PDMA Event @ Whiteboard


I attended the March 22 PDMA event hosted at Whiteboard this month.   The guest speaker was Bill Farmer who spoke about the history of management paradigms of Taylorism vs. Demming models.  He brought both into today’s challenges of innovation and product development.  The talk began with the history of both approaches and how the United States became entrenched in the Fredrick Taylor model of hierarchal business management through a scientific method approach.  Taylorism focuses on breaking work down into repetitive processes and steps so they can be taught, managed and evaluated.  The primary goal is efficiency.  Many of the early driving forces initially came from labor-intensive industries of agricultural and manufacturing.  Eventually, the scale of the industrial revolution spread this management approach.    The world wars also played a large role due to their scale and broad application of the hierarchical command and control needs of the military across all the industries that supported the effort.  The end result of over ~150 years of the implementation of Taylorism resulted in it becoming institutionalized across business, education, and generations of people in the United States.   The Taylor method is attributed to the rise and building of America’s success in the 20th century.   In the aftermath of World War II,  many of the industrial bases of other countries were decimated.  Japan, in particular, was rebuilt directly by the United States and led by the efforts of Edward Demming.   He was able to implement a different methodology based on his work that sought engage works in the development of higher quality and methods of production.  This leveraged the experience and insights that the workforce had and empowered them to improve the overall system.   The Demming model is attributed to the rise of post-war Japan into a manufacturing super power.  Management experts, like Peter Drucker, grew up and studied in the Taylor model of America and were huge proponents of its approach in success.   Later in his career Drucker experienced the rise of the digital technology, the internet, and the knowledge worker.   All of which was transforming industry and challenging the management paradigm of Taylorism because skills, roles, and work where becoming very dynamic vs. pure repetition.   In today’s innovation economy the knowledge worker’s role is both creative and increasingly dynamic in terms of skils and multitude of roles they play within organizations.  Though Drucker felt that the America had been built with Taylorism in the 20th century,  it would not work in the 21st century.   The Demming model was more applicable to constant improvement and change.   The talk also included examples of both models in operations and the cultural challenges inherint.   It also had audience members participating in role playing excersizes to demonstrate principles more experiencially.

Event Description
20th Century Process-Thinking limitations are being overcome by a management shift to Systems-Thinking. The holistic considerations of Systems-Thinking provide operational flexibility, feedback and learning as key parts of development, and a superior environment for knowledge work success in the fast-paced Information Age. This brief presentation, that kicks off our networking mixer, will make the distinction between the two approaches clear and inform you why and how to evolve your team towards Systems-Thinking.

Key Takeaways
Add Value Through a Systems-based Approach:
Productivity and Employee Engagement
Responsiveness to External Change
Sustaining Improvements
Improvements Generated at All Organizational Levels
Introduction to a Tool that Accelerates the Shift to a Systems Approach
Demonstration of an Exercise to Provoke Collaborative Imagination

See more images at the Cheval Innovation Gallery




Intersection of Product Mgmt, Prod Dev, and Data Analytics


I attended the February PDMA event hosted at Optum.   The Minneapolis chapter had arranged both a tour of the Optum facility and a panel discussion on the intersection of Product Management, Product Development, and Data Analytics.   The event started with a networking session while tours were conducted.   The tour featured several customer showcase areas.  The first was visiting a large digital analytics command room that was several stories tall and covered in monitors with real-time information showing a vast amount of healthcare related actives across the united states.  This room could be used to monitor the outbreaks and spreading of disease and the activities of the healthcare providers.   It allows Optum to actively support the healthcare system with early identification of trends and coordination of activities.  We headed into a detailed analytics room that featured individual station with large interactive touch screens.  Our tour guides took use through numerous analytics scenarios with real-time drill down into trends,  treatments, and member services that were possible with the depth of data they have been able to integrate and create the capabilities to explore and interact with data.   This section of the tour concluded in a large surround screen video experience around the future of healthcare.
The event continued with the panel discussion featuring 6 panelists ranging from corporate to consultants with various backgrounds in the product and analytics spaces.   With an audience size around 100 people, they did some polling and it saw a split between attendees being more on the product side vs. pure data scientists.    The panel also talked briefly about the 5 eras of product development that was broken out accordingly:
  1. Create a product in isolation and push it out through advertising
  2. Customer focus groups
  3. Lean / Design Thinking / Customer Discovery
  4. Data Science
  5. Now we need to integrate 3 & 4
It was highly stressed that many data projects fail and the root cause is the lack of defining what value you want to get out of the data up front.  Meaning you have to define the questions you are trying to answer before getting lost in analysis.   While data analysis can also discover anomalies and trends along the way,  that should be secondary to understanding what you are trying to learn from it.  The questions also help define the “right” data you want vs. getting overwhelmed with studying “all” the data.   In the end, your looking for the problem that your product/service can solve,  not the offering itself in the data.
I look forward to attending more events and more networking!
Learn more about PDMA (http://www.pdma.org/minnesota)
Photo Galleries:

St. Thomas Risk Leadership Program


I had the opportunity to meet with Faculty from the University of St. Thomas Opus School of Business to discuss the work I have been doing in corporate innovation and in the area of building regional innovation ecosystems.   The meeting also gave me a chance to learn more about the school’s new programs and actives in the area of Risk Leaders.   The initial meeting identified a wide number of areas of interest and overlap in these areas of work with future meetings planned to explore synergies.
Check out Risk Leadership ( https://www.stthomas.edu/risk_leadership/ )
**** Update:
Cheval Partners now has a team member on the Risk Leadership Advisory Board
Photo Galleries:

Online Education Platforms

9e2e0990-b941-4ff6-90d8-d3ba2542f487I participated in the CxO roundtable webinar focused on Online Education Platforms.   The conversation was a great sharing of experiences of various universities experiences evaluating and using these platforms to support their online education programs.   I have had multiple exposures to designing programs for online platforms from working at the university to the consulting I have done with universities building programs around innovation centers and regional cluster development.    There is an overwhelming need to build global education communities that can extend the reach of their offerings to students and workforces internationally.   Online programs are both in demand and liked by students/workers that want the flexibility and non-geographic limitations of access to training.
The platforms primarily being discussed on this call ranged from:
  • BlackBoard – Ultra
  • Canvas
  • Moodle
  • D2L Bright Space
Challenges range from:
  • Evaluation
  • Funding
  • Training internal staff
  • Culture shift of faculty
  • Metrics and measurement – definition of success
  • Looking ahead to where today’s trends are heading
The institution on the call are in the early adoption and learning phases being only a few years into their pilots.  Current challenges are similar and tactical in nature.  The conversation will pivot past the “how to” stage and into considering that the full potential and reach of these platforms will vastly exceed the brick and mortar aspects of the institutions that they implement in.
Some key aspects they will need to address in the coming years will be:
  • How institutional funding for new programs will be shifting to online
  • Designing hybrid programs that blend with experiential learning
  • Incorporating cutting edge industry practitioners to assure that online programs remain relevant and updated
  • Running dependable 24/7 IT at global scale ( with what partners)
  • Building retaining the online community past just the courseware
  • Building new strategic partnerships across the globe to create world class / aggregated curriculum
  • Redefining what degree means when your education is coming from many institutions
  • Building students along side workforce
  • Making lifelong learning central to the programs.   Not just the basics, but constant indusry relevancy
  • etc.
These strategic aspects are also at the center of conversations are the development of innovation centers that integrate with many universities and industry partners.   The shift is moving in the direction where the gap between university and industry training is closing and education needs to be integrated directly into the innovation ecosystem of industry and workforce development.


Ignite 2016 Innovation Conference

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I was a speaker at the Ignite 2016 Innovation event hosted at the Lafayette Country club on January 29th.  The half day event was well attended by a mix of corporate executives and leaders of SMB businesses.   Innovation was the central theme, but the diversity of speakers approached the subject from a broad spectrum and from different aspects of corporate, start-up, academic, and basic design thinking.  The event was conducted in a TEDx format with networking breaks and activities integrated to engage and connect the attendees.   The speakers primed the conversations of the day with rich topics and great ideas that attendees discussed.   Many of the event sponsors where innovative businesses or vendors that where working in different aspects of the innovation space.   Some of the speakers shared case studies of work they have been doing with corporations expanding their impact in the corporate social responsibility areas of innovative thinking and community impact.
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My talk focused on lessons learned from working with 1000s of corporations to start-ups in the innovation space.   I walk through examples of approaches and outcomes companies have taken including building internal practices,  integration to core teams or skunk works efforts,  engaging external agencies, etc.    I also talked about developing key capabilities to support innovation that included:  Business Architecture, Technology Architecture, Organizational Architecture and XRM ( Extended Relationship Management ).   I explored the integration of these four capabilities around a central innovation practice and what the key aspects of integration and exchange where between these groups.  I also should how these new capabilities tied to the strategic planning process.   This was a high level overview of the mPatherfinder(TM) methodology developed at Cheval Partners over the past two decades+ of engagements and experiences at CSC, Microsoft and UMN.
This methodology is directly focused on new innovation capabilities that organizations can develop and mature in an interactive process to help them compete in a dynamic & global business environment of today’s business landscape.
mPathfinders Image
Future posts on this  blog will go into the overall methodology more in depth over the coming year to show the depth and breadth of the mPatherfinder capabilities, so stay tuned.
Some on my Q&A:
· What great leadership or innovation means to you
One measure of a leader is to look at the impact they have made to their team that is following them.   Leadership is not simply pointing the way, but developing the team to meet the challenges that lay ahead.  Because in the end, its all about the people.
· Current or upcoming work/seminars/books you want attendees to know about you
Actively working with corporations on innovation practices and partnering with economic development companies working to create innovation centers in several US cities.
·  What does Innovation mean to business today.
Companies are learning what Innovation practices encompass and what it means to compete at the level required in today’s business.     As innovation simply becomes a standard practice of business, like IT or accounting,  it will be another set of corporate capabilities that will be considered a part of normal business.
·  An action attendees can take during or after listening to you
 Ask your teams what innovation means to them and what challenges they already see in the organization to become more agile.  Engage your people in building the organization of the future.
Ignite2016 Agenda
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Ignite 2016 Speaker
B David Williams
For more images of the event and other speakers explore the gallery

International Trade / MN Governor Trade Mission



One of my product development initiatives at the university was around creating services for supporting international B2B joint ventures and strategic alliances.   We have been doing direct 1:1 education and consulting to corporations directly to support their international business development objectives.    These would be long running engagements providing education, coaching, international networking, building business models,  etc, etc.    It was during this time period that the Governors Trade Mission to Mexico was underway and I was asked to attended. This mission would be from August 9 – 14th and be visiting Mexico City and Guadalajara with multiple meetings in each location.   We also meet with many of the planners and share our current activities and serves to re-imagine what might be possible during a trade mission and how to support the mission directly and the ongoing business afterwards.

We separated the initiative into four distinct phases based on a time horizon.   The first three phases where trade mission centric focusing on the pre, during, and post mission activities.   The four phase would be really be offering these durable business services to the public in an ongoing model to build and continue the international relationships and accelerate the ongoing exchange of business between the regions.
(Image: Activities by time phase)
Pre-Mission Activities
  1. Pre-Mission Webinars:  Drive Awareness & Recruitment (MN/MX) B2B in Mexico Briefing:
  2. Event for Attendees to drive deeper into doing business and exporting to Mexico (MN) Attendee
  3. Profiles:  UMN Created profiles of attendees for pre-mission distribution. (MN/MX)
  4. Joint Fund Raising:  Explore Mission sponsors,  attendees, and interested firms. (MN/MX?)
Trade-Mission Activities
  1. UMN channels will publish a TBD: “International Business with Mexico” Article and highlight the trade mission. (MN)
  2. Host a TBD: “International Business with Minnesota” (MX)
  3. Host B2B Business Development Session (MX)
  4. Provide B2B Assessments (MX)
  5. Host Academic Networking Event in Mexico(MX)
Post-Mission Activities
  1. Joint Press Release (MN/MX)
  2. Publish Activity Report (MN/MX)
  3. On Going Joint Venture Services (MN/MX)
On-going Activiites
  1. Letter from Governor (MX)
  2. UMN Business in Mexico Article (MN)
  3. Host Int. Biz in MN / Emersion Event (MN)
  4. B2B Networking Sessions (MN/MX)
  5. International MN/MX B2B Report (MN/MX)
  6. Annual International Report (MN/MX)
  7. Joint Press Release (MN/MX)
( Image services )
The images gives a few examples of services based on timeframes.   Given there is a large number of services available, I would summarize the services portfolio by several major categories that could be use to corporations, academic and government institutions on both sides of an international relationship.
  • Networking: This category of services represents the development and maintenance of two way relationships between the regions.   This is intended to be a proactive effort to have developed networks prior to the need to accelerate the speed at which connections can be made.   This effort also builds various advisory boards in advance to help coach and mentor parties through the process of international opportunities.
  • Marketing:  Regional joint marketing is also a key set of activities to help both regions keep abreast of events,  business partnerships, market trends, etc.    Basic open communication and awareness.
  • Market Profiles:  Data collection on industries, companies, institutions, market trends, political trends, economic trends, etc.
  • Events:  These are planned and reoccurring trade events.   Includes registration and facilitated sessions.
  • Business:  These are deeper services around Strategic Alliances and Joint ventures.   Evaluating partnerships,  strategic plans,  cultural training,  operations models,  communication, investment, etc.
  • Assessments: This is the data and metrics underpinnings of all the other services.   It is measuring all the activity and deals being done to build a base of metrics around time, cost, practices required to do this type of business between the respective regions and the overall impact that portfolio of business has created.
These international services could be used directly to support the trade mission or for any corporation in general looking to build international business opportunities.   The long term goal would for these processes and services to be running on going for all regional business to plug into as they needed to accelerate their international business objectives.    It would also keep the relationships active between Minnesota and other key regions around the globe,  again speeding the ability to network interested businesses in both directions.

Innovation Discussions with Pentagon / DOD


I was one of twelve members invited to a meeting with a top innovation consultant at the Pentagon.    His mission was visiting cities in the USA meeting with innovation leaders and defense contract companies.  Both my work in innovation at Microsoft and the University of Minnesota provided rich content for the discussion.
The Pentagon / DOD is interested in several key topics:
  1. What are the current challenges and improvements that need to be made to the defense contracting processes to speed innovation
  2. How can the federal government say more plugged into innovations across all market sectors
  3. What are future trends in innovation from a corporate, government, and academic perspectives.
The initial topic delved deeper into the challenges MN defense contractors are having in the current system.   Much of the difficulty centered around funding programs not being efficient or timely enough to support the speed of business and innovation.  Many of the processes and systems are not well integrated and communication and feedback is poor throughout the process.
The second topic I presented on the work of developing innovation ecosystems and the best practices we where finding looking at innovation center development around the globe.   This model would provide both the portfolio level data of innovation by sector that could help map areas of federal programs to private sector advancements.   It would also proved a platform in which federal programs could fund prioritized areas of innovation through the network of centers & services they provide.
The discussion also included dialogue around future trends.   My role at Microsoft, as a strategy advisory, across so many companies and international projects provided me an opportunity to share many of the business and innovation practices I had scene in the past decade.   There are many cultural differences that span how innovation in both the public and private sectors.   Also is the nature of global business competition and the diversity of approaches and funding that other nations must explore in order to compete against today’s leading companies.   One of the key aspects is the work we are doing in the area of co-opition and how that model of collective innovation both accelerates the scale of innovation through support of a larger ecosystem of services, but also the competitive advantage individual companies still can attain while participating in more collaborative models.   Much of this discussion has factored into the designs of the future innovation centers and regional ecosystem models being current proposed for development in North America.
This was the beginning of a much larger dialogue that has continued with our initiatives as federal agencies.