Strategies and tactics in Tour de France

“I’m a sprinter. It’s my job,” said Mark Cavendish

Strategies and tactics. Roles and responsibilities. Mark Cavendish’s response clearly shows he knows his role, when the interviewer asked him how he did.

The strategies and tactics of each team change continuously during this 21-day race. The Tour de France, which started on July 2nd, is the world’s most grueling bike race. It crosses France, dips into the Pyrenees and then the Alps, before finishing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

Strategies and Tactics are Fluid

Each team of 9 riders and multiple support staff, is a highly organized and coordinated machine. Everyone on the team has a role and each person understands their role and the impact he has on the rest of the team. As Cavendish said, his job is to gain points in the sprint finishes, and try to win as many stages as possible. This helps the team move up in the overall General Classification, and it gains him individual points, as well as potential podium positions at the end of each stage. So far, Cavendish has 29 stage wins to his Tour de France career – more than any other rider in the 113 years of this race.

Teams wouldn’t succeed unless everyone knew their role. One leader is chosen as having the best potential to win the yellow jersey and thus the Tour de France. The rest act as support crew to keep him safe from crashes and make sure he’s positioned well to win points and lead the race. Some are mountain climbers who excel in the Pyrenees and Alps climbs. Others are domestiques who ferry water bottles from the team cars to their fellow team mates and create lead-out trains for the favored sprinter(s) on the team. Their job is to keep the leader and the sprinters safe and well positioned to win during the 21 days of the race.

The strategies and tactics of some teams are to concentrate only on improving their standings in the General Classification with the goal of getting both a team win and the overall yellow jersey. For them, the early stage wins are less important than making sure their key guy and their sprinters are safely positioned and don’t lose time to any other teams.

Other teams focus on earning King of the Mountain or Sprinter jerseys, and building the strength, endurance and collaboration of their team members. These teams may be newer to the Tour de France, and haven’t developed their members into the well-oiled machines of BMC, Team Sky, Movistar, or Astana.

The Tour de France is an excellent example of strategies and tactics at work, as well as teamwork and leadership. Over the course of the 21 days, each team’s strategies and tactics may change depending on external factors, such as weather, illness, crashes, and competitive challenges from other teams. The overall leader could crash out of the race or get so ill he has to abandon. If that happens, the team needs to pick another leader to rally the rest of the team around.

Listen to the interviews and you’ll gain insights into some of the strategies the teams are using to be successful.

How might you apply some of these same concepts to your business? What can be learned from the Tour de France?

Applying lean agile techniques

The growing popularity in Lean Agile techniques compel us to reassess how we can use the various tools presented by these relatively recent additions to our “management toolboxes.”

In today’s world of nearly “instant” everything, we tend to drive decisions based on “gut feelings”, or simply in reaction to requests or directives. Too often we are forced to do this due to external forces we don’t control, regardless of the impact those decisions may have.

This approach can derail our intentions to reach longer-term strategic objectives.

Use lean agile techniques to drive sprint decisionsFor example, the Agile Strategy Execution Framework presented by ASM.com mentions two key processes that help drive more “agility” into achieving strategic success. Those are “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives”.

Both of these processes utilize the collaboration of cross-functional groups in achieving their respective goals.

Systems Thinking supports lean agile techniques

It is valuable to note that ensuring the right type of “thinking” needs to be practiced throughout the framework model, and that means using “Systems Thinking”.  This “systemic”, or “holistic”, approach to applying this framework is part of the “secret sauce” to being effective and successful in reaching your strategic objectives.

If the term “Systems Thinking” sounds new to you, be assured it is not. Peter Drucker’s mentors in Vienna, Austria are considered to have shepherded Systems Thinking from the physical sciences into business management. Drucker then refined and articulated its applications. Many of the greatest organizations and businesses of today have been practicing Systems Thinking and teaching it for decades. For a brief overview, click here for an article about it.

Both the “Sprint Decisions” and “Group Retrospectives” outlined by ASM.com can benefit from the organization and facilitation techniques drawn from General Electric’s “Work Out” concepts. Whether teams are working on problems in design, process, operational, behavioral or cultural issues, their solutions will be more clearly articulated, more effectively measured and adjusted to with greater agility.

By working out issues in the collaborative, cross-functional teams, both deep dive activities and small bets can produce solutions that are better aligned with longer term objectives and create greater value for the customer and the business.

A lean agile techniques we use is what we call “Sprint Workouts.” These cross-functional team meetings are half to one or two full days in length. The meetings are focused on specific outcomes and support at least one strategic initiative whose results can be measured and communicated quickly and effectively. The stakeholders are clearly identified prior to the meeting and informed of the intent of the Sprint Workout. This produces buy-in and stay-in for quick solutions.

Employee Rewards Can Be Motivational

Recently, I came across a book I haven’t opened in a long time. It’s called 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson. The book (which was updated in 2012 to 1501 Ways to Reward Employees) lists a variety of ways to use employee rewards as a way to recognize achievement. These include no cost ideas such as one-minute praises and bravo cards, to low cost ideas like bringing the person a bagged lunch for a week from a gourmet sandwich shop. It also lists ideas for more expensive rewards, such as trips, dinner for two, and various types of gift certificates.

In my experience, how the employee rewards are delivered is critical. If the praise isn’t heartfelt and the recognition is done to fulfill the requirements of a weekly recognition program, the staff will not feel appreciated. It won’t feel authentic and they will grow to resent it.

Employee rewards must be authentically delivered and heartfelt.So before you launch a recognition program, be sure to clearly define the scope of the program, and the types of behavior you want to recognize and why. Are you doing this just because you heard from others that employee recognition is important? Or are you doing this to try to shift behavior, create a new culture, and/or work towards a long term organizational goal?

Ken Blanchard has written a great deal about the subject of leadership and building high performing teams. Praise needs to be authentic and heartfelt. Don’t praise just to go through the motions. In his book, The One Minute Manager (recently updated), he talks about catching people off guard doing something right. Then giving them praise at that moment. Those are the “one-minute praises”. Don’t wait until the staff gets together for a team meeting and then give the praise. It will come off as not authentic and something the boss is doing to prove what a great boss he or she is. The staff will resent it.

On the other hand, if it’s appropriate to give praise in a public setting such as a staff meeting, do so, but make sure you gave the individual a one-minute praise beforehand, even if it was days before. The public recognition will be an additional and more well-received reward; especially when the behavior being recognized fits within the scope of the rewards and recognition program you’ve established.

All that being said, here are some unique ideas I came across in the book, 1001 Ways to Reward Employees:

  • Close a few hours early one day and take everyone to a shopping mall. Give each person $25 to spend and tell them to gather together in one hour. Then share and compare what each person bought with their $25 and why they chose the items(s) they did. This could be instead of a holiday or sales bonus.
  • Hold occasional fun contests. These should be planned by the managers, not the staff. If staff members are assigned on a rotating basis, it becomes another chore or work-related task, not a fun event. Contests can include St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween costume contests, or themed pot luck dish competitions. Rewards can be cash and/or gift certificates for restaurants, movie theater tickets, sporting events, etc.
  • Celebrate a Day of Excellence once a year with fun learning activities for all employees. Or let each staff person choose a day during the year that is their “special day”. Managers then surprise that person with fun activities during lunch or late in the afternoon of that day.

Let us know your thoughts about employee rewards programs and any unique ideas you have implemented in your organization.

Use Servant Leadership to Feed Your Passions

Every time I sit down to write an article I get writer’s block -where to find my inspiration. Some people say, just start writing. Eventually, something will develop into a coherent article. Or focus on your passions and see what develops. The problem is that there are several things I am passionate about and they don’t seem interrelated – servant leadership, helping organizations create positive employee cultures, helping women succeed, designing and implementing online marketing strategies, social media marketing, smart phone apps, technology that increases productivity, gluten free cooking, oil and water color painting, writing. I could go on.

Let’s start with servant leadership

I really believe this is an important leadership style, and have always done my best to lead this way. It comes second nature to me. Perhaps that’s because my mother was my role model. She led by example and through coaching. My biggest success comes from helping others find their “aha” moments. Seeing others develop to their fullest potential, following their passions, is very gratifying. When I Googled servant leadership, I found this definition on greenleaf.org which describes my leadership style perfectly:

That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.

The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived? (source: https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/)

I see this in the online social media marketing classes I teach through Yavapai College. If I can impact one or two students who tell me “they got it; they learned so much and are eager to put that learning into practice”…Wow! That’s a win for me. It makes the hours of preparation and planning worthwhile – and the time put into updating the curriculum and re-recording the learning modules.

Applying servant leadership elsewhere

As a consultant I no longer have direct reports to lead and manage. So how can I put this passion for servant leadership into practice elsewhere? One way is with the work I do with and for my clients. Helping them achieve their goals is very satisfying. That I get paid to do so is also gratifying. However, if the work I do for them is not helping, then I don’t feel I’ve delivered the value they deserve. It’s not always because of what I did or didn’t do. Frequently, it’s because the client didn’t follow through on their end to implement or complete the project or process. I did my part. They didn’t want me to go further. Then they dropped the ball. It’s frustrating for me because I can see the potential result down the road if we could just continue a bit longer. The servant leader in me wants to pick up the ball and run with it…but if the client isn’t willing, I need to move on.

Servant leadership - feed your passionAnother way to put servant leadership into practice is through volunteer work. I’ve done this over the years with a nonprofit I co-founded in 2002, ArtsBusXpress. I continue to contribute knowledge, leadership and time because I’m passionate about their mission – to fund transportation to the arts and sciences for school children in San Diego County. The impacts are far-reaching, which makes it a gratifying project to support.

Recently, my husband/partner and I joined the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club. Our friends who are heavily involved with 4-H and the Boy Scouts have re-started the club in order to help kids in the community. One of the big projects is the annual Kiwanis auction, now in its 68th year. It’s run by the Prescott Kiwanis Club, but through our friends, the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis club has participated in order to raise funds for the Lonesome Wranglers 4-H Club.

How does this tie into servant leadership? By taking a leadership role in the Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club. helping to acquire auction items, and spreading the word through online and social media marketing, I will help both clubs achieve their goals. The Prescott Kiwanis Club’s fundraising goal is $155,000 this year. They raised a little over $151,000 last year. The Bradshaw Mountain Kiwanis Club goal is to match or surpass the amount raised for 4-H last year.

In the process of talking to business owners about the Kiwanis Auction to get auction contributions, I will also have the opportunity to ask them about what they do, what their goals are, and how they want to promote their business. This may lead to a deeper conversation about what I do and why I’m involved in this project. Who knows?

The goals are multiple: 1) help the kids by raising funds through auction items and donations, 2) help local businesses gain visibility and feel good about their philanthropy, and 3) feed my passion for servant leadership by helping others achieve their objectives. Looks like a win-win-win situation!

So what’s your passion?

Build Successful Teams by Improving Your Conversational Capacity

Eric & Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International

Conversational CapacityRecently we attended an afternoon workshop with Craig Weber on the topic of improving your Conversational Capacity to build successful teams. He brought up a recurring topic that we often see when working with teams, boards and organizations overall. The missing piece in many organizations is leaders’ understanding of how to maintain open, balanced dialogue among team members. This also applies to those who are following the leaders. A more open dialogue leads to greater understanding and teamwork.

That doesn’t mean the dialogue can’t be passionate or heated at times. In fact, that’s good. But the goal is to stay in what he calls “the sweet spot” between Minimizing and Winning.  What we find useful and different about this “sweet spot” concept, is that it makes it easier to focus when you have that “sweet spot” target.

On the Minimizing side, we tend to shut down, cover up our opinions, ask leading questions or withdraw from any discussions. We do this with our body language as well as our verbal interactions. We may show agreement in the meeting and then afterwards start an email dialogue with colleagues expressing just the opposite viewpoint.

On the Winning side, we want to be right. We raise our voices, get defensive and aggressive. Our speech gets rapid and animated and the volume goes way up.

Achieving that “sweet spot” is maximizing Conversational Capacity. Among the tips Craig mentioned that we see working best are building skills in candor and curiosity. Candor to ensure you are being understood clearly and doing so by dissenting with respect when appropriate. Curiosity to ensure you are seeking the root cause of problems or issues and not pre-judging. Another tip we liked is to keep a journal of triggers that take you far into Minimizing or Winning and away from the “sweet spot”.

The skills involved in achieving high Conversational Capacity can be fun to practice in work teams and can yield rapid and good results, improving team performance.

If you would like to learn more please contact us.

Desired State vs. Vision

Takeaways: Desired State and Vision are two powerful tools for helping to build cohesive teams. The subtle differences can be used effectively depending on the situation.

The other day I was coaching a friend about what can be done in the shortest amount of time to help her build a cohesive board. I suggested that having everyone agree on the future Desired state would help to build unity. It’s a small non-profit that funds the un-sexy need of school bus transportation so children can experience music, dance, art and science as part of their education.

Many board members are new to being on a board. The organization is not well-funded, everyone volunteers their time and skills, and most of the funds raised go to funding the bus transportation. There are no clearly defined roles and everyone just pitches in to do things. This has created ineffective communication, duplication of efforts, and finger pointing, with everyone turning to my friend to solve the problems and answer all questions.

I suggested to her that two of the most important things they could do were to get agreement on what and how the organization wants to BE a year down the road, their Desired State, and to clarify roles. Clarifying roles she understood. But she wasn’t clear about what I meant by Desired State. I explained that it’s similar to a Vision. That she understood.

That got me thinking about the distinction between the two. It’s subtle, but very powerful. This has become clearer after proofing my friend Timi Gleason’s re-write of her book, Coach as Strategic Partner. In it she describes effortlessly what a desired state is, and how to turn tactical conversations into strategic ones when they get mired down in details (Look for it soon under a new title.)

Desired State is a future state of BE-ing vs. DO-ing according to Timi. When you describe a Desired State you talk about it as though it’s already happened. You’ve already accomplished this. You incorporate all five senses –sight, feelings, sound, touch, and taste – to describe what it’s like to stand in that future situation.

Vision is a powerful magnet that draws you forward. It’s a possible Desired State to which you aspire. It sits in the future as something you are working towards. It’s the carrot held in front of your nose to keep you moving forward towards the goal.

With a Desired State, you see yourself already there. Once you write it down, you put it aside and let your subconscious actions start working to help you achieve that. You don’t need to think about it because it’s already done. You’re there. You act as though you’ve already accomplished that state. Team members begin to work more collaboratively from the perspective, ”If we’ve already accomplished this Desired State, then for this to be reality, Sales needs to be meeting regularly with Marketing, and Marketing needs to give IT sufficient lead time to prepare the technology, etc.” And it all just begins to happen – like magic.

rainbow handshakeWith a Vision, you hold that before you always as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that you are striving to get to. All your strategies and actions are held up against that Vision as a measuring stick. “Will this event, activity or effort help us get to that pot of gold? If not, we don’t do it.”

The team is still firmly planted in today but each member keeps that vision of the pot of gold as a beacon to work toward. Conversations are easier with less finger pointing because everyone has agreed on the path to the pot of gold. There is no blame when the only question to ask is “how will that effort help us reach the pot of gold?”

Both are powerful tools for helping to build cohesive teams. Depending on the issues at hand and the personalities involved, sometimes using a Vision is more effective than using a Desired State. An organization may actually use both. The Vision may be the over-arching goal of the organization – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The Desired State is different for each department and even for each issue or challenge being faced, AND it also supports the overall Vision of the organization.

In fact, as Timi so eloquently describes in her book, every situation can be addressed by asking what’s the Desired State? That turns any conversation from a tactical one into a strategic one.

What are your thoughts on the distinction between Desired State and Vision?

Consumers Rewarded for Not Using Phones

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

We all know how dependent many of us have become on our smart phones. They’re with us every hour of the day….and in fact, some people (mostly millenials and Gen-Xers) sleep with their phones. You can’t have a meal at a restaurant, go shopping, or walk down a street without seeing people with their phones to their ears or their eyes glued to the tiny screen.

This has led to isolation. People sit together at restaurants and instead of talking, they’re texting or playing games on their phones. Whatever happened to good, old fashioned conversation with eye contact?

Well McDonalds and Coca Cola have partnered to test an app with consumers in the Philippines. Not sure why they chose only the Philippines (maybe they need it the most?). It’s called the BFF Timeout App. Participants are rewarded for leaving their phones alone. At the McDonalds in the Philippines, user scores are ranked on a public leaderboard and prizes include trips to Japan and Singapore.

Here’s how it works.

BFF_Timeout_AppEveryone in the group downloads the BFF Timeout app. Once everyone in the group has opened the app and pressed the big red button, the timeout starts. It rewards each user for every minute they spend leaving their phone alone. The minute someone picks up their phone, the timeout ends. The app is currently only available in the iTunes Philippines store and works on iPhones and iPads only. Imagine the peer pressure if you’re the one in the group who couldn’t leave your phone alone!

It’s hard to believe that games like these are necessary in order to get back to having face-to-face conversations without interruptions.

Source: trendwatching.com

Google Hangouts Used in Creative Way

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Toyota has launched a creative way to use Google Hangouts to build their brand. Not that brand recognition is necessary for the #1 car manufacturer in the world. But I’ll bet this helps sell more Corollas.

Toyota has taken hangouts to a new level making car buying a fun and easy experience, done from the comfort of your own home. Through their ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, they approached Joystick Interactive to create a Collaborator App for use on tablets and mobile phones using Google Hangouts, that would enable people to customize a car. It was launched in November 2013.

Here’s the deal

Using the Toyota Collaborator App, you invite a group of friends to join you in a private Google Hangout and collaborate on customizing a Toyota Corolla. Choose color, wheel rims, interior, and even take it for a test drive.

Launch Collaborator App

Now, think about how you might use Google Hangouts with business colleagues? What kind of a collaborative hangout might you launch?

Perhaps you invite team members to join you on a Google Hangout to resolve a customer service issue. Instead of color and wheel choices, you have service options to choose and vote on. Google Hangouts allow up to 9 webcams live simultaneously, so you can see one another, transfer the screen controls back and forth, and record the session for those who couldn’t attend. Assign someone to take notes, document poll results, etc.

How might you use this to build a product, re-design packaging, solve a challenging issue? How can you make it a fun experience while getting the work done? That’s the secret to what Toyota has created with their collaborator app using Google+ Hangouts.

Of course, they didn’t build it themselves. But wouldn’t it be cool if Joystick Interactive and Google collaborated to make such a tool available for the rest of us to use in our businesses?

WD-40 Tribal Culture Creates Lasting Change

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International   January 28, 2014

Takeaways: How WD-40 created a tribal culture that focuses on SMART goals, living the company values, and sharing knowledge and expertise.

Book Review
Helping People Win at Work
by GaRry Ridge and Ken Blanchard,
2009 Polvera Publishing and Garry Ridge

Buy-Helping People Win at WorkThis book is a partnership between Blanchard and Ridge about leadership and management. It looks at business as a partnership between managers and staff to ensure everyone in the organization is doing their best to strive, learn, and be the best they can, all while living and acting the company’s core values. How a company gets there is the story Ridge tells of the processes he implemented at WD-40 around the philosophy of “Don’t Mark My Paper; Help Me Get an A”. The book is divided into four parts.

In Part One, Ridge describes the fundamentals of the performance review system he implemented at WD-40, which is organized around Planning and Execution and Review and Learning. Planning involves setting SMART goals and executing them according to company values. SMART stands for Specific, Motivational, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable.

In Part Two, Ridge describes the culture changes that had to occur before the performance review system could be revamped. A big part of that was to ask his people to view themselves as members of a Tribe rather than a Team. Tribal members share their knowledge and folklore with younger, newer members. That’s an important value at WD-40.

In Part Three, Ridge shares his viewpoints on leadership and motivating people and how those developed. In this area he describes his expectations of others and what they can expect of him. Servant leadership is a big part of his personal value system.

In Part Four, Blanchard shares the 12 “Simple Truths” he and his colleagues have learned over the years that are crucial to helping people succeed at their work. These include day-to-day coaching, reprimanding with candor, building trust, and accentuating the positive rather than the negative in both coaching and performance reviews.

The book is filled with great nuggets of wisdom and includes samples of the WD-40 Goal Review Form and how it is used. The company’s success is a testament to how well this system works. Headquartered in San Diego, they employ just under 400 people, market their products in 188 countries, and recorded sales of $368.5 million in fiscal year 2013. WD-40 projects to generate $383 million to $398 million for fiscal year 2014. Learn more about their values and culture here.
Buy the book.

Idea Killers Squash Brainstorming Enthusiasm

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Idea killers are people who can dampen or destroy the enthusiasm in a brainstorming session. How you deal with them is critical to turning an unproductive session into a productive one, despite these participants.

SmartStormingWe’ve all experienced it. You’re in a meeting with your colleagues and the boss asks for ideas to solve a particular problem. As people begin to offer them, one person present puts a damper on every idea contributed. It may even be the boss.

In their book SmartStorming, co-authors Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer talk about brainstorming as a collaborative process that often generates interesting ideas and results. Unfortunately, amongst the participants frequently you’ll find a few idea killers who can turn the process into a less than pleasant experience. Here are a few offenders the authors list in their book. See if you can identify any of them in your organization.

Attention vampires. These people always have to be the center of attention. They push their ideas forward and tend to dominant the conversation, often putting a damper on the brainstorming process.

Dictators. Every idea is great as long as it’s theirs. This reminds me of the commercial where the boss says, “There are three ways to do this: My way! My way! and My way!”

Idea Assassins. These people love to shoot down ideas. They always see everything wrong about any new concept. Rather than looking at the positives, they are first to point out all the possible negatives and flaws.

Obstructionists. They over-complicate everything, bringing up unrelated information that seems related but really isn’t, derailing the flow of ideas. They tend to over-think everything.

Social loafers. These people show up but don’t participate, appearing bored or aloof, letting everyone else generate the ideas.

Wet blankets. These are the pessimists who instantly shut down the enthusiasm of the session. Even though the majority of their comments aren’t viable, they succeed in turning a positive mood into a depressing one.

On their website,SmartStorming, the authors offer a variety of programs to help trainers learn methodology to conduct effective brainstorming sessions. These include a variety of tools to strengthen problem-solving activities. What are some of the ways you deal with these idea killers when you encounter them? Let us know by commenting on my LinkedIn post. Or fill out the contact form and let us know directly.