US / Australia – American Chamber Event

Hon. John Berry, US Ambassador to Australia
I had the opportunity to attend the American Chamber event with The Hon. John Berry, U.S. Ambassador to Australia.
The event was full and hosted at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.   The focus of the event was to discuss American and Australia current relationship and explore opportunities for collaboration and business partnership.
Several US business representatives shared their success stories partnering with Australian companies.   The insights and motives for the partnerships all differed, but each saw strategic gains from their respective business case study they shared.
The speakers are highlighted on the agenda below:
The keynote was from Ambassador John Berry.   He opened with a personal story of his father’s WWII experience with the 1st Marine Division on Gradual Canal and his units deployment to Australia after that campaign.   The story told of the deep US / Australian alliance throughout WWII and set the stage of continued cooperation into today.  As my father also served in the 1st & 3rd Marine Divisions in WWII this was a great opportunity for me to talk with the Ambassador during the networking session of the event.  His presentation also outlined the strong cultural alignment between the two nations and the history of both government and business partnerships.   He commented on the business case studies and how they modeled what was possible.   He also emphasized on how Australia was, in many cases,  a better place for US businesses to begin going global and Australia’s strong ties to business connections in Asia as a good partner to help enter those markets.  Lastly, he emphasized Australia’s interest in investment in the USA.
This was a very strategic meeting for me in terms of making good connections with the both US chamber and trade organizations in both the USA and Australia.   The work I’m doing in developing innovation ecosystems today spans business, government, entrepreneurial and infrastructure investment opportunities.   Already this work is spanning investment partners from the USA, Europe, and Asia,  so the opportunities to build partnerships with Australia is great timing.
See more event images in the gallery

Branding Workshops Part II – Internal Focus


Word Cloud Strategic Planning

Branding is many times looked at a marketing exercise senior executives should consider that the work of defining one’s vision mission and values lays a strong foundation when looking at the implications for building internal culture and process.  Starting at the top of the strategic planning hierarchy,  brand can set the vision set the tone and compass for that the organization will take.  The work is only beginning at this point as a further and more in-depth look must be taken for mapping values across the organization.   Many values based analysis tends to stay at the brand level and speak to the overall values to convey in the marketing.  Having individual departments conduct their own values exercise is a great way to understand how different areas of the business see themselves within the organizational structures.  At the center of this methodology that Cheval Partners uses are exercises to help team and managers conduct value identification and prioritization.

Many interesting insights come out of the exercise:

  1. There are usually vast differences between functional areas.   This would be natural to expect as some are focused on customer service,  others on operational aspects and some focused on building new areas of the business.   This should be looked at as health as each group has its own focus.   What is critical is to start to define value chains within the organization and begin to understand when values or standard operating procedures are in conflict with the overriding values of the entire chain.
  2. Study different levels of the management hierarchy.   Is their alignment to purpose or conflict.   This can be a good indicator that the incentive models in the organization are created correctly or have become more political than mission based. A shiny mission statement about teamwork does not fix a culture of infighting.
  3. A close look must be paid to management values and team values.   Many times the root cause when managers are focused on politics are tuned into that conversation and missing the team is aligned on the mission.   This is where the danger of a culture where managers are only working to please their boss and climb to the next level creates the most conflict.   Leaders need to focus their managers on supporting the team’s mission and through that success be rewarded.
  4. When values are in conflict,  one has to establish ground rules for value basing ( or debasing).    A simple example are two teams in a value chain that are focused on speed vs. quality or depth of service vs. market growth.   In most cases general 80/20 policies can help guide teams in mainstream decisions.   Its when the exception comes along that escalation to leadership needs not only a decision, but the directives to how both teams will receive mutual benefits, especially for the team that might have to concede in some way or metric to the greater good.   It is in these times  of exceptions that culture is built and cross-team collaboration can be celebrated
  5. Value base shifts.  In a time where markets are driving rapid innovation and agility, values are also subject to change.  Now that said,  core values do not change!   I’m talking about the shift of focus and values of teams in various functions of the organization that are undergoing change.   Long standing and successful teams build a conviction behind their values and past successes.  It is important to re-address what the value shifts may be explicitly during times of change.

With a the values exercise in place and constantly managed.  An organization is now ready to begin process and governance phases of organizational design or change.   Branding can be a powerful catalyst around identify,  but making the organization align to deliver on the brand promise is even a greater challenge.    I will dive into more details of the values based exercises and then move into dynamic governance models in future blogs.

Branding Workshops Part I


I was part of team going through global branding for a large scale North American company who had engaged the agency Yamamoto.   An impressive team of agency creatives,  corporate employees, and external advisors participated.  Branding for multi-cultural application was quite extensive.   This work eventually led to thematic branding considerations through several lenses both internal, external and customer centric.  The end result developed everything from brand naming, symbols, iconography, and color palette one should not consider that to be the end to building a culture that supports the brand.  This was a great experience,  but now begins the internal work of aligning the company.

—– What’s next ?   Read part II


FEDA / Harvard Cluster Studies Follow Up


I had a follow up to the Cluster Analysis kick off hosted at the UMN last September 2014.  Joining me on the call was the MN Director of innovation and we where exploring partnership opportunities around the collection of economic data in both the public data and innovation space.   My particular interest was in capturing addition data around innovation centers the full lifecycle of start-up maturation on a regional level.   Though partnerships with centers and through integration with public data sources  we could get a level deeper in the economic activity happening in the corporate and entrepreneurial areas.  By building on the standards already set forth in the cluster analysis we hope to define the next level of data in this area so that all regions could capture data consistently for analysis.   We are looking to develop analytics for the health and activity within clusters around the time, cost, and progress made by start-ups and corporate innovation initiatives.  The innovation centers provide a great base where much of this activity is happening and can be one of key sources of data for the overall model.   I’ve been working with economist and other data analytics specialists to develop economic data models to this end and identifying the public, private, and NGO data partnerships that could provide valuable in a integrated data capture strategy.