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Times of Change are When the Big Winners are Created

December 20, 2012 at 8:19 am PST

Over the next decade, your industry will undergo radical change. How you bring products to market. How you organize your company and your teams. How people perform their jobs. The rule books we’ve relied on don’t apply anymore.

But this isn’t a time for fear or anxiety. Peter Drucker said it best:  “Innovation requires us to systematically identify changes that have already occurred in a business—in demographics, in values, in technology or science—and then to look at them as opportunities. It also requires something that is most difficult for existing companies to do: to abandon rather than defend yesterday.”

In 1971, when FedEx founder Fred Smith said he was going to deliver mail by jets, most thought he was crazy. In 1980, the creators of Whole Foods broke the mold when they entered a mature industry—with razor thin margins and driven by sales and coupons—and introduced the idea of charging premium prices for fresh, organic groceries.  And when Apple announced opened its first retail store in 2001, Newsweek ran an article titled Read More »

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Edzard Overbeek Appointed Head of Cisco Services

As Cisco continues to grow, there will naturally be management changes across the business—this gives us a real opportunity to empower smart, collaborative people with diverse skill sets to lead us into the next phase for the company.

Cisco’s leadership bench today already has such a breadth and depth of these capabilities that we remain focused on our internal talent pool to fill leadership roles as they become available.

Effective at the start of fiscal year 2013, Edzard Overbeek, SVP, Asia Pacific, Japan, and Greater China (APJC), will lead Cisco’s Global Services business from San Jose, CA, reporting directly to me.

I will continue to oversee the Services business until Edzard assumes his new role at the start of the fiscal year, and then I will focus full time on leading the daily operations of the company and aggressively driving our transformation.

Edzard has 12 years of demonstrated success at Cisco in geographic sales and channel leadership roles, most recently as the leader for our business in Asia and co-chair of the Emerging Countries Council, where he successfully drove adoption of new business models for the company. His background is ideally suited in the areas where we expect growth for the Services business.

The current services leadership team — Ed Baum, Nick Earle, Joe Pinto, Sameer Padhye and Parvesh Sethi—will report directly to Edzard once he assumes his new role.

Read More »

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Let’s agree to disagree

I’ve been watching a TV series called You Can’t Take it With You in which business guru Sir Gerry Robinson helps bring families together to write their wills. Given the differing values, priorities, perspectives and emotional sensitivity of those involved, it’s unsurprising that -- if not visible, then just below the surface -- there’s always a degree of tension or even conflict amongst family members.

What many of the individuals do -- like so many of us in the workplace -- is try to avoid that tension or conflict altogether, or simply ignore it. If we can’t say something nice, our mothers taught us, don’t say anything at all. Of course, Sir Gerry’s task is to help the families tackle these difficult challenges and decisions. Inevitably, tension or conflict becomes unavoidable, and with it the potential for it to get disagreeable or even destructive.

So what is surprising is just how often he manages to pull off a minor miracle and turn conflict into collaboration. From favouritism, to boys versus girls, to judgments about people’s lifestyles to plain old-fashioned prejudice, Sir Gerry has helped negotiate a way through them all.

The typical strategy says Sir Gerry is to avoid conflict and close down dialogue and discussion (“I’m not prepared to talk about it”). Whilst this approach appears to work for many, stubbornness and inflexibility set in. And when tensions bubble to the surface, people already convinced of the rightness of their view become increasingly polarised around conflicting positions and values. The result he says is ‘destructive conflict’, which is personal, vindictive, and a source of pain.

Other strategies include reducing tensions and stresses by one party simply accommodating the wishes of the other -- a one-sided ‘win-lose’ situation. But this simply glosses over the issue -- something Sir Gerry won’t accept. Another widely accepted means of resolving conflict is to accept that there needs to be give and take on all sides, involving a series of ‘concessions’. A ‘win-some, lose-some’ strategy.

But Sir Gerry believes that when managed properly, conflict can have many positive aspects and even bring about innovative solutions. His ‘constructive conflict’ approach works because those involved have a positive learning experience from the event and see that theirs is not a case of ‘right against wrong’ so much as ‘right against right’. By creating the conditions for each party to both speak and listen he ensures they understand both the what and the why of their differences. By opening up dialogue and sharing and assessing the reasons for the conflict, issues can be clarified which results in more possible alternatives and opportunities to solving the problem. A clear ‘win-win’ strategy.

So how do we manage conflict so that it’s a positive not a negative force? I think it starts with the simple notion that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And that we have to make it “safe” to be different,  to take opposite points of view and to disagree. When people know they can stand up and say what they believe without being castigated, guess what? They will!

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The 5 P’s of Cloud Computing

This week is Cisco Partner Summit. A week in which we roll out new products, new technology, new vision and new strategies for the 1000s of Cisco partners that help us deliver great IT solutions to companies around the world. One of the areas that we’re discussing this week is Cloud Computing and ways to help partners prepare to take their customers on the journey to transform their business.

While reading an excellent post this morning from Chuck Hollis at EMC, I started thinking about previous guidance that I’ve given to leaders, partners and customers about how to deal with the transitions within IT and how to align these to their new business needs. As Chuck also points out, while there is a technology component of this, often times the biggest areas of change come on the people side of the equation.

I call this framework “The 5 Ps of Cloud Computing” (from the non-technical perspective). It’s not tied to any companies, products or industries, but rather it’s a model that I’ve used in the past to help guide companies that are looking to solve some of their IT challenges with a Cloud Computing strategy. Read More »

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Staying Relevant

It’s against human nature to react favorably to the disruption of process change. Continuous improvement means continuous change, and change takes people out of their comfort zone. How have you seen people react to changes in their work? The typical reaction is resistance. As Machiavelli pointed out in The Prince roughly 500 years ago, there is no constituency for innovation: “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

- Brad Power, Harvard Business Review Read More »

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