Kerry’s specialties include business and IT strategy, systems planning, technical architecture, solution delivery, and program and project management.
Automated: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where I talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Kerry, I always like to mention past episodes [inaudible 00:00:41] check out. We had David Allen of getting things done, Michael Gerber of the E-Myth, and many more. And before I introduce Kerry Stover, who’s going to talk about some amazing topics about aligning your process procedures to your actual purpose. And I will introduce him formally, but this episode is brought to you by SweetProcess.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Now, if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again, and it may be the 10th time you spend explaining it, well, there’s actually a better way. There is a solution. SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop that easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. And not only do universities, banks, hospital and software companies use them, but I was talking with the owner, Owen, and he was telling me first responder government agencies actually use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time so you could focus on growing your team and empowering them.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You could sign up for a free 14-day trial, no credit cards required. You go to sweetprocess.com. Sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T process.com. And I’m excited to introduce Kerry Stover. He’s a COO of Pariveda and they’re a consulting firm dedicated to solving complex technology and business problems. And Kerry has over three decades of management and technology consulting experience. And like I mentioned, we’re going to talk about aligning process procedures to the purpose of the company. Kerry, thanks for joining me.
Kerry Stover: Glad to be here today.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I wanted you to start off with just telling people about your company and what you do.
Kerry Stover: Sure. I’m the COO. If you look up in that [inaudible 00:02:26] of knowledge, Wikipedia, what is the COO? It literally says whatever the CEO doesn’t want to do. And in this case, our CEO, Bruce Ballengee founded the company with the desire to architect an environment in which he could combine his passion for developing people with the business of consulting, by leveraging client problems, to be the food for which we could grow our talented individuals. So that was the purpose. And he wanted to architect the company. And I was asked to come on board to be a head of sales and delivery of our consulting services. So I’m responsible for 600 plus consultants across our 11 offices in the US and Canada for the selling and delivery of consulting services to solve our clients’ problems.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I feel like I will look more stressed out if I had your position. What type of clients do you work with?
Kerry Stover: Anything from the Fortune 5 to a startup. Our sweet spot is probably a mixture of the mid-market companies in the two to five billion dollar range if you will, that where we have a great level of client base there, but we’re in many of the Fortune 10, Fortune 5 companies as well.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Now I know some of the companies you’re working with are probably private and some of the problems are private, but I love to kind of add some color around complex problem. We’ll be the example of a complex problem that you as a company have gotten that you’ve helped a company solve.
Kerry Stover: Sure. We had a company in the agribusiness that was an early adopter of AWS, and they were trying to get real time data from the machinery through satellite technology stored so that they could then feed it back to the machinery so that they could understand what was happening real time out in the lens of their various customers. And it was taking 25 hours to process 24 hours worth of data. Essentially it was the summary way to do it. They could not get the data up and back in time for it to be useful with that.
Kerry Stover: So AWS knew [inaudible 00:04:55] beta and called us and said, "We need help. We need to go and figure out how we solve this problem and would you join us in that journey?" And so we were able to get down to working with the client and with the technology. We were able to understand what they were trying to accomplish, design ways to move that data faster, to get it down to subsecond response time for moving data up and back, and to make certain that it was recorded instantaneously versus batched up and processed in large chunks at the end of the day.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And then I imagine there’s a lot of people involved in thinking this through and then actually the implementation. For that type of project, what number of people or range of people do you have to deploy to work on something like that? Sounds pretty complex.
Kerry Stover: It’s hard, it’s complex, but it’s also in many ways a complex problem needs a small team. And that’s one of our fundamentals of our business is that we want to operate with small teams because we think they’re most effective in problem solving.
Kerry Stover: You sometimes need masses of people to go affect change across the globe and to see that standards are done and coordinated, but the core of the problem and with the heart, the original design is best done by a very small team that’s thinking about the problem, working together collaboratively to do it. So we had a team that probably maxed out at implementation at 20 when we were fully in place to build everything. But the original small team was about four or five people that was working with the client for us to solve the problem.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: That’s pretty cool. Is there any favorites from the past couple decades of a problem that maybe the client thought was impossible? I don’t even know if this could be solved or one that sticks out to you over the years of just a powerful thing you were able to do.
Kerry Stover: Yeah. One of the original stories [inaudible 00:07:04] was there’s a company that was trying to deal with scheduling systems for lighting, if you will call it, which is lightering, which is the process of identifying boats in a Harbor and which ones needed to come in at the right time and do the scheduling systems for that.
Kerry Stover: And this was very early in our lives. That’s about 15 years ago now. And it’s one of those internal problems. It’s sort of like the scheduling route for the sales delivery person. What’s the optimum thing. And the client was perplexed and other companies has come in and looked at it and given them huge adjustments. And we came and looked at it and said, "Have you thought about some gaming software?" And we had some connections and we were able to bring a platform over from the gaming industry that considers that if you think about what a gaming system does, which is models, moving things around to where you’re going to shoot them or whatever you’re going to do, very similar type of problem solving, but it was from a different industry. And we were able to implement that at probably a 10th of the cost of what they were expecting to spend, and because of our ability to see a solution that was around the corner from what they could really imagine at the time.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I love that. Yes, I forgot who’s told me this thing or who is attributed to, but innovation comes from outside industry and you guys see so many industries. You could bring solutions from one industry that you saw clearly work to another one. So I love that. And then we talked about aligning processes and procedures to the purpose of an organization. So when we were planning that, when I say that, what comes to mind for you?
Kerry Stover: Yeah. First, we’re purpose founded. I mean, Bruce started the company with the intention of putting together his desire to develop people with an aspiration of some of his friends to start a consulting company. He was ready to retire. He was going to go teach systems architecture and systems engineering at the university level. He had been a part of founding consulting firms before, COO of major consulting firm before, and wanted to retire.
Kerry Stover: But some friends came, "Look, we’d love to just start a consulting firm with you." And he realized at that moment, "I could do my passion for developing people inside of the company as long as we make certain [inaudible 00:09:34] for a purpose." And so from the day of the inception of the thought of having Pariveda, the purpose of developing people is served as the center of what we do. The decisions we make have to have that in mind, because once you stop making it the foremost recent for being the foremost part of your decision making process, how far do you go down the slippery slope for when, how many times do you justify not making it first that it then slips away in the company erode right in front of your eyes?
Kerry Stover: So that’s where from our founding we have that. Now a lot of companies don’t really know their purpose. Or if they do, it’s not a purpose they want to promote. Many startups are there to… If you get to the true purpose it’s to sell the company to somebody else. Some that are out to change the world, but many times the founder’s real intention is to build it big enough to sell. There’s nothing wrong with that, in terms of that. It’s just that that is going to drive the decision making within the company. And so truly understanding what is the purpose, not what’s the stated purpose. What does behavior tell employees is. The purpose is pretty important because employees will know when the stated purpose and the actions don’t align.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We were talking about some, before we hit recording, some examples of process and procedures that align with the purpose. And you were saying a little bit about the two biggest processes for you.
Kerry Stover: And as a consulting firm that’s really focused on developing talent, the two things that really do drive us on a day to day basis are one, as the projects are coming in from our vice presidents out solutioning with clients envisioning what can be done, scoping. And then we finally get to, we need to staff a team. We have opportunities, many opportunities [inaudible 00:11:39] matching with 600 employees, the projects coming in. How do you decide where someone works and how do you make certain that you’re holding true to your purpose of developing them to their fullest potential?
Kerry Stover: And so that matching process has to take into account the developmental needs of the individual and the development opportunities on a project. And we have to look for the best optimization across all of them to make certain that everybody is getting something out of that for their development opportunities, which can be a challenge at times because oftentimes you don’t get enough of the supply side of the projects that have the right development opportunities for all individuals.
Kerry Stover: And you have to look at someone and say, "This is what we have." That to us is something we don’t like doing. And so we make it an accountability for anybody who has a project like that, where you’re assigned someone who’s pretty much maybe overqualified, if you will, for that work is you need to find other ways to develop them on the project or else you won’t be assigned to anybody to that work.
Kerry Stover: We need you to have a plan to go beyond your project, to give them opportunities to grow. And so that is a constant daily conversation that goes on inside the company about where we put somebody. But when we start squinting, if I call it. So yeah, that’s a pretty good match. Again, when do you stop squinting and you get really comfortable with not making the best match as possible.
Kerry Stover: The second biggest activity we have it comes every quarter is what we call our seminar review process. Every employee is in a Q1, Q3 or Q2, Q4 cycle. We do a 360 evaluation, qualitative. There are no numbers involved in the review process. And a mentor is told to go get feedback from everybody that they worked with. So typically you’re getting 15 people or so giving you feedback on an individual, as a mentor, you write a review against a openly published set of standards of behaviors, expectations, if you will, for how do they communicate, how do they think, how do they problem solve, how do they work with clients, et cetera. How do they manage meetings?
Kerry Stover: All these dimensions are written out with a transparent. Here’s an expected behavior between your level manager and managing meetings. How does that look? And so that mentor typically spends probably four to six hours of synthesizing the feedback and then probably another four hours writing the review. And then they go in and have to have a QA session where peers get together and discuss the reviews that have been written to make certain that there’s a fairness that’s there so that everyone feels like it’s not just what one manager thinks, but this is an opinion of the firm.
Kerry Stover: So when I joined Pariveda my first… I’ve known Bruce since we started back in 1981 together. Worked together for four decades now. Friends, worked together in several companies along the way. And when I came on board it was a couple months. And then I sat in my first seminar review QA session.
Kerry Stover: And after four hours, we were starting the discussion about the fifth employee and Bruce leans over and says, "So what do you think?" And I’m like, "This is awesome that we’re spending so much and attention, not sure how it’s going to scale." And he goes, "Well, that’s what we’re going to go do." So, 15 years later, this is an amazing process that we figure out how to make it happen at a company of 700 and to do it very efficiently. But the most important thing is that we’re still as effective as we were back then of giving people the right review with the right feedback for the development of their career.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’d be nervous if he said that, Kerry. Because you’re thinking, how do you scale that? It’s such a human centric, intensive process. I mean, how do you even begin to scale something like that?
Kerry Stover: Now the key thing is to not think of it as a monolith, but to think of it as an organism, think of it as cells that have to come together, work together for a period of time and then go on. So if you think of it, and this is something that we continually fight as people, there’s a series of sessions that I need to set in on. And so people view me as the bottleneck, which sometimes I am, but let’s just take this as an instance of I need to sit in on the reviews of certain people. So they’ll say, "Well, let’s set aside three days for Kerry and figure out that everybody else can conform to Kerry’s schedule." And that doesn’t always work because what happens is things come up and people can’t meet that.
Kerry Stover: And the team got around this year and I’m really proud of them to say, "Look, we just have to look for the right match of the four or five people that need to be in the room to have the conversation and schedule a time for them uniquely. We don’t need to set aside days on people’s schedules. We need to find times for individuals together, together as a small group, a small molecular cell that’s coming together at that time to have the conversation." So if you look at the instances and treat them as what’s important, you can find enough time to do it. If you think of it as a monolith that will eventually break down.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Because it sounds like also you think of it as cells that come together and you think of it and you’re looking at the different bottlenecks that are the limiting factors too.
Kerry Stover: We do. We’ve tried a couple of different ways of doing it. And we found that one of the big things we had to figure out was why were people in the meetings to begin with. In other words, what did we really have to have versus what did everybody want to be in the meetings?
Kerry Stover: And so one of the purposes of the meetings is to get the right review written. The most important thing is to follow our purpose. The second thing that was happening in these meetings when we did them in large bulk, was that we wanted to grow young mentors and what it meant to write a good review. And so we would have people sitting in not to really contribute, but to listen and learn. And then the third thing was a fear of missing out that senior leaders wanted to hear what was happening with all the other people in the company that they weren’t working with.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: They want to be on everything.
Kerry Stover: So we ended up having this conglomeration of a lot of people, but the bottleneck was huge because nobody could sit in all of them and they were tiring. And so we said, "No, we’ve got to break this down to the smaller units, identify the absolute must haves, haves to be there. We can find a different way to train mentors and review writing and give them enough speed to get up to thing. And we got to tell people, the company’s getting bigger. You can’t be involved in everything all the time, but we’ll communicate the outcomes of all this. So you can be aware of what’s happening and what the needs are." And so you have to break one thing down into many and let each one solve the problem that they’re trying to solve versus trying to do it in one.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Kerry, what have you found that’s worked for communicating the outcome? Because I know, especially with leadership, you can’t be everywhere. But you want to have your finger on the pulse of it too. What’s worked with communicating that outcome to other people?
Kerry Stover: So we have summaries of the reviews that are posted so that we can go see anything. So if I’m interested in an outcome anywhere in the company, I can actually go read the review itself and look and see what’s being discussed about the individual, what the advice is. If I’m going to visit I oftentimes an office, which I do pretty much every week. I look at the people who I’m going to be me with and what their CDPs are. Their career development points that are at the bottom of the review. Because we try and summarize at each review, "Hey, here’s three things to go work on. Here’s all this stuff. And it’s really good. Here are the three core things that if you work on that will move you forward." And people find that very valuable for somebody to know what they’re working on and be able to have a discussion around it. So those are ways that we make it possible mainly because we operate with a lot of transparency in the company.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I feel Kerry, this would be… I mean, really you’d learn a lot, anyone just sitting in and listening on giving and getting feedback. I mean, there’s so many elements here that are valuable. I would love to hear an example of something that came out of the 360 review. I don’t know, maybe it was you, maybe it was listening to it or maybe it was the actual person who got it. What came out on the other side as far as what they actually implemented and what happened after that whole process. Because that’s a really valuable, but time consuming activity.
Kerry Stover: It is. But it’s valuable. I mean it is the core message to our individuals about how their career is developing and how they’re developing. I’ll just give some example of what I deal with. I’m typically working with the reviews of vice presidents and people who are about to be promoted with vice presidents.
Kerry Stover: Oftentimes the framing of what the feedback is being given to them isn’t complete enough. And so the context of what is driving that individual has not really been thought through by the mentor. I’m not criticizing, I’m simply saying sometimes people haven’t thought this deep enough about what are the motivating factors for that individual? What are the constraints that they’re working out in their personal life or professional life.
Kerry Stover: And how you frame the feedback is as important as the feedback itself. And so a lot of times they will hear the feedback, but is it really framed well for the person to understand it and get ahold of it and work with it? So that’s one of the bigger changes that will come about is how do you frame and think about what you’re telling them versus just telling them to do these things.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I mean, you mentioned a couple other things there that I think are just valuable to think about as far as questions. Again, this stuff comes naturally to you because you do this every single day in week, but you mention motivating factors and constraints and really thinking through those. What are some examples that you have found with people of motivating factors and constraints for them?
Kerry Stover: The motivations of individuals are individualistic I guess would be the way to say it. And so we use a couple of different personality profiles inside the company so that we can see what are the tendencies they share? They’re not perfect, but they at least give away in which you can think about how the person best receives a message.
Kerry Stover: Some people want to do it because it’s good for the company. Others want to do it because it’s good for them. So the way in which you express it, we need this as a company, we need this or the way you need this is subtle. But to invert those is going to work against the message itself. Trying to think to someone, really someone who operates we use HBDI, the Herman Brain, something. I can’t remember this.
Kerry Stover: But it’s a personality profiling system. And it talks about quadrants of thinking. Do you deal with the emotions? Do you deal with the why, or do you deal with the how? And if somebody is grounded in the how, you want to get them to better understand the why we’re doing it, but you can’t be devoid of the how, because they won’t understand it. So you’ve got to give something in their language to allow them to move forward with the career development plan that’s been put together.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Love it. Kerry, I have one last question before I ask it, I want to point people to learn more about what you guys do as a company. And you can go to parivedasolutions.com. It’s P-A-R-I-V-E-D-A solutions.com. Are there any other places online or places on the site that we should point people towards specifically?
Kerry Stover: That’s great. We have a profile page on LinkedIn. You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter. But that website will do well for the purposes of learning about us.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: My last question is I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of your favorite resources, whether they’re books or audio, or personality tests. Some of your favorites that you’ve used throughout the year. And you just have a really interesting background. I’m not sure you made it from mathematics all the way to COO. But I just love to hear some of your favorite resources throughout the years.
Kerry Stover: Well, I’m an [inaudible 00:25:33] book reader. I probably read 20 plus books a year, read several subscriptions. There’s always a favorite book that I have. I keep a reading list because people ask me inside the company, "What are books to share?" So I’ve got a reading list that I’ll send out to people. Things that are just interesting to me, and I found that will give me an edge. A lot of books come down to one key message by the time you work through it. And I found that books, if I can find that they’re a very useful tool to help move somebody at some point with something that they’re working on. If you can just remember that one key thing about a book, very useful. So that’s one of the aspects that really drives me from being able to learn and work with that.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Which ones stick out to you over the years? Some of your favorites.
Kerry Stover: It’s a very obscure book. It’s called The Myth of the Objective: Why Planning for Greatness Fails.
Kerry Stover: In other words, if you’ve got something so big, so bold that you can’t see a path towards achieving it, writing out a plan, how do it’s going to work? So people have these bold plans versus how do I make incremental steps towards my objective and know that I may not be working. So I use the analogy and I talk to people. I use this analogy more in the company than anything else, "You want to get way over there." It’s like standing on a riverbank of this river that’s a hundred yards across or so. And it’s not very deep. You can see rocks, you can see from one side of the river. I know I can cross the river by crossing on rocks. The problem is you can’t see exactly what rocks to step on and what sequence from one bank of the river. You have to start walking out onto the rocks for your perspective to change, to learn more.
Kerry Stover: So at one point in time, we were wanting to put together, take a software product to market. And the vice president came in and gave me a business plan and said, "Here’s the business plan. If you’ll approve that, we’ll take an investment to the client, get the IP rights to the software. This is what we’ll do over the next 10 years." And I’m like, "Let’s go build the software first and prove that it works with a client and then let’s get a second client. And then let’s get a third client. When we get three clients, let’s go figure out what we’ve learned at that point in time about what it means to have this. I understand you think you’ve got 10 years laid out. You’re going to learn a lot just getting three clients and it’ll change your perspective."
Kerry Stover: So that’s one of my favorite books to reference. Another one is The Success Equation. Which is the role of luck in sports, business, and finance. And people don’t understand how much luck is involved. So one of the things we do at Pariveda is we don’t have sales quotas. We don’t have commission because sales, if you think of a skill as something that you can repeat and get the same results again and again, then why do salespeople not win every sale they go after? Luck plays a role in a sale. Who says what to whom, who knows whom, what somebody else thinks. Those are uncontrollable things. And so understanding that luck [inaudible 00:29:06] what do we want? Are we founded on we want to reward good behavior? Outcomes will come, enough good outcomes will come if good behaviors are done.
Kerry Stover: So another mental model that I always had this question of why do smart people tend to do dumb things, which was really the balance of IQ and EQ. And so, Bruce, who’s very good about wanting people to develop and even someone like me came upon this learning model called the leadership maturity framework, LMF for short. And we went out to learn about it together in the executive team. And it really was a chance to think about how people look at the world from different levels of maturation in the framework of the perspectives they take. And so it’s allowed me to think more differently about how some people just want to be the expert and they want the world to look at them. And that’s all that they care about versus others who say, I want to build something and I want to actually achieve something for others versus some who are thinking about, well, I don’t want to achieve it for others. I actually want to affect others so that they affect others beyond them and think about generational change.
Kerry Stover: And so that’s been an interesting learning for me about how you encapsulize to people, not the effect of what they’re doing on what they’re doing today, but how they think about it [inaudible 00:30:42]. And we do lots of projects, but our whole business is about lifetime relationships with clients, which means you can’t optimize on one project for the forsaking of the entire relationship. We need to be thinking about the give and take necessary because it’s an infinite game. We play in [inaudible 00:31:01]. Life is an infinite a game until it isn’t anymore, but it is a game that is never ending in the terms of relationships and the work working together.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Kerry, I want to be the first one to thank you. I could listen for the next hour of you listing out your favorite books and I’m seriously, I am thrilled by that. So check out the ones he mentioned. Parivedasolutions.com. And Kerry, thank you so much.
Kerry Stover: Thank you, Jeremy. It’s been a pleasure to be with you today and I appreciate the invite.
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