Sunday, June 13, 2010

Put the Guru to Work (11/12)

Last time ("Keep the Train on the Track"), we looked at maintaining the tone and content of the customer-input portion of the knowledge-sharing kickoff meeting. Now, let's wind down those discussions and switch the content flow.

The facilitator (FAC) keeps a watchful eye and ear on the progression of the meeting. At some point, two or three hours into the discussion, most of the list of potential discussion topics will be completed. Comments will start to cover already-stated content. The flow of additional-topic contribution will lessen. It is time for the FAC to bring the customer-input portion of the meeting to a graceful conclusion.

Astonishingly, all of the original participants will likely still be in the room. This is not a pie-in-the-sky hope, but rather, a carefully-planned outcome, from the get-go. As described earlier, the two-person team representing the supplier holds some "bait" that is of extreme interest to the representatives of the customer: the guru! The bait is definitely worth sticking around for!

One hour's time has been set aside at the end of the meeting to go into "quiz the guru" mode. The specific area of in-depth technical expertise, in which the guru excels, is of great interest to the customer's team members. Throwing the discussion open to questions allows the supplier to provide some immediate level of return to the customer for its participation in the meeting.

In addition, the shift to contribution-content from the supplier is a day-one enactment of the purpose of the relationship under construction: knowledge SHARING. The bilateral nature of the joint effort takes tangible form as the guru responds to the customer's technical questions.

The technical discussion portion of the meeting easily consumes at least one hour. As it did earlier, when the customer's big-picture business topics were the discussion focus, the exchange progresses easily during the technical discussions. Often, the technical discussions continue, rapid-fire, for two hours or more -- total time consumed is primarily determined at the discretion of the customer representatives.

During this time, the FAC continues to make detailed notations, capturing as much of the content of the conversations as possible. Ideas, opinions, notions -- sometimes even "facts"! -- that never hit the table during the earlier discussions become apparent. Issues that would have been unapproachable by the customer's representatives, stated outright as "concerns", are somewhat defused by the opportunity to state them as questions. More insights are gained.

Next time, we'll allow everyone to leave the room with a smile on his face (if not a song in his heart!) and start putting the content to work!

Part 11 of 12, Lyn Gosz, Gosz Group Technology Planners