Closing The Loops For Business Gains

Full transcript below:

Heatherly Bucher:

Hello, everyone, my name is Heatherly Bucher, and I am the Product Marketing Director at Arena Solutions, and I’ll be the moderator for today’s session. On behalf of Arena, I’d like to welcome everyone. For our customers watching this event through our Arena Event platform, this is the seventh in our series on “Get More Done” that we’ve been hosting over the past month.

For our future customers joining us via the Zoom event, welcome. We don’t normally open our customer events to our future customers. However, today we wanted to share this session as Dan and Ken have valuable lessons learned, and experiences that will benefit you no matter what systems you’re using today, or plan to use in the future.

We do have a few quick housekeeping items before we get started. So, I will take you to that. We will have a short Q&A at the end of our panel discussion. If you have a question for our panelists, please get your questions in early. For our customers joining via the live stream broadcast, in our Arena Events platform, you can ask questions for our panelists through the Ask a Question panel, which you’ll find to the right of the broadcast window.

For our future customers joining us today in the Zoom webinar, please use the Zoom Q&A feature to ask any questions you may have. For our customers, an exciting feature of the “Get More Done” event series has been our #notyournormalswag giveaways. We are doing it again today at the end of the event. Future customers, we apologize, but you aren’t eligible today. But when you join as a customer, you would be eligible for giveaways at our events we do in the future.

And finally, before we introduce our two customer panelists, and the topic, I want to make everyone aware that our panelists are graciously sharing their experience and opinions, not necessarily speaking for their companies in any official capacity. With that, let’s get started. Today we’re talking about, what does it take to close the gaps in processes throughout the business? How do we remove silos and ensure a culture of communication and transparency? What do we need to do to ensure trust and compliance?

All product companies, no matter what industry, have product processes that span teams who all have different vested interests and objectives. And our panelists today have a wonderful range of experience, and I’d like to introduce them to you before we get into the questions. We have Ken Perino joining us. Ken has been in the medical device industry for over 27 years. He’s had a successful record in startups all the way to larger companies, implementing goals, objectives, policies, procedures, and systems pertaining to the quality function, including quality systems implementation, FDA ISO audit facilitation, regulatory compliance, regulatory submissions, and business systems implementations. And we’re so happy to have him here.

And then Dr. Ben Locwin. Ben is a healthcare futurist, and he’s worked for many top-tier pharmaceutical and medical device companies. In 2020, he’s been deeply involved in COVID-19 task forces at the state and federal levels, providing public health guidance and protocols, and assessing treatments that are within trials, as well as top vaccine candidates. He’s been widely featured in the media, including Forbes, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and others, and his current focus is getting medical device and pharmaceutical products to market at a higher velocity and quality. Thank you, Ken and Ben, both for joining us.

Ben Locwin:

Thank you.

Heatherly Bucher:

Let’s get started. Thanks. We’ve got our videos on, we’re in our proper 2020 Zoom video mode.

Ben Locwin:

Good to go.

Heatherly Bucher:

We’re good to go. So, I read First Round Review. I don’t know if you guys do. I love the First Round Review blog, from First Round Capital. And recently they had an article from the VP of Product and Strategy at Divvy, Tyler Hogge, and he shared that he does things differently with his products, and products and quality teams, in that he thinks products should be tasked with delivering business outcomes. He goes on to share what that means in practical terms, like product owning revenue-generating responsibilities, and risk management tasks. And he does this because he thinks it helps them avoid potential gaps or potholes of the company, and I kind of wanted to take that as a starting point.

What do you think companies and teams should do from the beginning? And if, like Tyler, you’re able to build a team from the beginning to avoid gaps in processes, or even if you’re building a whole company. What are the key things you would focus on? The structures, the culture, the systems, to get it right the first time, and avoid future problems?

Ben Locwin:

Who did you want to jump in on that?

Heatherly Bucher:

What do you think? Whoever wants to go first. What do you think, Ben?

Ken Perino:

Go ahead, Ben.

Ben Locwin:

Well, I if I take the question from where you started with Mr. Hogge’s article, his perception of the PM is really that of a business development role, I think. Having fiduciary accountability is one of the things that he talks about in the article, and how there are so many things involved in the PM schema, that normally people don’t think to be a part of it. I think having the financial ties can be an important incentivizer for a PM to look at all the aspects of a business. But, I think tracking and visual management of programs, and subordinate projects, and activities are the PMO’s major remit.

I think, in how I would design for a team, or for a company, to me it’s a lot about what design for Six Sigma, and Quality by Design have baked in, which is that the right process will deliver the right results, time after time. So, thinking about the intended goals and results is critical in my mind, first, to formulate the activities, or if we’re looking at the company-wide level, the divisions of the company that would have to be involved, in order to achieve desired outputs.

Designing the processes using process flow diagrams, to understand the start and end, the handoffs, inspection, or review steps, and the overall tack, which is the customer expectation time, and throughput capabilities. And whenever possible, I would recommend doing it visually, so everybody can see at the same time what’s going on and provide their input into the process design. And I think that’s why there are these types of maps called value stream maps in Lean, and they’re designed from the end customer, and you work backwards.

So, you start at the last step which interfaces with the end customer, and then you say, “What happens to get there?” And by working backwards, you keep everything closely aligned with customer expectations and desired outputs. I think it’s very easy to get extraordinarily myopic moving step-by-step in a forward flow direction, building in things that are unnecessary.

Sometimes poorly designed processes can be bandaged, or hidden, buttoned up by expert personnel. But I think, also, expertise isn’t a repeatable asset. And how one person approaches innovation, or problem-solving, isn’t how another one might. So, making sure that you have a repeatable process in place matters, I think, a lot to me here, and not relying on hope, is the critical key.

And then, probably to that end, once the process has been designed, it’s all about measurement. So, measuring the pilot activities, ongoing performance to ensure that any process improvements can be implemented, that you can properly characterize the outputs, and directionally move the team, the organization, the activities, whichever level you’re at, move it forward with efficiency, as well effectiveness.

Heatherly Bucher:

Oh, that’s great. I love working backwards from the end. And Ken, what do you think about what Ben shared, and then what do you focus on, when you start from the ground?

Ken Perino:

So, I think one thing to also have in your box of tricks a little bit, is understanding, if we’re in the medical field, we’re dealing with regulations, either the FDA regulations, ISO regulations, country-specific regulations. And so, in my experience, that seems to have been a purview of the quality department, or the regulatory department. And what I’ve tried to do throughout my career, is actually get those people that are in different departments but have a role in complying with the regulations. Purchasing, for example, or supplier management, those types of things.

Getting those people involved, and having them understand the regulations that they, in their department, need to comply with, and then helping them understand that there are nuances to the regulation. But the key is to have the simplest business process possible while meeting the regulations. That’s been the key, and I think Ben said the same, in a way. If you make a business process more complex, then that’s a choice, and you have to realize it’s a choice that you’re going to make.

There’s been plenty of times where I’ve been on, as part of a team flowing out of business process, working with them, and then people will have their previous experience from a different company, and they say, “Well, this is where we used to do it.” And then I would bring up the fact, “Well, that’s a little bit more than the regulation is requiring. So, let’s look at the reg, the reg calls for this, I know your experience, you were doing this, this, and this. We can do that here if we choose, for our business, but, it’s more than what the regulation requires.”

So that, I mean, if you have a very complex process on paper, and bring it into electronic system, now you have a complex process, and electronic system. So, getting back to Ben’s point, the metrics are very important. Again, the more complex the process, probably the more metrics you’re going to have, and that requires resources. So, keep that in mind. But also, any changes that you’re going to be looking at to do in the future.

It’s simple to make a simple process more complex, but making a complex process more simple is not very simple. I know it sounds like a word thing, but it’s not very simple to do that. Because now you’ve got resources, you’ve got procedures, you’ve got all these things set up for this complex process. And then you start taking the bricks away from the foundation, and everybody’s going, “Oh, my God, I’m feeling really shaky here.” So, start as simple as you can, is my … while meeting the regulations and the standards, of course.

No, that’s great. I think, like Ben said, focusing on the outcome, that you need to get to the metrics. I love the visualization ideas. And I was talking with another customer, I think, last week, the VP of engineering, and she shared one of her dreaded phrases was, “This is how we’ve always done it.” Right? Whenever. She was like, “Why did we make this? Why did we go down this road? Why do we make this process so complex?” And they’re like, “Well, this is how we’ve always done it.”

And that kind of leads to, if we move away from being able to build something from ground up, most of us don’t have that luxury, and we often have to just work with where we are, right? Where our teams, our processes are, whatever we stepped into when we stepped into that role of that company. And a few months ago, we had Tony Biros, who, is at Insulet as the Global Documentation Training Compliance Director, and he was on one of our events a couple months ago, like you, and he talked about how important buy-in is.

He said he felt like he spends a longer time getting all the stakeholders together, collecting input, getting buy-in, a longer time there, than it takes to implement any project in question. Whether it’s a system like Arena, or new process, or, he said even after you implement a system or process, he said he spends a tremendous amount of time when things get bumpy, or people want to make things too complex, or have problems with people adopting a new process or system. He says he feels like he’s always selling, basically, is what he said.

And it would be interesting to see, from both of you, if that’s been your experience. And then, what do you do? What are the kinds of tactics you’ve used within teams, and across with your peers, with the other teams to get the buy-in, right? To make big changes, whether it’s putting a new system in, or a new process, or just fixing things like trust? What have you done that works, and I don’t know if either of you have had any failures to share, but what do you do to get buy-in?

Ken Perino:

I can take this one, I think. So, there’s been a few times in my career when I’ve been hired to actually come in, and it’s either … it’s typically both. It might be the department that may not be working as efficiently or as successfully with other departments, and, or, it’s the tools that were put in place, that really aren’t scalable, or not working. If the company gets approval, FDA approval, and we need to scale, the current set of tools aren’t going to work.

So, both of those come with some challenges, and it’s around the people, and their experience. Right? So, I guess I’ve been successful in listening and listening and listening and listening some more. That’s, in my experience, that’s been the key. Because the pain points for each of the departments, for each of the people in those departments, is different. No matter how many companies we go work for, the pain points, and the actual problems within that department, are going to be a little bit different.

And so, being able to listen, and getting … what I try and do is get the larger team involved as well, in the department, say for instance, rather than just the manager, get the people, get the other people involved as well, because you really need to understand what everybody’s pain is, with that one process, or with that tool, if we talk about electronic tools. Then, been there more than a few times, where we need to replace the current tool. But there was such a bad taste in implementing that tool to begin with, everybody lost trust with all electronic tools, and they really just wanted to go back to paper.

And so that’s a hurdle to get over, but again, listening, understanding where they’re coming from, make sure they understand that you are there to help their process become more simple, that makes their job, their daily job easier. And then, an electronic tool showing them what a tool that is more geared to what they’re looking to do, to match their needs, what it looks like. Start small, and don’t go in there with the idea that they are going to be the process owner, and I’m going to help them run their process efficiently and more simple, perhaps using electronic tool, than they currently are, trying to take as much of their pain away as possible.

Ben Locwin:

Yeah, if I jump in here, it’s an interesting question and approach that Mr. [Biros] takes. What I’ll call processed-in by committee, having kind of the full democracy across the stakeholders, oftentimes I find is a recipe for disaster because you end up in more of a situation of groupthink, and what’s called this notion of Abilene paradox where nobody in the end really gets what they want, and everybody has settled.

And so, I think, it’s difficult, because for buy-in and participation, it depends on the change. So buy-in is, in my mind, not specifically required, but participation is always a must. Much like how Lexus, whose parent company Toyota, and Aston Martin, they don’t ask for my input in how to design their cars, or their process steps. And I don’t always want to strive for that level of agreement across unrelated functions in a company for every change, because then what it ends up doing is just bogging down the decision-making engine for everything across the organization.

I think Steve Jobs felt this way as well, to some degree, and he famously stated that the customer doesn’t really know what they want until we tell them. And I think it applies, by the way, to internal customers too. So the process should be, in my mind, designed, and developed, and deployed. So kind of the three Ds—design, develop, deploy—by those who own and oversee the process, and the results, back to measurement, they’re measured to see what impact they have, and the interaction with other functions.

For example, where the handoffs are, and then the beauty there is showing competitive metrics not only drives accountability, but the socio typical drive to persevere, just as in any competitive endeavor, you show what the other functions are doing maybe as part of this new, innovative approach, or undertaking for the company, and everybody sees how the metrics maybe all align, or are interrelated, and then you’ve got kind of a competition built in. And behind all of it, more so in my mind, in the buy-in, is trust and credibility. And I think the trust and credibility are the key facets that leaders can keep going back to the well and drawing on in times of organizational stress.

The flip side of that is losing trust and credibility means that all active participation engagement drops precipitously in the company across the board. So, it requires really nurturing the trust and credibility. So not asking every time for buy-in, but ensuring that there’s always an open conduit of communication, that you’ve got appropriate measures, and that you’re, again, designing with the end goal in mind.

Heatherly Bucher:

No, I think this is a great discussion. I mean, we’ve all seen kind of the paralysis-by-analysis situation, right? Where you spend way too much time in committees, and trying to get that buy-in. You get paralyzed. I think both of you, what I love doing, certainly my experience working with many, many companies over two decades, implementing complex tools to support the business processes, is about that participation that you talked about, Ben, and making sure people feel heard, I think, is really valuable.

That it’s, like you said, avoiding … getting their participation, showing the big picture, where everything’s going, and how their part fits into the whole, I think you both talked about that. I’ve often experienced, at least when I was active in visual teams, they often cannot articulate very well what happens before them, and after them in the process. So, it’s why what they do is really important at a bigger, macro level, and that in itself can help kind of de-escalate when they feel threatened, or encourage, like you talked, to trust.

I think the trust situation is key to getting everyone to come along and go along with the flow. And like you said, in the end, it’s not really a democracy. A company is not really a democracy. Although, I will say, I’ve worked with enough engineering teams that I feel pretty firm that engineers in particular, although I think other users in the organization can definitely shelfware almost any software, if they really don’t like it. But you want to avoid that situation.

This is great. So, we’re going to shift gears. I’ve been talking about communication a little bit, and going into building trust, and I think participation, and Ben, you had been a part of our innovation campaign early this year, it was before COVID-19 disrupted everything. I think it was December, January. Interestingly enough, you sort of quote, I think in our innovation campaigns, you talked about this award ribbon you have hanging, I guess probably in your office.

I don’t know if you brought it to your home office. But, this award ribbon that says, “I just survived another meeting that should have been an email.” And you felt like you had won that thousands of times over your career. And, of course, we all chuckle because we’ve all been in meetings that shouldn’t have happened or could have been a lot shorter.

Most of those meetings have gone virtual for a lot of us, and, I don’t know, I think it might actually have helped develop better meeting skills, I hope, these virtual meetings. But I kind of wanted to use that because I think you’re touching on a challenge, which is really effective communication, and what are some of the key things that you both have done to help teams effectively communicate the right details, at the right time, without holding kind of agendaless meetings, or long emails that nobody reads, or building … You touched about inflexible workflows Ken, to cover every case. But as leaders of teams, your teams watch you and model how you communicate. So, what do you do to kind of model the communication you want to have happen in your teams and across your teams?

Ken Perino:

Go ahead, Ben.

Ben Locwin:

Okay. I think as far as the ribbon, yeah, I did bring it home. I’m going to dig it up for you. And I feel like I’m still winning it every week. The virtual world of meetings amid COVID-19 has, unfortunately, manifested a new meeting lifestyle where it’s just so convenient to book WebEx or Zoom meetings for everyone at a moment’s notice and then expect that they’ll all participate. So, through the course of a day, every 30-minute time slot becomes fair game for people to just randomly book.

Unfortunately, I think to me, the nexus of the problem is that good innovation doesn’t occur in 30-minute increments. So, somebody might say, “Oh, Ben has a 30-minute slot at 2:30 today that’s free.” And they book me, and I’m supposed to be prepared and on the ball to have innovation floweth from the meeting. And it just doesn’t work that way.

I think the new virtual meeting structure that we’re all living has taken a huge bite out of innovative capacity within companies, in so far as companies that have allowed employees to free think. And that’s why, way back when, decades ago, 3M had purposely built-in time every day for their engineers to free think, and allow them to daydream, and come up with new ideas, and it cannot happen when we’re constantly interrupted by a string of online meetings each day. So, the short answer is, I think in one way, it’s gotten worse.

The only upside is it’s not requiring everyone to commute into the office to co-locate and be held hostage in the same room. We can all be held hostage from our respective homes on Zoom. But the other thing too, that kind of concerns me with the situation, is the sharing of nonverbal cues. So, even with video, like when schools went remote, to remote learning, and with COVID-19, those who were able to do remote, it was a bridge, and it was the first time it was done on such a large scale.

But I think, even though that’s provided a lot of tech avenues that never existed before, and it was in some ways great, in a lot of other ways it was not so great because we know that from a psychological and neurocognitive perspective that over 80% of the content in a discourse between individuals is nonverbal cues. So, even with video, things like, is the other person diaphoretic? Are they fidgeting? Those things are largely unseeable. Are they twitching their foot? Which is maybe a social cue that I have to wrap this meeting up, or whatever?

I think there’s a lot that you lose with video. And, I don’t know. I think as far as how should these all be run? I think the idea of forcing agendas is an interesting one. People have come to expect that for any given meeting in the workplace, we’ve got agendas, but most people never pre-read agendas. And in life, the vast, vast majority of all of our discussions don’t have an agenda. So, it’s not something that human beings have evolved to require. So, I don’t think agendas are always necessary.

It is okay to just bounce ideas off one another, in an informal way, as you might with friends or family. So, also having this notion that, I’ve got an online meeting, I’ve got to set up video with the call, and have to have an agenda for it. It becomes a structure that is not really how humans are necessarily designed to communicate. So, I think we’re making do with what we have, and what we can do, but it’s not 100% optimal.

Heatherly Bucher:

That’s fascinating. Ken, yeah. What do you think?

Ken Perino:

Well, I would agree 100%. I mean, we were talking about this before we went live, that I don’t think … even though we’re able to do this, we’re able to get a lot of work done, there’s a lot of the social interaction that is missing. And with that, comes more challenges. Like Ben was saying, yeah, you’re always on, meaning you’re sort of always available. So, for those quick little things, “Hey, can we talk real quick?” Yeah, this has been a great help. However, it’s hard to get your work done, the work that you have to get done from all of these meetings when you’re continually in all of these meetings, and they just pop up all the time.

I guess what I was thinking about when I was thinking about this question was, rather than having an agenda, some of the meetings have a purpose that I think people innately get. I’m talking about the metrics type meetings. “Hey, every week we’re going to go look at the complaints, and the CAPAs, and this and that.” And those people that get invited, they have topics that they need to talk about. So, that’s very much more targeted, and I think people sort of, “Okay, I get this, I know what I’m doing here, and I can provide value.”

The other ones where, like I said, you’re constantly just … you’re constantly pulled away from trying to do something, innovate on something, or whatnot, it’s a challenge. And maybe we just, we try and group those into, “Hey, let’s set some time aside each week.” And for an hour on Thursdays, or something, and that’s the time where we take care of those. And if there’s nothing that week, there’s nothing that week. So, this has definitely been a different challenge that we’re all dealing with, for sure.

Ben Locwin:

Yeah, agreed. I did pull the ribbon. Here it is.

Heatherly Bucher:

Hey, there it is. It’s a real ribbon. I love it. I love that it’s a real ribbon. I think this is fascinating, because having worked mostly virtual for 20 years in my career, I found, and I think my peers who have been mostly in the office, and all of a sudden gone home, talking with other people who have spent their career mostly virtual, the cadence, the shift, where you were talking about, both of you, where people are just now calling, because of course you’re not … they’re used to being right there at the cubicle, or to walk over.

And so, they do that now, but virtually, but because they’re home, what I found was fascinating for me is that prior to 2020, I had expectations about both my internal teams I work with at Arena, as well as the customers that I talked with. You would go home, and once you went home from the office, you usually weren’t trying to reach me, right? So I was like, “Oh, in California it’s past five, six o’clock.” Or even before, maybe they call me while they’re commuting home, and their commute of an hour and a half. But otherwise, once they’re home, they’re home.

But now we’re into, what’s fascinating to me is, the norms, the modes, and everything has shifted. So, it’s been very normal in 2020 for me to have both internal team, and even customers, texting, or calling, or emailing me at eight, nine, 10 o’clock at night, West Coast time, because their boundaries of when work happens has shifted too, right?

So not only is it kind of interrupt driven, and they just pick things up, but all of a sudden I’m like, “Why is somebody from product …” And expecting an answer, that was to your point Ken, or Ben, about coming up with something valuable to give them back, right? But they’re expecting an answer, because they can reach out, and they’re working at 10 o’clock at night from their couch, or whatever their situation is, because we all have these different schedules now.

So, it’s been very fascinating, and I do think I like your point about purpose, Ben, about purposes of meetings. I know, one of the most valuable meetings I have right now is actually with the product team, and we have it every week. There isn’t an agenda, really. But the purpose is to have a share. What’s going on across the product managers, across our quality, and validation team, our UX people, and then myself, from product, and customer marketing, and we just … it’s a round-robin share, but it’s probably one of my most valuable meetings, because the purpose was to see what’s going on, and how can we all connect, right? And it really gives me information that’s useful. But there’s no agenda, but it is a great … it’s actually one of the meetings I look forward to. So, I think those are great observations.

So, let’s shift gears just a little. We lost our slides. Oh, there we go. So, Ken, let’s talk a little about kind of systems, and implementing systems, and the approach. And you both have implemented many systems. I know, Ken, you’ve been at numerous companies that have utilized TLM and QMS systems, including Arena several times, but other systems previously, as well. And both of you know, we talked about gaps in processes. And usually when a company is looking to either put a system in, or replace an existing system, there’s often a lot of gaps in those processes that are driving the needs, right?

Data may be in all kinds of different siloed systems, and plus on paper. We have new pain points, potentially, whether they’re quality events, or design challenges that have resulted in scrap and rework and all these things. And I know, Ken, we talked before about some of the implementations you’ve done, where you really are a fan of a phased plan to implement a solution like Arena, putting in the foundation, and then kind of rolling through different capabilities.

And earlier you talked about, “It’s easy to make things more complicated, but harder to make them simple.” So, in this idea of crawl, walk, run, when it comes to implementing systems, maybe talk a little bit about, how do you decide what processes to focus on, first, second, third? What’s been your experience with this approach, and how do you take teams through that?

Ken Perino:

Sure, sure. So, I would say there’s three things that I found successful in implementing electronic systems. One is being able to talk about and give the team sort of the vision of how an electronic system, once it’s fully implemented, how things can be connected, and how, again, their life, hopefully will be much better, their daily work life will be easier by using the electronic system, because they’re going to be able to connect data in ways that they can’t now, for example.

When it comes to the actual implementation, I’ve found the phased approach of doing it to be very successful. For two reasons, really. One, for the implementation team, the actual team who’s doing the implementation, it gives them a chance to learn how to validate and implement on a module basis. Right? Once they get it down, then they sort of repeat it for the next one. Right?

So, people have to realize there’s some documentation that’s involved in implementing and validating an electronic system. And if you’re able to kind of chop it up into smaller pieces, that means your implementation team kind of gets good at it. The first implemented, no matter which one it is, is always going to be the longest because it’s the first time they’re going through it, all the validation documents are sort of new, and they have to go through it all. But the second one is going to be better because now they have a template, and they just kind of follow through.

I think the other thing that’s important for a phased approach is, even for the entire company, it’s smaller, bite-sized pieces for the entire company. So, if you do just one module, then the entire company gets used to things like the user interface, and logging in, so that their whole life doesn’t change overnight, just a piece of it. And then that grows. So you get sort of these small wins that grow over time.

And so, specifically, what I’ve typically … the modules that I’ve implemented first is document control, and then employee training, which are typically together in one module. Mainly because even if you’ve been paper based for the past 30 years, you are familiar with it. You have a procedure you need to follow, and you have to be trained on that procedure. So innately, everybody in a company should understand, “There’s document control, and I have to be trained to my documents.” Right?

And typically, I found, typically, this isn’t 100%. Typically document control and employee training are relatively built-simple processes. I’ve seen some complex ones, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part, document control is, “Here’s your document, it needs to be approved, it needs to be archived, boom.” Employee training, “You’re in this department, here’s your responsibilities. Here’s what you’re going to be trained to do, boom, you’re done.”

So, typically, those business processes are relatively simple and the majority of the company knows about those. So, implementing those first, it kind of gets everybody familiar with an electronic tool in a business process that they’re typically already familiar with. And then we kind of move on from there. The other thing is, the other business process, the quality module, for example, with the quality of CAPAs, and those, those other processes. Those are the ones where I’ve seen them to be a little too complex, and you need to spend more time trying to simplify, try to get that business process the way you want it, and then you automate it. Again, like I said before, if you automate a complex business process, now you have a business process that’s complex in an electronic environment, and that’s not helping anybody.

Heatherly Bucher:

Yeah, that’s great. I don’t know, Ben, yes. Tell me what you think about this phased approach. Where do you start?

Ben Locwin:

I like it. I like the idea of crawl, walk, run. That was the riddle of the Sphinx wasn’t it? What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?

Heatherly Bucher:

It is.

Ben Locwin:

Yeah. Einstein once said, going back to this idea of simplicity, right? And this is really an Einstein quote, not one of those ones that is purported to have been, but, “Things should be made as simple as possible, and no simpler.” And I think it’s kind of the same way with this, meant by that was, there’s always a maximum value of simplicity, and beyond which you begin stripping content of value from your endeavor. You can only get so simple, and you can always bring complexity on later.

I also think it’s easier to edit than to create. So, if we look at the original iPhone, which I’ve been thinking about recently because it turned 13 years old this summer. It took years of kind of going back to the idea of unbothered innovation. It took years of unbothered innovation to design and release that idea of the touchscreen smartphone into a physical object. And then each competitor, and successive generation, started coming out one to two years apart. And now it’s just this endless cycle, and they evergreen the market, which we’re still in.

So, I think streamlining is a bit like editing. So, you have to have a process design in place, and in some level of deployment, if you ever want to hope to have an impact with efficiency gains. You can’t just make things better if you haven’t done kind of the crawl and walk first, before you’re ready to run. Trying to streamline a process a priori, that doesn’t actually exist, is an exercise in fantasy, because you’re trying to think about all the things that could go wrong. You know, the Donald Rumsfeld, unknown unknowns, or the known unknowns.

I would say, additionally, great successes today don’t necessarily guarantee survival into the future. And that’s why we need to keep innovating and thinking about processes. Look at how Ericsson, Nokia, BlackBerry, some of the biggest early mobile device rulers of the world at the front end of things. And now for the most part, they’re also-rans in this highly jockeyed horse race, and they’re way behind Samsung, Apple, and Google. So, one must continue to innovate, to stay viable. And it’s this idea of the Red Queen effect, constantly having to move forward in “Alice in Wonderland.” The idea that if you’re not continuously moving at high velocity forward, then you’ll fall behind.

And I think the famous quality guru, W. Edwards Deming’s quote speaks directly to this, which is that “Change is not required because survival is not mandatory.” So, people don’t have to take on the idea of good process creation, or control, or improvement, and the reality is there’s no guarantee that businesses will survive. So, if you want one, you have to do the other.

Heatherly Bucher:

No, that’s great. I think this crawl, walk, as Ken said, fixing on simple first, is fascinating, because we often have customers, and certainly my experience has been, they often want to solve the biggest problem first, right? But the biggest problem, or the thing that’s the most painful, is often the most complex to solve, right? It’s not the small win that you talked about, Ken. And to your point, Ben, instead, if they focused on something simple, but that has value, right? I mean, you don’t want it so simple that no one sees it as a win. But, simple that has value is a great way to approach it.

I’m going to have all our solution architects listen to this and start rethinking maybe how they advise some people on implementations, or use this as kind of ammunition to push back when they want to go after the most complex thing first. To your point, Ben, you talked about constantly changing and innovating. Our kind of last, and we’re getting close to time, but a last question, which is hard to avoid in 2020, because we are in arguably one of the most disruptive events, certainly in our lifetimes, that has had a global impact on everything from business, and how we do business, how we create products, and how we deliver products, and the capacity for customers, the demand that customers have for products, and then how we’re all living. Everything from our kids and schooling to, for some people, very real issues of employment and stability.

So, in this disruptive space that we’re in, these are our last closing thoughts—what have you learned? Or what have you been thinking about, with regards to, what do you do with these unexpected events? What are the opportunities that gives us, and, to your point, Ben, on innovation? There’s a lot of pain and horror that’s coming out of 2020. But then, of course, there’s opportunities, as well. So, what are your thoughts there?

Yeah, I think a lot of great societal shifts and innovations have always come at the bend of unexpected events. So, I don’t maybe always see things like the craziness of calendar year 2020 as a bad thing. Oftentimes, new opportunities open up in the vacuum of the receding status quo. So, as what we knew before starts to go away, behind that there’s necessarily a vacuum where we can usher in new thinking.

In his book, “The Black Swan,” Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about these black swan events that are very rare, highly consequential things that can occur globally, and you can’t really predict them, because if you could, then everybody would, and they wouldn’t be black swans. But the idea is you can insulate yourself from risk, so that you are more antifragile, which is the title of one of his other books, but, that’s a whole separate story.

But the idea is, you can’t always know everything with 100% forecasting, you can’t always be 100% effective at fortifying yourself. But you can insulate yourself from risk. You make it so that when these disruptions do occur, you’re ready to fill the void, rather than just be swept away by the wake. I think the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 certainly qualifies as one of these highly consequential, world-changing events.

In the wake of COVID-19’a grip on society in the media, we’ve had to force challenges onto the status quo, like the idea of working in the office, or totally remote. How we return to restaurants and bars, do we reopen schools? When do we reopen? Even like testing the safety and efficacy in clinical trials for drug treatments and preventive vaccines. So, in the past, a vaccine, phase one to three would have taken customarily years, and now we’re looking at a situation where we may have a couple of the vaccine candidates ready for approval in maybe eight to 10 months.

So I think, again, in the wake of these consequential shifts come opportunities, which we would never have innovated to the same degree, if they were to occur more incrementally. So, I would also say incrementality can be enormously effective too, but it’s not equivalent to grand-scale sweeping changes. So, there’s kind of two ways to look at things. And actually, if I think to process improvement, in the world of Lean, those two are disparate concepts.

If you’ve heard of Kaizen, that essentially translates into good change, or change for the better. So, companies will do Kaizen events to try to improve something, that’s incremental, usually. But the flip side is there’s also what’s called Kaikaku, which translates into radical change. And so, those are the things that are more like a sweeping overhaul, where you lift and shift something into its place. So, I think there are always opportunities that come from gigantic changes. And sometimes, if incremental change isn’t getting you to where you need to be, maybe you should consider how it could be that you could approach it from a radical change overhaul standpoint.

Heatherly Bucher:

That’s great. Ken, what are your thoughts about the unexpected events we’re facing, and opportunity?

Ken Perino:

Yeah, Ben brings up a lot of good points, and I would agree with all of them. I guess, to be honest, my team and I, as well as the extended team in that company, we’ve talked about this for a while now, really since it started back in March and April. And what we’ve found was, being open, and being able to talk about, I guess what you’re going through, individually, is important.

I think the other thing that is nice to see, even from all the way up, the top management, is the realization that we are working, let’s say the opportunity to work, throughout the day and into the evening, is there now, more than it was before all this started. I think for a lot of people, it used to be once you get in your car to go back home, that was your mental shut off. “Okay, I’m done with work for today.”

Maybe you go home, maybe you do a few things. But that was sort of your mental break from work. But we don’t have that anymore. Right? Because we’re all home, and we’re here. And so, I think the senior management team got together and said, “Listen, we understand, and we appreciate … don’t get us wrong. We appreciate your wanting to work, but realize you need to take breaks. If you’re going to be up late, because you’re going to be on meetings with another country, well, you’ve got to take some time sometime during the day. Either be with the kids, or do something to get that mental break, so that you’re not burnt out. Because that’s a bad consequence of what this can do to all of us.”

If we’re lucky enough to be working, it’s a consequence that … because you can just work and work and work and work and work. So, it was nice to see our senior management team kind of bring that up, and said, “Listen, people, you need to take a break.” Because we’ve got offices in Japan, Taiwan, all over. And so, we are on meetings late at night, which is great. But you can’t work from seven in the morning to 10 at night, every day. You’re going to get burnt out. So, you’ve got to be able to take breaks.

Ben Locwin:

You can if they can book your calendar.

Ken Perino:

Yeah. There you go.

Heatherly Bucher:

You might want to block out those times.

Ken Perino:

Yeah, calendar management.

Heatherly Bucher:

We are close to the end of our time, and this has been an awesome discussion. I hope that both of you have had as much fun as I had. We’re going to … because we’re so close to time, we’re going to skip over the question part, and kind of talk about mental break. One of the things that we’ve been doing in these customer events, as kind of a fun thing for customers and a mental break, is doing some of these giveaways, kind of not your normal swag, and to kind of brighten people’s days.

And surprisingly, this, I think, has been something that people have enjoyed because while we’ve done it for this series of events, so that you two know, what’s funny is we had, as you know, our Summer 20 release recently, and we always do the sneak-peek events with product management before the release. About four weeks before the release, and when we did our sneak peek with product management for the Summer 20 events about a month and a half ago, one of the biggest questions we got actually during events, were complaints, I guess if you could call it a complaint, back was, “How come we didn’t do any giveaways in our sneak peek?” Because we’ve been doing for this event series, and we were like, “Oh no, that’s for the speaker event series, not for the product sneak peeks.”

So they were like, “Where’s the giveaway? Where’s the Yeti cup?” So, the good news is we’re going to do it right now, and what we do, for those who haven’t been on our live broadcasts, we do a raffle. We select two names at random, for those who are on the call right now. So, if you watch the recording after today, you obviously didn’t get a chance to win, but maybe you’ll join us for the next one.

And so, I’ve got someone who dropped me the names in our Zoom. So, we give two things away. Our first is our Yeti Arena glass, which is actually … I love Yeti products, because they’re really good and also, I guess, because my husband is active-duty military, and if you have any active-duty military family members, if you don’t know, if you go to Yeti’s website, they give you an incredible discount actually, for military, which is appreciated.

But, our Yeti glass winner is … hold on, is Eric Feldhaus, who’s at Zodiac. And so, Eric, congratulations for the Yeti. We’ll get that in the mail to you, snail mail, very shortly. And then what we’ve been doing, I don’t know if Ben, and Ken, if you’ve joined any of our other live events. Our second giveaway we’ve been doing is we choose to do a giveaway from one of our customers.

Obviously, we have to limit ourselves to kind of a consumer-level product companies. So, not your companies, and not some of our larger, satellite platform companies, and things like that. We’ve given away products from Sonos and Cricut and Whoop, which is kind of one of my new favorite athlete fitness bands companies. But today, we’re actually giving away a Gen 5 Fossil smartwatch, another one of our customers, and that’s going to James Broderick, and who’s at ISDI Limited. Congratulations, James. We’ll email you and work out the logistics of which of the Gen 5s you want and get that sent to you.

And again, if you didn’t join live, and you’re watching the recording, you should join live again in the future to maybe snag something fun. Ben and Ken, you guys will get one of our Yeti flasks, by the way. I haven’t told them. They don’t know this, if you’re watching us live. But, as a thank you to our panelists, we always send you an Arena Yeti flask, so you’ll be getting one as well, too.

Ben Locwin:

All right. Thank you.

Ken Perino:

Thank you.

Heatherly Bucher:

Yeah, they’re great. So, I wanted to thank you guys for sharing your wisdom, experience with us. For customers, if you’re watching through the Arena Events platform, complete the session survey after we log off—you’ll find it in the session you’re currently in. I understand, I got a text partway through, we’ve been having some technical difficulties with the Arena Events platform with the stream from Zoom to the Arena Events platform.

So, if it was interrupted for you at any point in time, as you know, customers, we always record these events, and put them back on the Arena Events platform. So, we’ll get that up for you in the next day or two so that you can watch the whole session and get everything that Ben and Ken shared with us. For future customers, if you’re joining us from the Zoom, you will get a link sent to you with the recording. And then, customers, of course if you’re interested in being in Ben and Ken’s kind of hotspot, and sharing with us on another customer panel, then just email us at Arena Events, or at events, sorry, [email protected], or contact us through the Events platform. Thank you everyone for joining us. Thank you, Ben and Ken. I hope you guys have a wonderful rest of your day.