Consistency of Best Practice and Team Motivation in Providing Optimum Solutions for Furnishing and the Office Environment
Herman Miller is a global business with a presence in most countries in the world and when Jeremy Hocking took over the Asia Pacific general management role in 2008 he realized he needed to strengthen his team’s ability to sell complex solutions, often to large complex clients. Summarising the situation Jeremy said ‘The future of our business is customised furniture and office design, much of it transacted through distributors. The training background of the team to date is mainly product and service training. So to meet this challenge the team need to become much more customer focused as well as being able to navigate complex business structures with several decision makers, including working through the distributors’.
Jeremy recognized that the team needed a consistent method of working that the whole team, their managers and the distributors could use, as well as acknowledging that training everyone in this would also be a motivational tool. He went on to say ‘part of my strategy is ultimately to roll the methodology out to selected distributors as well as to our own team, both as a means of improving their professionalism and also developing loyalty’.
Jeremy was experienced at working with Miller Heiman’s Strategic Selling® methodology and keen to adopt if for his Asia Pacific team. However his first concern was whether it would be suitable for an Asia Pacific team many of whom would need to study and apply what they learned in Chinese or Japanese. He also realized that to make any methodology effective, the key was to ensure that it became part of regular practice among team members.
In discussion with Guy Fraser at MDS, an Asia Pac Miller Heiman distributor Jeremy agreed to follow a three stage process. This consisted of briefing team line managers before the training, followed by the training itself and then a follow up review of team blue sheets a few weeks after the training.
The advanced briefing process was a series of two way conversations with several line managers who were leading or sending team members to the pilot training. One of them commented ‘The most important things that this did was to make sure the we understood that this was not ‘two days away from work’, it was a key opportunity to apply to learn a more efficient way of working by applying collective rigour to the most important current projects that we have to close. It also enabled us to make sure that Guy understood the business issues that we were dealing with’.
In facilitating at the Hong Kong pilot Guy commented ‘We had a fully briefed management team being lead by a hands-on GM so the level of motivation and engagement was very high and we could cover a great deal of ground in the time. This was despite the fact that we had a very multinational group including delegates from Japan, China and the UK. This also meant that when we came to do on-line blue-sheet reviews a few weeks later, most submissions showed a very high level of best practice. In conversation with a senior manager a year or so later he remarked that we are ‘consistently churning out blue sheets and benefiting from their use’.
After the first stage roll out, some of which was delivered in Mandarin in Shanghai, Jeremy Hocking said ‘the teams in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai have responded to this very well and are finding it helpful in tackling the business which is extremely competitive, so we will be moving forward to train the rest of the team in Strategic Selling®.
‘Designing and Building a Better World’ is Herman Miller’s Motto. Since its founding just over a hundred years ago Herman Miller is famous for its stylish and ergonomically designed furniture. However the modern business is more about designing office environments, where most of us spend so much of our time, rather than just furniture.