementation performance of your department/division? 5=Very Satisfied, 1=Very Dissatisfied. Why?

    Sweeney. 4 - we do a lot of wonderful things, but not always for the right reasons or priorities.

    Howard. 4 - 80% of the time our department is on time and under budget ever since I've been here for the past 2 years. We're continuing to work and grow.

    Mitchell. 5. What we were and what we became and how much more there was to become since this merger - it is phenomenal.

    (So this coaching was really the pivotal point in the turn around of your department?) No, it was a combination of a viewpoint and driving that viewpoint home, and making what that viewpoint meant tangible. Again it was that viewpoint of marketing leads, marketing doesn't sit and wait for someone to come and tell them what to do. It was a combination of that philosophy - and coaching was a good portion of it - but it certainly wasn't a majority of it. Coaching was just a tool.

    Dent. 3. I need to get things out of my head and onto the shoulders of everybody else so that they can grow the way they need to. They know part of the picture, we now know their unique abilities, but we may not have everything totally worked out on everybody's roles. There is still some work to be done there because of the newness.

    (Have there been occasions when, implementing these new procedures and goals, you said "that's wrong for us?") Yes, and that is where the feedback of a team works and why this process is going to take a little time and be constantly revised. It may sound great while nodding our heads around the table, and then we implement it and it is not right and needs to be modified. I would never consider it to be so cut in stone that you could not change it. I am a big believer in at least developing a process that can be modified rather than having no process at all or waiting for the perfect one to land in your lap, because it won't.

    Whewell. 5. I have worked for other companies and the amount of work that we get accomplished here is phenomenal for only having 4 people on the team.

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  14. Here's a scenario: Let's say you plan to launch a new product in a couple of months. Sales wants it yesterday, production now says you can have it in 6 months; meanwhile the advertising agency wants to move in 1 direction but the market research team advises something different. Your staff is stretched to the limits because of budget cuts and layoffs. How do you handle this scenario?

    Howard. This happens a lot to companies. This is a problem of organizational constraints and conflicting priorities. There's a business imperative in mind, but you have to connect back to what you're capable of doing and to the core constraints. Every organization has aspirational priorities - gotta get this in now - well, supply chain has the final say: you've got critical path realities and you've got to have people aligned behind the economic realities and enabling capacities to make that new product idea a reality. So you've got constraints, you've got critical path realities in your ability to do it, and you've got to get people aligned around the outcome. And you need to be able to serve that up [e.g., to the company president] to get the organization to understand the practical limitations to aspiration in new product development. For example, when you've got a sales force that says we've got to do something in 90 days, and supply chain says 180 days until it's ready, and enabling -your marketing department or whatever - says that there are 2 or 3 other problems that create capacity constraints, you say: going forward, what are the key constraints of this project, both from an enabling resources standpoint and from a fact-based supply-chain standpoint? You need to allow our president, in this case, to understand what those constraints are and understand if there are options that allow you to accelerate the timing; and, if there aren't, you have to go back and say, "Okay, this is the realistic expected time frame for when we'll have product that we can get to our customers." That's the way you have to work it, you work backwards from there. I'm not giving you a specific product, but there've been many times when sales demands, supply chain demands, and whatever enabling services or packaging design or capacity are not able to sync up. So you have to go back and then you provide options for the organization: how much time and money do you want to spend against getting it launched on an accelerated basis and is that even feasible. If not, then people will have to live with the timing available, based on the best-case project development plan.

    Mitchell. Marketing has to come in and figure out a common ground. Bottom line, it is marketing's responsibility to solve it.

    (What is the basis for finding the common ground?) Lets take sales, giving people information so that common ground can be found. Explaining to sales why they can't have it tomorrow because whatever - it has not been through the shelf life test yet or we have not passed FDA approval. Likewise the R&D department: maybe 6 months is too long, what can we do to shorten it up. But ultimately too I think marketing has to throw the stake in the ground and make an informed call about what is going to be the common ground and lay that out and explain why. Again with the advertising agency, people can whine for months and if they are not meeting in the middle, then I think once again marketing has to make the call.

    (If people are going off in 5 different directions why has that happened in the first place?) With leadership people don't get in that situation or to that extreme that you described. You manage so that you don't have those extreme points. You teach, you inform, you get information, you problem solve on small problems before things swell up and you get into that situation that you described where everyone is off in their own world. The key to that is communication and shouldering responsibility and a little bit of that is teaching people.

    Adkins. With sales you have to explain that we are running late and explain that they do not want a product that is not ready. The last thing sales wants is a product that gets into the market and does not perform properly. It is usually at the end of the project that there is a lot of testing going on, so tell them you want to get proper testing and they will agree that they don't want it until it is working right and they don't want it if we don't have enough in inventory. If you try to start selling it and you don't have any to sell you get everybody lathered up. You tell production that they have to have a sense of urgency and by that time the financial plan reflects the fact that you have this new product. Production is under a lot of heat from management anyway because they are counting on the additional income. Hopefully the ad agency doesn't get too demanding, because you are the customer; and the market research people just have to make their case saying they have good competitive information. Ad people can get too caught up in the look; I stay away from the ad agencies. They are more interested in winning awards for a cool brochure design; they are not going all out for the client. You have to tell them to calm down, we don't have to go with all of this stuff.

    (I get the sense that this happens a lot. Why?) There is a lack in the product development arena. It is only recently that people have even recognized that product development is a business process just like new sales and manufacturing processes. People tend to think of it as a project. Every project is new and unique so you get into all of these problems. It wasn't until we started making it a process that it became really successful.

    Dent. I would use that Strategy Circle and I would ask that a representative from each entity in that scenario be present and not leave until they can come up with the common goal. It is an insolvable problem the way that it is stated right now because everyone is in it for himself or herself. The only way that you can do that is to find some way to have consensus.

    (You are familiar with small and large Cincinnati companies and the diversity of products and services that they offer. Do you think what you have learned and adapted from the Strategic Coach program is something that any of these companies should apply?) Yes, you can go onto to find out more about what they do, but the program is nothing new and other people do something similar. The fact that they continuously focus on this unique ability and your unique process ends up later developing products that we will sell. So to move it into a product line sounds really interesting to me and as a creator the part that I am going to enjoy a lot is developing products. They will probably be knowledge-based products that deal with our industry that I feel there is a market for and perhaps I'll do a seminar or two and get a buzz going about it. One that I will be doing is on a different way to hire people for small businesses because I think not enough time is spent hiring people to begin with and there starts the whole problem. I have mapped out a skeleton of what this knowledge product will be like, but it would apply to anybody. We are all people and it doesn't matter how many machines you have. If they don't like what they are doing then you have the wrong human being in that part and it affects the attitudes of everyone around you.

    Whewell. I would pull together the key players from all of the areas. If market research was telling me one thing and the creative agency was telling me another, I would follow the marketing research. If sales wanted it yesterday, I would push production to try to get it earlier than 6 months. Our department would do everything possible, even if we were crunched we would work harder to get it done. I would bring those people together and talk out everything that we needed to accomplish and to overcome their objections and get a promise from them as far as what they could deliver being that it was so important. If I was not getting the agreement that I wanted then I would go to upper management and see how they felt about it and see if they were willing to talk to those key players.

    (Where does accountability come into all of this?) That is why I think the individual goals are very important. If you are coming down to how well did Gwen do, or what is she accountable for, it comes down to those particular goals. Otherwise it is still that the marketing group did not follow through. Well, there is really not one single person to hold accountable for that. Accountability is key when it comes to these kind of projects and that is where it comes to putting together the time lines and budgets, and if they are not met, then that is where it comes down to accountability.

    Bechtold. I am taking this from a line perspective. You generally have a brand manager who pulls the various functional heads for the project into a room. You sit down and say what are the constraints, what is the upside potential and what resources are needed for that upside potential, and try to hear from each of the functional groups what the opportunities and limits are. There has to be a leader in that to pull it together and say, okay, we have these options, and this is what we would be recommending as the first option. Then you go to the sponsor or the manager for that and say this is where the team is at, here is the upside and the constraint, here are the different options, and here is the recommendation. A lot of times you will come up with a solution that none of the individual functions would come up with. But if everyone lays their cards on the table you can come up with a solution that meets the need to get it to market ASAP because competition is coming, but allows parts supply time to produce.

    (Marketing knows what the consumer wants, sales knows what retail demands. So there will be tension between them) Yes, that is why I think a lot of it depends on developing the relationships with that team, so that every one puts on the table what they think the drivers are, what are the strengths, what are the opportunities. Your sales person might say if we take this approach, the retailers are going to get behind it a little bit, and if we take this approach they are going to get behind it a lot, and what could that difference mean in terms of opportunity and what impact does that have on timing. It is a lot of things and you have to put them together.

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