Interview with Kimberly Wiefling
We are not “teachers”, and we don’t do “training”. We are seasoned professionals with real-world experience in starting, leading and growing businesses in the Silicon Valley, and expanding businesses globally. Our practical approaches are proven to produce results, whether it’s through facilitating our “Leadership Learning Laboratories“, or working hand-in-hand with your organization on a strategically important project. We believe that leadership, team effectiveness, innovation, and the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial “magic”, are the result of behaviors that can be learned and honed with practice. Our Tokyo-based Team has been collaborating with us to transform Japanese businesses through our unique “WorkSHOCKs” for over a decade with outstanding results in some of the best-known companies in Japan. Check out Silicon Valley Alliances here
Hello Kimberly, could you please introduce Silicon Valley Alliances and what key projects you have managed since founding the company?
Silicon Valley alliances is a collection of people I've been collaborating with for many years some almost two decades.
We have experts from leadership, creativity innovation, design thinking, marketing team effectiveness financial analysis. We can literally pull on expertise from across a wide variety of disciplines.
We've got about a dozen people in Silicon Valley that we work with.
We've got another half dozen in Japan that we collaborate with and a couple in Europe as well. And what we do in Silicon Valley alliances is we help managers become leaders.
We help groups of people become real teams. We help people teams and organizations work together to achieve what seems impossible but in the end is merely difficult and we do that using some proven very dynamic interactive approaches so-called adult learning theory not lecture, learning laboratories make mistakes fail forward make it fun create and create together opportunities to learn and grow. There is no reason to bring people together into a room to listen to a lecture or see Death by PowerPoint.
We bring people together to have what we call work shock therapy and our goal is to change behavior, change language change business results. We've done projects with Japanese companies who are globalizing like could. We've done projects with famous Silicon Valley companies like Howells perhaps you know about the home decoration website they've got and we are expanding our work in Silicon Valley as we speak.
Looking forward to working with you if you can achieve impossible results with your team. Thanks.
What is the main programming during the company's “Leadership Learning Laboratories?“ How did the idea for the Laboratories come about?
Adults don't learn or change because of lecture or PowerPoint. It's proven again and again that all you need is experiential interactive workshops that challenge people that are relevant to the real business situation and that are project-oriented wherever possible so they can apply what they're learning to the real business situation.
So we got our learning laboratory idea by studying techniques of adult education. I was teaching algebra at the University of Phoenix many years ago. We weren't allowed to lecture, we had to make it experientially if you can do algebra interactively you could teach anything that way. So our learning laboratories give people a chance to come together have a little bit of theory maybe a model or some background or some data but then jump into an experience or an exercise where they can feel it in their bones where they can really internalize what's going on with this theory or model and then discuss what happened. Hey, we said we were collaborative. Yeah. We value cooperation but as soon as the exercise started we were competing playing win-lose. Why did that happen. And then we have discussions linked to the real business situation. Connect the dots. How will this apply in our real team our organization in our work, and that's the most important thing is to connect the dots to what are we going to do when we go home. It doesn't matter how smart you make people or how you help them learn data or information if they can't apply it when they get back to their work environments.
That's what we focus on a learning laboratory workshop therapy so that when people go back to work they have changed thinking, change behavior, change communication and they can achieve change business results improved. Much better breakthrough business results.
What are some of the main challenges that Silicon Valley Alliances helps companies overcome? What has been the feedback from clients and partners?
The most important challenge that we help our clients with that Silicon Valley alliances and to increase employee engagement and Improve leadership and team effectiveness.
Now if you've watched the research from Gallup you know that employee engagement globally sucks. The U.S. is the best in the world and there's only 35 percent on average engaged employees in the U.S. That means 65 percent of people who come to work in the U.S. are either not engaged with their work or actively disengaged, now engaged employees. They come in, they care and they will do discretionary effort to get things done for the benefit of the organization but disengaged employees, some of them are actually working against your own best interests.
Now Japan, where I've worked many times in the last 10 years only, has 6 percent engagement and Germany for example only has 15 percent engagement.
Now how can we change that well, the number one cause of low employee engagement, think about it you can guess I'm sure is the direct manager, so we help managers become real leaders who people willingly follow. Who wants to be managed, nobody wants to be managed, manage a budget, manage schedule, manage calls, but don't manage people. People want to follow a leader willingly who's honest forward-looking, inspiring and competent and we teach people in organizations how to be that kind of leader that people willingly follow so that they can create engaged employees.
One of our clients had a 20 percent quitting ratio every year 20 percent of their people were quitting, that's a huge expense and takes a lot of effort to replace those people. We were able to decrease that to 3 percent among graduates of even a small program that was only three or four days long.
That was stunning in fact the CEO said I don't believe the data but it was true.
Could you tell us a bit more about “WorkSHOCKs” and how the program helps some of the largest companies in Japan?
Started traveling to Japan around 2007. Pretty much every month for the last 10 years working with globalizing Japanese companies and I call what I do with these companies work shock therapy. Now it's pretty tough to be a Japanese company these days. The Japanese economy is flat population is shrinking and in Japan failure is fatal. So risk-taking and mistake making are not embraced. Well, I'm from Silicon Valley and we build success on a mountain of failure. So and I need to do with my Japanese colleagues is to convince them to take risks, make mistakes, learn, fail forward and that's not so easy. So I usually start off by shocking them when they come into the room.
There is a circle of chairs, no desks, there's candy, there's toys, there's music playing, there's rubber chicken, rubber chicken and things are a little crazy and they're like hey this is strange this is not a classroom No it's not a classroom it's a learning laboratory and the shock therapy is there to shock them into changing and the Japanese companies are really motivated to change because they have two choices, change or die because if they don't grow their company outside of Japan they are not going to exist in ten years. So we challenge them to take risks, make mistakes and fail forward. In fact we say you've got to make at least three mistakes each day in our program or you fail the workshop and they're like what? I have to make mistakes or I fail?. And it turns out that getting groups of people from all over the world together is the most effective way to get this workshop there be going because people all over the were world fear failure and what we help them understand is failure, that's just first attempt in learning that's just a way to learn and grow.
We call them an experiment, we call it a prototype and we encourage people to fail forward and keep it going. That's the secret to success.
You've also had your own consultancy, Wiefling Consulting, Inc. for the past seventeen years. How has your work with Wiefling Consulting, Inc. influenced the growth and service offering of Silicon Valley Alliances?
When I first started Wiefling Consulting. It was right after the dot com bust in 2001 when the Silicon Valley economy fell apart.
I started off mostly by doing product development, program management. That's what I'd been good at since my early days at Hewlett Packard and at several startup companies, hardware, software, firmware, combination systems of those it didn't seem to matter all of the teams that I worked with were struggling for the same reasons, they couldn't build trusting relationships they couldn't communicate solve problems or make decisions together efficiently and effectively. They didn't have clear shared goals and they couldn't clarify their priorities and focus on the critical few of the important many.
So as a project management expert I tackled that at first. But as I got to know more about why these teams were failing I realized that it was never technology and even the project management processes were not the biggest stumbling block, It was humans skills, now, hey as a physicist, I didn't grow up learning human skills. I was all about technology and as a project manager I was all about the project management process but the human skills trumps all of that. So leadership, team effectiveness communication, trusting relationships creating an environment where people can bring their very best to work. That's what I learned really mattered in my early days at Wiefling consulting and so with Silicon Valley alliances we explicitly focus on human skills turning managers into leaders, turning groups into real teams who can get things done together that would truly be impossible alone and it is a ton of fun. I highly recommend it. I would not go back to incrementalism if anybody wanted to pay me to do it.
What's next for your work with Silicon Valley Alliances, as well as your own consultancy? What are the main projects you'll be focusing on in 2019?
I spent a lot of time traveling and sleeping in hotels in the last 15 years, Oh my gosh, flying to Japan every month, flying to Australia, Thailand, Singapore, China, Europe different parts of the US. and what's next for me and Silicon Valley alliances is to work more in Silicon Valley, my goal is to drive to work, not fly to work and yet I am still traveling to Japan about once every month or two. I'm going to be working with Amazon. I've worked with Mazda, I've worked with Suntory, daity, Sanyo other smaller companies may not have heard of, Kudone a but in the U.S. and Silicon Valley, there's a lot going on. I'm working with a 3D metal printer printing company called Vello 3D Amazing 3D additive manufacturing using aluminum and titanium and they like, I love to work with women in their leadership positions as well, there's a lot of focus now on increasing women's contributions to leadership and so I'm working with organizations like Comment Tech to help their women's leadership development and I've been invited to speak other places in the Silicon Valley.
I am speaking a lot for Project Management Institute organizations, Australia has invited me multiple times to speak at their PMI in Melbourne and Brisbane and Sydney. I've been invited to Poland to Warsaw several times to speak there on my work in the leadership and project management field and I am going to Munich to speak there, I spoke in San Diego. So I love to fly closer to home, stay more, work in the Silicon Valley and still be able to keep in touch with all the wonderful people. So what I'd like to do next is get people to come to Silicon Valley and learn it here, you get infected with the Silicon Valley virus.