Organizational culture is a hard thing to change. It’s not enough to say you are going to broadly rearrange it. You need strategic business planning behind the goal. In this episode, Jamie Temple, EUC Program Manager at VMware, shares how her organization utilized strategic business planning to merge two cultures to create a successful team.
Here are three takeaways from this episode:
- Strategic business planning must be highly collaborative
- Only focus on the critical few things you want to accomplish
- Be deliberate about finding the right mission leaders
[Below is the full transcript of the episode.]
Thor: Alright, Jamie. Welcome. So excited to have you here today. This is going to be a blast. You and I have gotten a chance to work closely over the past two years, and you know how each one of these podcasts starts. We either ask the person sitting across the table, if they’re a fighter pilot, how they got their call sign, or if they’re not a pilot, we say what would your call sign have been? What would you have been described as? So tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what your likes are, what type of person you are and then we’ll talk about what the call sign could be.
Jamie: Alright, so a little bit about my background. I don’t jump up in the front of the room and tell everyone my opinions and my thoughts. I wait and see if my ideas come up in the group and if they don’t then I jump up. So I don’t just always wait in the background, but I like to let others have their opportunity before I jump up and share my opinion.
Thor: So you’re kind of camouflaged into the rest of the crowd, and you are in the background until it’s your time to drop the truth bomb on the group and bring out some new point for the rest of the team. Is that right?
Thor: Alright, so I like that. We can definitely work with that. Anything else about you that we should know? What are your interests?
Jamie: My interests, well, actually, I think it would probably surprise a lot of people. I’m into science fiction a lot, video games. I have a technical background in engineering, but I don’t often let people know about that. They just figure it out as they get to know me, a little bit.
Thor: I would never have guessed video games for you. That is awesome. So I’ve known you for a long time and I’ve never known that. What’s your favorite video game?
Jamie: Well, I’m going to go Super Nintendo and go with Donkey Kong Country.
Thor: Okay. Going old school. Okay. Gotcha. That’s a good one. I remember playing that, for sure. So now, what other interests and science fiction-wise, what connects with you?
Jamie: Well, my favorite TV series is actually Battlestar Galactica.
Thor: Yeah. The old one or the new one?
Jamie: The new one, actually.
Thor: So you don’t even probably know that there was an old one, because I’m old enough to know that there was another one that I watched when I was a kid that is similar to it, but nowhere near as cool. I love Battlestar Galactica. I watched every single one of those episodes of the new one, not the old one. And it is awesome. So you are the person who’s in the crowd, camouflaged with the rest of the group. Before you drop the truth bomb and tell the rest of the team what they should be focusing on, I’ve seen you do that in an action. So I’ve definitely seen that part of you. I did not know that you were engaged with science fiction and Battlestar Galactica and video games. What do you think your call sign should be based off all these things?
Jamie: So based off all of that, and we might need to cue some theme music here, I guess I could be the Cylon.
Thor: I love that. For those of you that don’t know, Cylon are the robots on Battlestar Galactica that are hanging out in the background, and you never know who it is, they look like they’re just some of the normal pilots on the rest of the show. And throughout the show it exposes who the Cylons are working behind the scenes, they end up being some of the good guys too. But it is super… I love that. That’s a great one for you because you are often in the background until it’s time and ready to expose your idea and some new direction for the group to go in. That’s probably one of the best callsign ideas that I’ve heard talked through on this show, so I like that. I’m actually gonna start calling you Cylon from this point forward.
Jamie: Sounds good.
Strategic Planning: Culture Clash
Thor: Alright, really excited about having this conversation today. I’ve gotten to know Jamie over the past almost two years. You realize that, Jamie? We met back in, I think, July of 2016.
Thor: And it’s been an incredible journey working with you and the end user computing team at VMware. And a quick history on that, I’ll take a minute out to just kind of describe how we got engaged at Afterburner with this team. So their leader from the sales side, Jeff Mitchell, came to us in August of 2016 and he said, “Hey, Afterburner guys, I need some help. I have taken over the sales role leading a… ” What were you guys at that point? About $1.3 billion, do you think?
Jamie: I’m not sure.
Thor: Yeah. So you guys were at a respectable number, a big portion of VMware’s revenue and he said, “This is supposed to be the growth portion of the company. We’re supposed to see this expand. The market’s getting bigger, but here’s what’s going on. For the last two quarters and for the first time in our 10-year history with this vertical, the numbers have actually gone in the wrong direction. They haven’t hit forecast and the market’s expanding rapidly. So that means we’re losing market share. We’re not hitting our numbers at a time when we should just be seeing organic growth taking place left and right with our sales. The opposite is occurring.” And he said, “Now, I gotta be honest, I’m nervous.” Jeff said, “I probably got about a quarter, maybe a quarter and a half of this trend before I’m gonna be looking for a different job because I need to fix this very, very quickly and get the numbers back on track.” And so behind the scenes, we worked with Jeff and did debriefs first, just like a fighter pilot did debriefs when we were flying airplanes. And it’s faster than the speed of sound, and making sure that we’re doing it safely and keeping the mission on track. One of our keys to success was debriefing to identify those pockets of success. Figure out the trends, the things that were going well and that were not going well.
Thor: We identified that they’d merged two different cultures from two different product lines, and they didn’t have a good plan to get those cultures to sell collectively. The team was operating on hope and said one plus one is gonna equal five. This is gonna be great when we bundle it together. Instead, one plus one equaled about one and a half and hence the sales were going in the wrong direction.
Thor: So Jeff said, “I’m going to turn it over to this team, this team of leaders that I have to turn this battleship in the right direction and build out a long-term vision for success.” And critical to the execution of this new strategy was Jamie Temple. And within about 48 hours of meeting Jeff, he said, “I gotta get you guys in front of Jamie Temple because she’s really the one who’s gonna execute this from behind the scenes.”
Thor: He said, “I’m the strategic leader, she’s going to need to tactically execute all of these different things that are gonna take place to get us back on track.” Jamie, I’ll let you pick up from there. From your perspective, what do you remember from that time period and what was going on in around August of 2016?
Jamie: Yeah. So I remember Jeff called on a staff call for the group and introduced, you, Thor, from Afterburner and said, “We’re going to run this big program and this is what it’s all about, and Jamie’s going to lead it.” And that was my first introduction to it.
Strategic Business Planning: A Long-Term Vision for Success
Jamie: Yes, I was very confused. One, for what Afterburner even meant, and then the fact that I was going to be leading it for our group. There was a lot of excitement, I like something that I don’t know anything about that suddenly I’m in charge of. I guess that’s good. But it was a really good experience after that because I was honestly nervous as well. I saw that those two cultures completely clashed that we were trying to combine and there was no clear solution to get out of that until we started going through the whole process of building out our HDD and running those programs.
Thor: When Jamie says HDD, what she’s referring to is the High Definition Destination. If you guys have followed any of these podcasts in the past, we talk about building out a long-term vision for success. One of the keys to Jeff succeeding and, spoiler alert, he succeeded, he crushed and we’ll talk later about what the numbers ended up doing and how well this team got their act together. But the HDD, that High Definition Destination, is the long-term vision for success in exquisite detail, your culture, your brand, your financial metrics, everything that you want to accomplish in three years.
Thor: And Jeff, to his credit, didn’t just focus on what everybody would want to focus on when the sales numbers were going in the wrong direction, which is next quarter. Just hey, go whip the team, go get the next quarter pipeline, go sell and, maybe throw some incentives their way and just get them to sell the product. Instead, he didn’t do that. He said, “I’m going to build out this long-term vision for success. We’re going to slow down to speed up and sharpen the saw.” So talk a little bit about how that process went behind the scenes and what pain point was that even addressing to build out a long-term vision for success?
Jamie: Well, initially, there was really a lot that was left to the different groups to continue doing what they were… How they were succeeding in the past. Because, as separate groups, they were successful. And so, when we came together, we didn’t want to muddy the waters, we just gave them a different side of the product that they were responsible for and thought that it was going to work out with some level of enablement. And then what we realized was, that wasn’t going to work, we needed to make some changes, we needed a vision and a directive to follow that vision by everyone across the team. A lot of what Jeff did there, is when we built out our strategic long-term plan and then the projects that fell underneath that, we got really inspirational leaders to lead those. Someone that was doing really well in a pocket and instead of them just having a very successful pocket of success, we really expanded that out and saw a lot of success throughout the company that way.
Thor: You had some silos that naturally developed. And I’ll tell you, the number one thing we hear from companies, they think it’s unique but it never is, is that, “Hey, we’ve got great teams but they operate tactically, they operate in silos, our marketing team is great but they don’t really talk to sales, and this product doesn’t talk to this product.” It’s a really common challenge and really difficult to overcome. And you’re saying that what was critical for this team to break down the walls of those silos was to have this long-term vision for success?
Jamie: Exactly, yes.
Thor: They had been operating on their own, and give me some insight why… This is a huge company, very, very successful. They put two cultures together, two products together, why did they not build out a long-term vision for success at the outset when they first put these teams together?
Jamie: There is often an assumption that culture is a lot easier to change and to manipulate than it really is. It’s extraordinarily difficult to even slightly change a culture. And this was not even just separate parts of a business, it was part of an acquisition of a company that had one really strong leader that was merged into a company that was quite large. There was a lot of start-up mentality with one side of the group and then there was a big company mindset in the other. And we just underestimated what we were getting into. There were different leaders, there were different directives. Everything was completely different. We had a different enablement person come in right at the same time that was supposed to be a fix but really it was… We kinda lost our inspiration. Where was it coming from? We didn’t really know.
Thor: Yeah. As an outsider looking in at this point, what we got to see was not only did you have different companies during this merger that were mashed together, but you had different cultures from an East Coast/West Coast perspective. You had different ways of approaching business, one was more transactional, the other one was more transformational and more innovative. And then, we also had just very different people behind the scenes that we’d put together and said, “Hey, one plus one is gonna equal five, this is gonna be fantastic. We’re gonna put these two product groups together, it’s gonna be chocolate and peanut butter.” But instead, it ended up being something that broke down the rhythms internally. And like you said, the cultures didn’t come together and immediately move in the same direction as a team. It actually got worse before it got better.
Jamie: Right. We did start off with a small pilot of merging a small group and it worked really well. And so we said, “Let’s go with it.” When really, maybe there should have been a slower roll out… There should have been a plan really thought out behind it. I’ve seen success in other things we’ve done with actually really building out a plan, instead of just saying, “That worked, let’s roll it out globally. Let’s roll it out across every single person on the team.” That’s not really a plan.
Thor: Wait a second, though, this is Silicon Valley, this is the height of creativity and innovation, you’re telling me that you’re gonna handcuff our teams with a long-term plan? Doesn’t this come from 1960s blue-chip stocks mentality? How can you possibly say that we needed to have something as arduous as a long-term plan that was guiding us as a team?
Strategic Business Planning: Collaborate On Every Level
Jamie: So one thing that we’ve seen with our long-term plans is that they include everyone from multiple levels, and maybe there was a long-term plan at a higher level, I wasn’t aware of it. I’m sure most other people weren’t aware of it. Until when the change came down, no one knew why it happened and who had the influence. And so these new long-term plans, and what I’m alluding to, I wish would have happened when we combined the teams, is that we had individual contributors from different regions, different groups of the business to take part in how they thought we should merge these teams to participate in that, and it takes longer, but the amount we lost in just quickly doing it, we could have spent a little bit more time planning and actually come out ahead.
Thor: Yeah. It’s such an important concept, and it’s the pushback we often get where a team say, “Well, you don’t understand our market, it’s moving faster than everybody else’s, and coming up with a long-term plan doesn’t make sense because our market’s shifting,” and keep in mind, this is when the largest tech merger in history was taking place between you guys and Dell and merging those worlds at the exact same time. So if ever there was a dynamic, volatile market that was shifting around us, it was this circumstance, and yet even amidst all this turmoil and change, it was critical for this team to map out their long-term vision for success. And something Jamie said there was so important.
Thor: She said, “There may have been a plan at the high level but it was never communicated to us.” And so the team is asking for a common mental model, this common vision for where we’re going, why we’re doing this. Earn my insights, earn my buy-in, earn my effort to make this change. And the leadership is saying, “Hey, don’t worry, we’re not gonna handcuff you, we’re not gonna put any long-term plans in your way, you guys are creative, we’ve hired the best of the best, you guys will figure out a way. At your level, we wanna give you autonomy.” And you can see how the two sides are saying very different things. That the leadership thinks they’re doing the teams a favor by giving them more autonomy and the teams that are actually executing are saying, “We need a common mental model, I need to know why we’re doing this and how we’re gonna get there.”
Thor: And it reminds me on one of my favorite quotes of all time from Nietzsche, who says that “He who has a strong enough why can survive any how.” And your team built this really exciting why. I still remember, going back to August of 2016, and you said, “When we’re leading the digital transformation for the entire marketplace,” and the entire group got excited about what they were going to accomplish over the next two years. And there was a tech transformation taking place in just about every industry and end-user computing, I.e., the mobile devices and the mobile workstations that are out there. Such an important piece of the puzzle for that tech’s transformation. And a lot of it really hadn’t taken place at that point. And here is little old VMware coming into this world and just dominating in this environment. So let’s get the numbers out of the way and just talk about what you guys have accomplished since then so that people can have some idea of what the scope is… What you led behind the scenes.
Thor: Like I said, Jeff came to me and said, “I got a quarter and a half before they fire me and the numbers are going in the wrong direction, we need to fix them.” They built their long-term plan, they adhered to their three critical leverage points, the things they thought were most important. They met their forecast the very next quarter but since then they’ve had double-digit percentage growth for every quarter since that took place. So just amazing explosive growth drove the stock price. The stock price has now tripled since that date and a lot of that has to do with the leadership of Jeff and his team and Jamie executing behind the scenes. So talk to us, Jamie. If you were to give some insights to a group saying, “That’s the exact type of shift we need to make, we wanna use the plan that we’ve developed, we have this long-term vision for success.” What were the keys from your role to hold the team accountable here?
Strategic Business Planning: The Critical Few
Jamie: Well, I think a lot of it was making sure that as we rolled out different programs, it was a group that first selected what we needed to work on first. It wasn’t just Jeff, the decision was given to a group of leaders on what we needed to run. After we selected that, we continued to trickle down where we got into multiple levels of different people. We picked a leader who was someone that people looked to as inspirational to lead different projects for enablement. For example, we don’t just pick the person who was our enablement person, we picked someone who had done a great job in enablement within the SE organization. They were looked to as a leader, they were someone who could inspire the rest of the team. And working in partnership with our enablement team, we were able to get a lot of work done.
Jamie: And with that, also we didn’t just decide that the leaders would develop a plan, we went to different groups who would receive the enablement. We asked, “What do you need? Who on your teams are really passionate about enablement? Who goes in and attends all the trainings or gives feedback? Can they join a team to help us create a better program?” And so we did that across different geographies, we did that across different segments of the business as well, and we got a really good team who gave us a lot of good feedback and we developed a lot of change agents from the individual contributor, management and leadership level to roll something out that was really impactful.
Jamie: It wasn’t just something that was given to someone, people were aware that people, us, we created this. It wasn’t leadership, it wasn’t given to us, it was something we created. Everything was around adding that culture change as part of the project. It wasn’t just to deliver an enablement program, it wasn’t just to deliver a customer for life program. It was, how do we change the culture to make this program work, what do we need to do to actually be effective, to actually make people excited to be employees here again. To take the enablement, not to force them, but to make them want to take it because they’ll know that there’s value in it.
Thor: So many awesome things to extract from that conversation that I wanna share here some core principles of how we support groups that are looking to make this change. The first one is, you alluded to the fact that it was highly collaborative, it’s not the leadership getting together in a tiny room coming up with a brilliant plan, and then handing it out to the rest of the group. Remember, even if it’s a perfect plan, you handing out that plan to them, the mere existence of that plan, does not mean your team is better off. The example I always use is that, if you’re looking to get in shape, and you wanna change your diet and your fitness and health and workout regimen, you could go online right now and you could find phenomenal plans. Just google diet and fitness right now, diet plan, fitness plan you will find something that’s amazing, I promise you will. But the mere existence of that plan makes you no more likely to go hit the gym tomorrow than if didn’t exist.
Thor: It’s the act of getting your fingerprints on a plan and getting your buy-in and earning the insights and the commitment from the rest of your team, and the only way you can do that is by collaboratively building that plan out as a group. And so what Jeff did and what Jamie did is they brought the functional leaders into a room and they brought people out of all the different echelons of rank and title within the organization and then, they built this plan and not only said, “Hey, we’re gonna build the plan together, but we empower you and even obligate you to tell us how the plan will fail.”
Thor: And so they allowed these team members to come up with creative ways that this plan will not succeed and it’s always a difficult conversation when you first introduce this with leaders, but it’s so powerful when you do it, because the more you come up with ways that it’ll fail and you can mitigate them and talk about how you’ll work around that, the tighter the plan is built, the more credibility and confidence the group has in it. That was the first piece, it was highly collaborative.
Thor: Second thing I want you to hear from what Jamie said is that once they had the plan and they had their critical leverage points, they’re not doing 100 things, they’re not doing even 20 things, it was three things that they’re gonna focus on as a team. Think about what Jamie said right there, she said, “We wanna fix the culture, we don’t just wanna go put a Band-Aid on sales, we can probably go incentivize sales next quarter and hit our number, but it’s not just about doing that, it’s creating a long-term sustainable culture behind the scenes.” And what the difference is there, I want you to think about it in these terms, they stopped pushing people out the door and pushing them to go sell more, pushing them to go work harder, and instead they created a pull mechanism, and the pull mechanism was pulling them towards this common destination. They all said, “We wanna be in this incredible place in three years, we all agree on that, it’s exciting, it’s what we wanna be a part of,” and we no longer had to push them out the door to get them to work, the culture was pulling them in that direction instead. So by creating a common mental model, that common vision for success was pulling them towards that destination.
Thor: And the last thing I want you to hear, and I want to talk about this a little bit more, how to find these people, is that they were very, very deliberate about finding the tactical leaders behind the scenes, particularly for these three critical leverage points, these three strategic initiatives that were gonna take place in the next quarter, to go pursue those. And it couldn’t just be the subject matter expert, not the smartest person in the room. Jamie, talk a little bit about how you picked those leaders to fulfill that role.
Selecting the Right Leaders
Jamie: Right, when we were selecting leaders for the campaign level, so that’s the higher level, it’s often, for VMware it’s typically a one-year plan. That’s where we figure out what we need to work on and we go to leadership and they often will select one or two people that they think are the right ones. And we’ll go out to the leaders within the organization, they often are cross-functional, so for example, Jeff will recommend leaders that don’t report to him and we’ll try to find someone that is really inspirational again and that they actually have the time to do this. But we’re really more involved in selecting leaders as more those tactical missions.
Jamie: And this is where we need someone, typically the campaign leader, they’re very helpful in getting rid of a lot of roadblocks, but oftentimes they can just make sure the rest of the leaders are picked properly for the rest of the project and just help guide it. And so when we get to the mission leaders, what we do there is we come up with what functional group does this person need to represent, where are we trying to seek the most change, and we’ll go to that group and ask the leader, “Hey, we need someone who’s really motivated, someone that’s up and coming and wanting to make a change and passionate about X.”
Jamie: If that’s Windows 10, whatever it is, we want someone that’s really passionate. “Who can you recommend?” And then we’ll get someone from that organization recommended to us and they’re really excited, they’re an up-and-comer, we might have never worked with them before and they’ve never been given a big project to own and so, one, it’s really exciting for them to run something and so their motivation is up a notch. And so we really enjoy kinda working with people that are different. And I actually talked to you about this, Thor, before about just the diversity on the teams.
Jamie: That’s kinda how we get it, we get those unique ideas, we get the buy-in across different groups because we’re not just going to the people that happen to be at dinners with others, with leaders, getting invited to different kick-off events, we find people that we’ve never worked with and they provide a lot of new insights and opinions and other people in the organization will see that as, “Wow, I could maybe lead a project in the future, maybe… ” And then that also gets our teams a lot more diversified and it just helps with the buy-in because, again, it’s a different person that they haven’t seen as a leader before. It’s just an interesting way of not always just going to the people we know.
Thor: There’s an entirely new topic and podcast that you and I gotta do on how you leverage and include folks from diverse backgrounds because you guys have done such a phenomenal job with that. And diversity in this case, in all cases, really, when you talk about diverse teams, at the end of the day it’s about how you approach problems differently and how you leverage that unique capacity to succeed with different ways and different perspectives of looking at the world. And what you guys have done that’s so phenomenal is that you’ve done that across all the different functional groups, so between marketing, the business ops side, the sales team, very, very different backgrounds, different types of people gravitate towards those roles, different ways of thinking within those roles, and then the different regional groups.
Thor: So people from EMEA, people from APJ, people from the States, from South America, and you have done a phenomenal job of leveraging all their opinions, creating an inclusive atmosphere, but more importantly coming up with the best plan and the best execution possible, based off of all these unique perspectives. That’s the next one we’re gonna talk about; we’ll save that for the next episode.
Thor: But I do wanna unpack the other thing you said there, you said the way pick these people is not just based off of the one who’s the subject matter expert, it’s such an important point. Because you guys, remember when you’ve picked these final three critical leverage points, these things that must… These must-wins. Out of the 100 things you should do, what are the three things you must do to get closer to your destination? Once you figure what those are, you gotta put somebody in charge of it who’s not just the smartest in the room, they’re gonna have to tactically execute behind the scenes.
Thor: It’s a lot of phone calls off-hours, that’s a lot of effort and thinking about things and mitigating the inevitable pop-up threats that take place, and it’s gotta be somebody who yes, understands it, but that’s one leg of the three legs on the chair in my perspective. And you talked about the others, the other one is they have to love it. They have to have a passion for it, they have to want this to succeed in a huge way, because it’s gonna be a lot of work, and some of it uphill, to make it happen.
Thor: And then the last piece that I talk about is the capacity to allow this to take place, and they have to have enough room on their plate to add that one more thing. So, gets it, wants it, has the capacity, and the leader there is really wants it. They have to have the desire and the passion for seeing this through. And then you added a fourth one I hadn’t thought of before in our prep, and I thought it was a really good one, an interesting one. You want to talk about that a little bit?
Jamie: Yeah. So the one that I added was that they are inspirational. And that’s the one that’s been the kicker for us, because so many people before they heard that our Afterburner program, they’re like, “What is this? It’s another project. I don’t wanna get involved. It’s just a Center of Excellence. What is this thing? They all just fizzle out after we’ve been on 20 phone calls.” And so when we pick an inspirational leader, they have a following. And so that kind of really… It kick starts it. People at least join the planning session; okay, we captured them for planning. And then they can get ’em on the first few calls, people commit to signing up, and then, guess what? A couple of months later we’ve completed these projects, now we’ve got a stamp of approval because this inspirational leader helped get these teams on board and pulled us through the whole project, and now everyone, when they hear, “Oh, it’s an Afterburner project,” they’re behind it, they’ve seen the success in it.
Jamie: And as we continue to get those inspirational leaders and help build out some, sometimes you get someone who, again, they’re an up-and-coming leader and there’s one area where they’re really strong at speaking and inspiring teams, but then the organizational aspect, they need a lot of help. So my team-mate Jeannette and I will really help them with the organizational aspect. And then others are more great at organization but they don’t really like to get up in front of the room and speak. So we kind of can help them a little bit become those inspirational leaders and get those teams on board.
Jamie: And so if you have someone that starts showing up late to meetings, who doesn’t really deliver on what they do for their daily job, why would you sign up to be on their project with them? They’ve got to be an inspiring person to keep people. These are outside of their day jobs. We’re not carving out time, these aren’t people who have time cards and we’re getting 20 hours a week from ’em. It’s kind of them saying “This is important to me. I’ll help you make this change.” We need someone to inspire them to do that.
Thor: And one important thing to caveat on there is that every one of these projects that we support, every transition that we support, is outside of their day job. So the very common push back we get from people is that they’re saying, “We’ve still gotta get the day job done.” Yes, you do, but it’s the innovator’s dilemma; you gotta do both. And just like every other organization in the world, you gotta do both. You gotta figure out how do you continue mining your existing opportunities while exploring for new ones and mapping out the path to the future that you’re gonna go after. And I love the idea of the influential, inspirational person being one of the critical keys to success for the group, because you guys had… How many missions have you done now, which are the equivalent of projects?
Jamie: Probably 35.
Thor: 35, and if you had to guess at a completion rate, a success rate, for those missions, what do you think that would be?
Jamie: Well, we had a campaign that we paused. We finished the missions and then just didn’t start the next few, so I’d call that like one that didn’t quite work as a campaign. But again, we’ve re-launched it and it’s been very successful, so maybe we broke even with that.
Thor: Yeah. So literally this group is sitting near 100% success rate, and remember, this is the team that didn’t work well together in the past, that they had the East Coast/West Coast culture, they couldn’t even align on what they wanted to accomplish as a group, and because they built that long-term destination, they figured out the critical must-wins in the short-term and started working on that with the right leaders behind the scenes and Jamie leading that conversation, they have now 35 missions a year-and-a-half later, and how many billions of dollars in success opportunities later, for the sales team, just crushing it. You guys are leading a very cool revolution in this digital transformation. Now you guys are all over the place in the end-user computing world.
Jamie: And actually, one note on that. Sometimes we actually chose to stop our campaign, and I think that’s an important note too, it didn’t just fizzle out, we realized, “Hey, when we planned this, we weren’t expecting… ” It was for Windows 10. We weren’t expecting the market shift that happened. When it did, we realized, “Hey, we kinda need to start over, we need to have a different person in charge of this, because it’s not just sales anymore. It’s a big, big project that’s very cross-functional.” And so I think that’s kinda critical too, of just knowing when to stop instead of just going because you’re going.
Thor: Such an important point, because a lot of listeners are saying, “But this doesn’t sound very agile. Everybody teaches me that agile means you can change course 90 degrees tomorrow and it sounds like if you’re creating this long-term vision for success, how do we maintain our agility?” And you just described how you do it. You’re gonna have a long-term vision for success, a common mental model on how you’re gonna get there. And there will be turmoil, there will be change. And something will have to stay agile and adjust during execution, but that something is not the long-term vision for success. That something is the path that you’re going to use to get there, and you just alluded to one element of it. The Windows 10 approach had to shift because the market shifted, and things happened behind the scenes, and you had to move away from that strategic direction and pick a different one, change the path to your destination. But did your destination change during that process?
Jamie: No, it did not.
Thor: Yeah, and what’s amazing, we went back and we always say, we’ll revisit the HDD, the High Definition Destination, we’ll talk about where you guys want to be again and make sure that in the past year or past two years, that there’s nothing new you wanna incorporate. I’m putting you on the spot, you guys did change one thing, do you remember what you changed when we went back and looked at it?
Jamie: Was it a number?
Thor: Yeah. You increased your sales. So you had a certain goal, you guys were doing so well, that you said, we’re going to raise that number and just make it higher, which is fascinating when you think about it. This is the tech industry, nothing moves faster, it is the biggest wave and the most momentum behind the scenes of anything that’s taking place in any market right now. Everything is touched by the tech wave and the tech boom that’s occurring. If anything was going to be volatile and ever-changing, it’s this industry, and yet, here’s a company that’s been super successful and had this long-term vision and had this acquisition with the Dell empire and all these other things take place in the interim between when they built their plan and today, and yet, their long-term plan only changed by one facet, and that was to increase their sales.
Thor: That’s the power of having a long-term vision for success and maintaining your agility in your path to get to that destination. Jamie, I’ll give you the last word, anything else, there’s a lot of people out there looking to accomplish what you’ve accomplished. You’ve gone from being a tactical leader and doing an exceptional job as a tactical piece in the puzzle to becoming a strategic resource for your company.
Thor: I’ve told you in the past, people have brought you up before to say, this has been amazing to watch Jamie transform as a leader and play such a key role behind the scenes in the success. So you’re good at the tactical execution piece, but then you’re also good at the strategic oversight piece with the senior leaders for this entire company. What advice would you give for somebody looking to make that transition?
Strategic Business Planning: Stay Flexible
Jamie: The main thing is to stay flexible. The Afterburner methodology, it’s a framework. There’s a lot of frameworks, and sometimes a label on something is scary for people, when you’re like, “We’re gonna run this program using Afterburner.” They’re like, “Whoa, this is gonna be really involved.” It’s very lightweight and the main thing is to not put any burden of the project on people who have a huge day job, of just the operational elements of it. You need to have someone helping, and so at VMWare, I take on a lot of that responsibility, my team-mate Jeannette, she takes on a lot as well, and that’s really what makes it work, is the project management, program management, most people, they don’t see a lot of it, it’s very lightweight.
Jamie: If some groups, they don’t like a piece of it, change it a little bit, be flexible, make it work for you. But do something, just take on that collaboration piece, that’s the most critical component. Talk through all the different… The threats and the resources and really talk through the project before just building a plan. If you don’t wanna use sticky notes, find a different way. [chuckle] I don’t know if, Thor, if you like me saying that, but really, just use the ideas to change the way you plan, and it will make a huge difference.
Thor: Yup. And I would agree with everything you said, absolutely, 100%. We want it to be a common mental model. And that’s the common process to come up with those answers, and we’ll talk about this in the next one because it actually does go back to diversity and inclusion a lot, and I’m excited about having that conversation. But what you’re hinting at is that having this common mental model behind the scenes, this common vision for success is so empowering. It is not heavy-weight, it’s the opposite. It now frees your team from having to guess at what direction they should be going in.
Thor: It points them in collectively the same direction and allows them to be creative and innovate, and do the things that you wanna pay them to be creative on within the boundaries and the guardrails of that destination as a team that they’re excited about. Congratulations to you, Jamie, on all the success that you’ve led behind the scenes at VMWare for end-user computing and for the entire company. We’ve watched this now spread to Silicon Valley and their team members out there, and a lot of exciting things are taking place because of the success stories that you and Jeff are helping to write out here in Atlanta.
Jamie: Alright, well, thank you, and thank you for having me.
Thor: Absolutely. Great to have you, Jamie.