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Pitching to SIG

rain 60 °F

This morning, Bernd had left for Berlin for the day and Elke was headed out the door for a few days in Hamburg, so I was on my own. Luckily, Elke had thought of me when grocery shopping over the weekend and there were plenty of eggs for breakfast. It was a beautiful day, so I headed out to the office with the top down.
On the way there, the radio station was playing a Spanish song. I had to laugh at being in Germany while listening to a song in Spanish. Finally a language I could somewhat understand! At first, I thought that it was unique that they were so open to songs in languages that they may not fully understand. When we’re winding down at the end of the night and Bernd is playing various records, he often plays songs from France, Italy or even Eastern Europe. As I considered it, however, I gave the old US of A a bit more credit because to some extent, the only culture we are geographically close to is the Mexican and Hispanic cultures of Central America and the Caribbean, and in many ways, we have embraced the musical influences of their culture as well.

In the morning, I had some more time to work on tomorrow’s SIG presentation. I had already intertwined their history and desired culture to Conscious Capitalism, so now I had to integrate some of the slides Bernd had sent over from a past presentation about the Cultural Values Assessment from Barrett. I may have mentioned that last week I received an email from Gallup with a timely article about disengagement among German workers, so I was able to integrate some of those findings as well as the findings from the Edelman research on Trust that Bernd had shared with me. It was a lot to go over in one presentation, but I tried to organize it in a logical way. I started with the Edelman and Gallup research to identify the need for intentional management of culture, then presented Conscious Capitalism as the ideal to strive for. My hope was that this would naturally lead to the question of “How do we start the journey to that ideal?” where I would then come in with the Barrett tools as a concrete way to measure and manage culture. I tried to stay on as high of a level as possible to fit it all in, but there was an extensive, EXTENSIVE appendix for further information.

Bernd’s general approach for SIG was that they had just developed their Vision, Mission and Values and were planning to formally introduce them at the management conference coming up in June. They had asked Bernd to be the keynote speaker at the conference, but he was unable to attend. Since they seemed to be such an interesting prospect, however, he offered to sit down with an executive to give ideas and do what he could to help, in hopes that it might strengthen the relationship and lead to some future business. So the general objective was to provide them with as much value as possible in the presentation.

Next to the Konzepte office is another “office” turned barn for horses. Since it was such a nice day, I could see people walking the horses around outside through my window and could hear them neighing happily. It was an interesting dynamic to have this stable right next door.

There hadn’t been much in the fridge, so I didn’t bring anything for lunch during the day other than an apple. I worked until about 3 then planned to head into Bonn to grab some food and check out the few museums I hadn’t had a chance to explore. One was the Arithmeum, which I think I mentioned explores the intersection of technology with art and design throughout history. I also wanted to check out the special exhibit at the German History Museum I had went to with Bernd last week. There was a Die USA in Deutschland exhibit that had made me do a double take until I realized that Die was just “The” in German. When I looked online, however, both museums were closed on Mondays, which was a bummer. Nevertheless, I had some other errands to run in Bonn. For one, my camera’s memory card had been filled up late in the day in Brussels so I needed to find a camera shop to buy a new one. In addition, the blossoms around Bonn had blown me away as I wandered around last weekend, but it had been hard to get shots of them at night. So I decided to head to Bonn anyway, despite the fact that I couldn't get to the museums.

On my way out of Konigswinter, I passed a grocery store and figured it was as good a place as any to do my shopping, so I walked around and found some veggies I needed for eggs in the morning, restocked my stash of nuts and grabbed some ham and cheese for lunch as well as a few other miscellaneous things. Shopping in any unfamiliar grocery store takes quite a bit of extra time to wander through all of the aisles and having things in different languages may not have hurt me in the produce section, but elsewhere it only added to the confusion. A few things I noticed along the way. McDonalds has capitalized on their UBIQUITY to create their own line of condiments.
Also, they don’t refrigerate their eggs in stores here. On top of that, I’m not sure whether they had eggs left over from Easter or if this was just a normal occurrence, but they had dozens (or rather half-dozens and 10 packs) of colored eggs.

I had spent probably 45 minutes to get just a few things and as I went to check out, my credit card would not work. The cashier didn’t speak any English, but I thought she said something about MasterCard, so I tried my other credit card but that wouldn’t work either. It was the only checkout in the whole store, so the line started to grow behind me. Eventually a few of the people in line were able to help a bit with translations. Apparently they only accepted debit cards. I had one of those too, but it wouldn’t work either. I Was apologizing profusely to the people behind me, but they all seemed to be understanding (or at least pretended to be, which I still appreciated). The guy behind me eventually offered to pay for my groceries then have me follow his car to the nearest ATM to pay him back. I was blown away by his generosity, but when he explained where the ATM was, I decided I could make it there on my own. So I had to withdraw money and then come back to finally get my groceries. At this point I was beyond starving, but had to get to Bonn at a reasonable time to get to the camera shop, so I ate on the way.

When I got to Bonn, I found the camera shop with relative ease and then set off to the shopping district and main plaza in all of its blooming glory. I passed one tree whose blossoms had shrivelled and fallen to the ground. Then I passed another that was now completely green. Unfortunately, my window of opportunity had closed since I had been in Bonn just a week ago. I walked around for a bit anyways, noticing that German college students weren’t much different than American ones, packing the quad (not sure if they call it that in Germany) to sunbathe, read, relax and of course play Frisbee.

I also walked through a couple swanky parts of Bonn with some really nice houses.

Passing a Starbucks on the main square, I remembered how Bernd had told me of the struggles of Starbucks in Europe. We hypothesized that their main value proposition in America of offering a place for friends to meet, relax and enjoy themselves simply was not unique in Europe. Virtually any café or restaurant offered a similar relaxed atmosphere where you could stay as long as you wanted. Bernd called to tell me that he had landed, so I headed back home so that we could have dinner together. When I got back home, he showed me a pocket-sized introductory German book he had bought me in Berlin. He had noticed my interest in the language and in trying to pronounce German words and read signs and I so appreciated the gesture.

For dinner, we headed up some leftovers from the freezer. I had curried chicken that was really good and made myself a salad as well, using the extra curry sauce as dressing. We had a bit of a debacle heating things up in the microwave. The tops of the containers were totally melted and we couldn’t figure out why. After all, they were the exact same containers we had used to heat up leftovers several times before. It remained a mystery…

After we ate, I gave him a rundown of the research I had done on SIG and showed him what I had come up with for the presentation. He really liked that way that I used their mission, vision and values to fit into Conscious Capitalism and the Barrett tools. He offered a few suggestions, and I worked on them as he DJ’d some records before we turned in for the night.

The next morning, I got up early to go for a run before we headed to SIG. On my way, this little boy was walking to school and heard me coming and ran with me for a block or so which was cute.

On the way to SIG, which was in Linnich, a small town about an hour away, it started to pour. Bernd introduced me to a German expression that translates to “the clouds are breaking apart.” I read my new book on the road, which began with pronunciations for each letter in German. Bernd and I both had a few laughs as he coached me with my pronunciations along the way. We also had an interesting conversation about how language not only results from, but also perpetuates larger cultural trends. For example, we talked a little about the book “When Cultures Collide” that was the basis for their cultural awareness training that I enjoyed reviewing last week. In Sweden, collision would be too brash, so they translated it to “When Cultures Meet.”

At SIG, we first met with an old colleague of Bernd’s that used to be one of the Konzepte freelancers and was now heading a training department there. They spoke in German, so I continued to read my Intro German book and also grabbed a few of the SIG marketing materials in the lobby to browse through. I also snapped a few pictures in the lobby. Here was their values
as well as examples of some of the products that use their carton technology
I had been completely oblivious, but Bernd later noted how the values were made to look like one of the cartons, which was pretty cool.

When it came time to give our presentation, the guy was a bit strange. We thought that he might be sceptical as to our true motives to come all the way here just to offer advice, but gradually he opened up and seemed genuinely interested in what we had to say (though he was still a bit of an oddball). He was actually very interested in the Cultural Values Assessment, so our meeting went for close to an hour and 45 minutes as we explained it in greater depth and offered up a few examples. Not only was it a good sign that the meeting went so long, but the types of questions he was asking made it seem as if he was already sold. He asked some good questions about the best way to introduce the assessment to managers and then the rest of the team and then how to roll it out. Bernd even floated the idea of getting Richard Barrett to be the keynote speaker for the conference, which could be neat as well. Overall, the meeting couldn’t have gone much better. I only wish that I would be around to watch and assist as the relationship develops.

During the meeting, they had spoken of the worker’s council, so I asked Bernd about it on the way home. It was basically like a union in Germany, except that employees didn’t have the option of whether or not to join…once the company reached a certain number of employees, they had to have a workers council. As the company grew larger, they actually had to pay the salaries of a certain number of people (based on # of employees) who no longer had to work “for the company,” but instead whose sole responsibility was to lead the workers council. Quite an interesting arrangement for management to adjust to.

Tonight for dinner I made another small salad and heated up some more chilli. This time, we put the Tupperware in warm water to get the food out and heat it up on a plate. Tomorrow I was scheduled to introduce the Konzepte folks to some of the other instruments and ideas I’ve been learning about such as TTI’s job benchmarking and Growth Curve systems and also the “6 Sources of Influence” for habit change from the Change Anything book that seemed like it could easily be the foundation for one of their training programs. However, many of Bernd’s clients have been going through tough times and cutting back dramatically on their training budgets and as a result, Konzepte is in a tough spot. The thought of downsizing had been looming on his mind if a few big proposals they’re currently working on didn’t come through for them. After looking at the numbers recently, however, it became clear that he wasn’t going to be able to wait. The company was set up mostly through a network of freelancers, but there were some salaried employees that he couldn’t afford to keep. Unfortunately, a feature of their contract was to be given 6 months notice. This feature that was expected to protect employees ironically ended up hurting them because Bernds hands were tied and he couldn’t wait it out on their proposals and instead had to give them notice. To wait to hear if their proposals would be selected could be months, at which point he would be paying another year’s salary. Since there were clearly more pressing issues to discuss at the Konzepte management meeting, my presentations were tabled. After that tough discussion of everything that had been weighing on his mind, we had another low-key night of music and some wine before calling it a night.

Posted by atbrady 11:44 Archived in Germany Tagged history museum german bonn konigswinter arithmeum linnich

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