The Kula Ring podcast is essential listening for manufacturing marketers who want to grow their digital presence and compete online.
Sponsored by Kula Partners—an agency committed to helping leading B2B manufacturers craft digital experiences that transform how they engage buyers, serve customers, and outpace their competition—The Kula Ring podcast features conversations about marketing, sales, and technology with top manufacturing executives from across North America.
The Kula Ring podcast is co-hosted by Kula Partners principals, Carman Pirie and Jeff W. White, both of whom are frequently sought after for their digitally-focused B2B expertise. They regularly share their insights with audiences including conferences like B2B Online and HubSpot’s INBOUND, the Gardner Manufacturing Marketer blog, and other podcasts focused on B2B marketing and technology.
How can Lean methodologies and processes, which require iteration and imperfection, generate a robust marketing strategy? In this episode of The Kula Ring, Jason Grizzi, Global Director of Marketing at Corning Inc, In-Building Networks, talks about how his team has applied Lean practices to shape their marketing operations. He shares tips for a successful Lean deployment and talks about why cultural transformation is key to Lean processes running smoothly.
Using Lean Methodologies to Enhance Manufacturing Marketing Transcript:
Announcer: You’re listening to The Kula Ring, a podcast made for manufacturing marketers. Here are Carman Pirie and Jeff White.
Jeff White: Welcome to The Kula Ring, a podcast for manufacturing marketers brought to you by Kula Partners. My name is Jeff White and joining me today is Carman Pirie. Carman, how you doing, sir?
Carman Pirie: All is well, all is well, and you?
Jeff White: I’m doing great. Yeah.
Carman Pirie: It’s good to be chatting again today.
Jeff White: Indeed, it is.
Carman Pirie: I’m excited for today’s episode per normal, maybe even a little bit more than normal, because it’s really a subject that is almost just really near and dear to us as an agency, as well, in terms of our adoption of Agile. Today’s guest is really unpacking the use of Lean methodologies, Lean processes, as a way of enhancing the manufacturing marketing function and in some ways, shall we say, getting marketing on the same page as the rest of the organization. Anytime we can do that, I’m excited about it.
Jeff White: Absolutely, and you know, I think it’s always really interesting to speak with guests who have an operational sense of how Lean works and are bringing that to their organization because it’s not common. We’re not seeing it all the time, for sure.
Carman Pirie: Fair to say. Well, let’s introduce today’s guest, shall we?
Jeff White: Indeed. So, joining us today is Jason Grizzi. Jason is the Director, Global Marketing, In-Building Networks and Product Brand Strategy at Corning. Welcome to The Kula Ring, Jason.
Jason Grizzi: Hey, guys. Thanks a lot. Appreciate you having me today.
Carman Pirie: Jason, it’s wonderful to have you on the show, and I must say, Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone south of the border. I know that we’re recording on Thanksgiving week, so it’s gonna be way late when people hear this on the show, but nevertheless.
Jason Grizzi: Yeah. Well, you guys, you always beat us to the punch every year, don’t you?
Carman Pirie: We do. We do. But I think you guys embrace it more. You know, yeah. There’s more oomph to it, you know?
Jeff White: We had to steal Black Friday from you.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, exactly. But we do use Thanksgiving as a good excuse to overeat, so I think that we at least share. But great to have you on the show, Jason. Before we get right into the nitty-gritty of things, could you perhaps introduce our listeners to you and your organization a bit, what you do?
Jason Grizzi: Yeah, absolutely. So, currently, I work with Corning Incorporated and I’m part of their optical communications division, and I lead marketing for what we call in-building networks. In the world of communications, there’s a bit of a split where we look at the sort of outside of buildings, so think under roads, underseas, between buildings, communities, right? And then there’s inside the building. The delineation is many times inside a building is a private network owned by a company, outside of a building is owned by a network carrier or another public entity. In any case, Corning provides solutions for both. Really, we build connections so the world can make them through fiberoptics and the entire solution set under communications and networks. So, pretty cool that we can be involved in really connecting the world, and if you think about it, as you connect people around the world, you improve things like economic prosperity, education, and so we can really impact people through what we do every day.
For me, it was an interesting reason to come here to Corning. A little background there, I’ve been here for coming up on a year. Previously spent 16 years with Ingersoll Rand, which is a diversified industrial large company that has multiple brands that are under that umbrella, like Trane HVAC company, Club Car golf carts, Thermo King Transport Refrigeration and more. That’s my background and what I’m doing today, I mentioned the in-building networks portion is running marketing for that portion of the business with oversight of the brand strategy on our products.
Carman Pirie: Well, thank you for that broad introduction, and it is incredibly compelling work to be a part of, I must say. I think that notion of the work that you’re doing really connecting the world resonates with me; I’m always excited when marketers can put their work into a broader perspective, so I thank you for that. For today’s show, we were chatting all about your implementation of Lean methodologies and Lean processes in shaping the marketing at Corning, and so I think you’re probably going to be a better guide than I as to where to start that conversation. I mean, you’re a year into this, so I guess where did you start and how have you begun to look at the organization and your work, and what shifts are beginning to happen as a result of that thinking?
Jason Grizzi: That’s a really good starting point. I’m gonna try to break up my responses such that I don’t talk too much, so I’ll stop for some interjection of other questions, but first of all I really had the benefit of working with Ingersoll Rand, I led marketing there across the globe, across the entire function, so all different areas, from sales enablement, demand generation, product marketing, analytics, digital, all of it. I had a really good purview and globally there, so really great experience and a great company.
I chose to move on to really test myself and learn about can I take what I’ve learned at a really great company manufacturer and bring it to a new environment and be successful? And I saw Corning as an opportunity, especially around building Lean and different marketing capabilities, as starting with a different set of tools in a different marketplace, different end-user market. But taking the skills I learned elsewhere. I think it’s important to give that backdrop because part of this story has both of those experiences in it. First at Ingersoll Rand, building digital marketing capabilities along with Lean capabilities within the marketing function. I had the opportunity to do that. And coming to Corning, they’ve got a fantastic infrastructure here and great people. They’ve got all the right bones, but they haven’t yet really deployed maybe Lean into the process, and there are a few other capabilities that I think I can bring to the party.
Jeff White: A quick question on that. Did Corning come looking for someone with Lean capabilities and Lean methodology? Or were they looking for someone more senior like yourself and you brought that story with you and they bought into it?
Jason Grizzi: Good question. I don’t know what the initial intent of their search was. I know they were looking for some marketing capability. Somebody with some experience and leadership experience at another big company, in B2B, and also that had some demand generation and product experience. That definitely got me in the door because of those things I do have, but I do think what helped seal the deal was talking through this methodology around applying Lean principles, or a systematic way of improving a function and building sustainable or predicted results. That definitely helped me convince them that I had a skill set that was good for where they’re headed as a function.
And oh, by the way, they have a fairly deep background in Six Sigma and Lean outside of marketing as a company. They’re a big manufacturer and they’re very good at Six Sigma Lean across many other functions, so it resonated well. I think that also bridged to maybe another thought about how Lean really is that bridge, and it helped me bridge into this job, it brought skillsets that they saw a big benefit in, and it’s helping me bridge across functional areas, both at Ingersoll Rand and now at Corning.
Jeff White: Let’s talk about that a little bit.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, and I’m curious where that rubber meets the road. It’s one thing to be speaking a common language in some ways with the rest of the organization. That’s one part.
Jeff White: That has innate value.
Carman Pirie: Yeah, but I’m sure it goes further than that.
Jason Grizzi: Let me talk about the bridge between functional areas and how Lean can help. I’d like to also obviously address some of the ways you can use these principles to build a marketing function or build capability in a marketing function. But I do think as you think about Lean, it’s well adopted across many manufacturers, especially large, successful, profitable manufacturers embrace Lean. Usually Lean, sometimes Six Sigma. By the way, they are different things. On the Lean side, I find that many times in my experience, people who lead manufacturing companies, industrial companies, are people who came from manufacturing. It’s not uncommon in my 20 years of experience that a leader of a division at a very senior level would be an operations person, or a finance person, or maybe somebody from a product line management and engineering background. Not uncommon.
They are very familiar with Lean concepts and Six Sigma concepts. That’s their language in many cases. That’s what’s made the operations of a manufacturer successful. While I don’t see the primary benefit of Lean, being that bridge, it surely helps marketers, especially when you think about marketing. Many times, marketers have a hard time bridging the gap. It’s a language barrier to some extent. But we also play in a field that many manufacturers and operations people don’t really understand. It is a very useful bridge between a marketing function, which I think historically has been looked at as creative, and marketing math, and maybe not real systematic, to speaking the language of those that really value repeatable results and sustainable process.
I think that’s the great thing about the bridge that it can create. That’s been the… Let’s call it the cherry on top of the learning for me over the years, is that’s been a big benefit. I’ll say that I didn’t pursue this concept because I wanted a bridge, but I’ll tell you that is a huge benefit to the success of what we’ve done in marketing and our ability to continually get funded, frankly. Continue to build, and move forward, and be looked at as a contributor to the business.
Carman Pirie: I’m really interested to get more texture into when you talk about nurturing the marketing function, growing the marketing function through Lean, let’s talk about some examples of how that comes to life and what it looks like.
Jason Grizzi: I would say that I use the term imperfection fuels innovation. I think it resonates well on the marketing front and the commercial side of the business. Like all of us in marketing are part of the commercial functional area typically. Sales, marketing, maybe product development. This idea of imperfection fueling innovation really is the basis of what Lean is about, and from a marketing perspective, it feels a lot better for us. It fits better.
But the principles of it are really understanding what is the mission or vision or the purpose of your organization, how that aligns to what your business-level objectives are, what are you gonna be valued for if you can help? Establishing some current level of capabilities. I’m kind of going through a checklist if you haven’t figured it out. I mean, it’s really knowing that mission is what you’re there for and how you add value to the organization, taking that down to understanding today how good are you at doing that thing, like current capability we would call it. Creating a system to be able to see what normal looks like versus abnormal. Abnormal being the imperfections. How do I see imperfections? Create a culture then that embraces those imperfections, that’s okay with not hitting the numbers, not always being above your results, and then a culture which can problem solve and say, “I see imperfection. That’s an opportunity for us to improve.”
And then it’s about closing those gaps, creating new capability through rapid experiment, or iteration, through sprints that you guys might feel familiar with. Build that new capability, raise the bar on the targets, and then iterate. That’s kind of the methodology of how you apply it. Now, applying Lean requires things like problem-solving tools and skillsets. It requires fundamentally understanding how to set up what we call visual management. How do you see results, and when things are abnormal, and things are normal, and really be able to hone in on those imperfections. That’s kind of how I think about how you approach it at the onset.
We can talk a lot now if you’d like about different parts of how you accomplish that and also maybe some challenges or learnings I’ve had, too.
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Jeff White: As you get the processes in place and you set the objectives that you’re going to have so that you have some form of a dashboard for tracking whether or not you’re in the normal range, or if things are trending positively or negatively outside of that, how are you approaching the definition of the strategy at the beginning to determine exactly what it is, what are we looking to do with this particular initiative and how do you set that up? And who’s involved?
Jason Grizzi: Yeah. Very good. Two-part question kind of, right? Dashboards and metrics. Huge, huge thing that’s a struggle for most marketers. And the second part of that is how do you set strategic objectives and then operationalize them?
Jeff White: Exactly.
Jason Grizzi: Yeah. To me, this idea of imperfection fueling innovation and applying Lean is answering the second. How do we take strategy, operationalize it, and improve the results of the marketing function repeatably? That’s the latter part of your question. I believe it’s really important. In the first part of the question, I’d like to address dashboards and metrics and when you get them up. That’s a tough thing for many organizations. Repeatable results through many complex processes, many products, and many people, that’s a very complex thing. In fact, in my experience, I spent years in both companies, at least a year in this company and years in prior companies, getting just those results to a point where we could see them, they were repeatable, and we could go to a CFO or a president and say, “We believe in them.”
There’s a lot of work upfront in the process. That is step one with many of these Lean deployments: It is literally the process work to make sure you can see what results you want to measure repeatedly and consistently. That’s important work and most marketers are going to overlook that because they want to go look at MQLs, and revenue, and opportunities, and maybe new names, and these other metrics that are important to marketing, but you have to have a repeatable, believable way to see those things regularly before you start trying to manage the outcomes.
I would say step one, work on the process. And many times, that comes in the form of a really robust, repeatable lead management process. I want to give you the punch line to your question about dashboards. The dashboards don’t matter. I think people chase the analytics and chase the dashboards a lot, and it drives a lot of marketers nuts, and they spend a lot of effort on them. It’s not about the visuals. It’s not about being able to show people what your results are in a nice graph. And now, as a leader of many marketing organizations and product management organizations, I am very clear that because you can put something in a pretty dashboard does not mean that it’s accurate or useful.
I definitely encourage teams to work on the process and then worry about dashboards and making things pretty when you have a repeatable process, so that’s an important lesson I think for people, and yeah, to build on that idea of dashboards being the end state. In fact, they’re not the end state. They’re somewhere in the middle and they evolve.
Jeff White: Key indicator.
Jason Grizzi: Yeah. They’re like, right-
Jeff White: The feed.
Jason Grizzi: Yeah.
Carman Pirie: The percentage of dashboards that I’ve been shown in my career that a bit of digging begins to surface that it’s an entirely false representation of reality, it’s astonishing. It’s gotta be over 80% of them that we dove into, it’s like there’s actually nothing here.
Jason Grizzi: Almost every marketing team and organization part of businesses I’ve gone into, that’s true. Unfortunately, that’s the state of marketing, I think. And that is what finance people, and operations people, and engineering people that you deal with see right through. For somebody like me, it doesn’t take me but five minutes in a meeting to find out if this is valid and I think the one thing, the trap that marketers fall into, is they can make pretty PowerPoints and they can make pretty visualizations. They’re good at it. But senior leaders see through it really quickly.
It’s a common trap I think that we run into, and anyway, so it’s an interesting thing and a learning for me. Think about the process. Think about the reliability of the process. Because the day when you have to go in front of your CFO and say you generated 100,000 MQLs and it resulted in $100 million of business, you kind of want them to believe you. And the process is super important because you want to get that $10 million investment you’re asking for.
Anyway, that’s an important thing. Back to your other question, though, you said how do you attach strategy, how do you take strategy and operationalize it is what I would say. Many big organizations struggle with this. Lean is a very good set of tools to do that. And I’ll tell you a little bit about that.
I will have to first tell you a bit about strategy. I think there’s lots of different work to do around strategy. Sizing, and segmentation, and market attractiveness, and investment strategy, all that. All the strategy work needs to be done, but if you’re thinking about a function like marketing and you want to build a really high-performance team, I think there also is a really important step that most people miss, and that is really building out the team. And I’m just gonna go really quick, but I think there are about 10 steps to this.
What’s really important in that is understanding your purpose, having a vision and mission that are clear about what you’re here to do and what you’re not here to do, and then being clear about how that mission supports your organization’s objectives. For instance, if you’re in marketing and your organization’s goal is to grow revenue, pretty common, what is your fit in that? It might be something like we generate demand that results in opportunities, or we generate demand that results in revenue for our offerings. And if the goal of the organization is to generate $100 million of revenue, what’s your contribution to that?
Understanding that your mission is to generate demand and revenue for the business, taking that down to how do you contribute, and then being able to say, “What are the outcomes we expect as a team?” Like how do we drive the outcomes that matter? Then, how do we start to see what normal looks like? How do we start to see the results in a repeatable way? And then from there, problem-solve, and iterate, and improve your capability. That’s I think how you connect. You build your strategy or what your functional objective is, and how it ties to the organizational strategy, you start to define those critical outcomes for your team or your function, and then you figure out how to operationalize them. And operationalizing them is where Lean really comes in.
To give you some insight into that, there are multiple levels of operationalizing a strategy. First of all, at the high level, so your big strategic objectives, there’s a tool in Lean that many companies use called Hoshin Kanri, which is essentially you call in the U.S. a lot of times an X matrix. Many companies use this. It’s a way to deploy strategy. What it looks like is high-level, three-to-five-year objectives on the bottom let’s say. Think about a square. On the bottom quadrant, south, is your three-to-five-year. On the west side of the box, you have your one-year objectives. On the north side of your box, you have your one-year strategic initiatives. How am I gonna change my capability? And then on the east side of that box, imagine all the key metrics around how you know if you’re being successful in achieving those one-year initiatives? That’s a very common Lean tool that big companies use to deploy strategy. It takes it from that high-level three-to-five-year strategy, gets you down to breakthrough objectives on that north box, the north side, and then it gives you some metrics around measurement. That is a common sort of strategy deployment tool in Lean.
Where it can be then met is how you operationalize those initiatives within a function. Let me give you a real example of how this comes to life. My three-to-five-year objective might be the number one market share leader in my business. My one-year objective might be to generate $100 million of incremental revenue. And on the top, north box of this, it might say I need to generate more demand, or I have to build demand generation capability to deliver more opportunities to the sales team by $300 million. That objective then gets to deployed to somebody like me as a marketing leader, and I say, “Okay, how do I go do that?”
That’s the highest level of sort of Lean deployment goal deployment. From there, I can tell you more about that, but that’s how you take that objective and then tie it, like I said, to that high-level business-level goal to where the marketing function fits, and then we deploy Lean processes and tools around operationalizing the marketing goal. And we can talk about that, but I wanted to start with maybe that high level of how companies typically look at goal deployment through Lean.
Carman Pirie: What have you seen as the barriers or the challenges of getting this stood up in a marketing function? And I think, so for those folks that are listening and thinking, “Yeah, okay, we know that there’s a lot of emphasis on Lean elsewhere in the organization. I really think this dog can hunt if I can begin to structure our function in this way, we could get more traction.” And we can’t answer all of the questions about how to get there in one podcast episode, but I think we can probably give people a bit of in addition to the benefits that you’ve so clearly outlined, what are some of the challenges they might see in the early days, and where might they look to begin to overcome those challenges and get started?
Jason Grizzi: First of all, I’d tell people to start where your feet are. I think many times, organizations and people have a hard time getting started because they’re worried that they don’t have the best capability in the world, or they’re not ready. I’d say start where you are. In fact, from a Lean perspective, we would say you don’t need the pretty dashboards. Use a whiteboard with tick marks and Excel spreadsheets if you have to. Start wherever you are and don’t worry about it, because Lean is all about wherever you are, establish a baseline, set a target, figure out how to close gaps, and improve. I think that that’s the first thing I would say, is don’t wait. Don’t wait. It’s important.
The second thing I would say is one of the biggest challenges is building a culture. Lean isn’t just about tools, and metrics, and dashboards. It’s about culture. Lean is really a cultural transformation, so you need to be committed. I do think it takes a certain amount of competency development in individuals. You can either go buy that, you can hire consulting firms to teach you Lean, you can hire people like me who bring some Lean experience to the table, but ultimately for instance my challenge is typically getting a larger team of people to be able to be capable or competent in Lean principles, and methodology, and then changing the culture. That takes time.
Again, start now, start where you are, but that’s a really important part and a challenge you need to think about.
Carman Pirie: Maybe there are some self-reference criteria here as an organization that operates via Scrum and Agile, and not a lot of agencies do, and frankly somebody shows up here from another agency, one of the things that they may find shocking is in some ways the level of direct accountability that they experience.
When you talk about that culture shift and I understand that certainly some of it is just capabilities. They need to understand Lean, understand the application of the tools and approaches. Is there a deeper challenge at bay there, as well? And is it accountability? What is it? I’m just curious. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, just what have you seen is the challenge in getting that culture established beyond the training side of it?
Jason Grizzi: I have two thoughts. First of all, I think that this cultural transformation is not easy. Sometimes people don’t get off the starting block. I do think that creating a Lean culture can be difficult because I think people may not particularly like the accountability that it creates, and historically I think people that have seen Lean outside of marketing look at it as punitive to some extent because you’re constantly behind. It’s a bit of the intent. Back to imperfection fuels innovation. It’s the culture element. You have to look at those imperfections as fuel for getting better. And I think that’s a gap, meaning many times people just don’t want the accountability and don’t always want to be chasing a gap.
Unfortunately, what Lean does is that’s what it creates. You’re always chasing a gap. You’re always trying to create new capability. Culturally that can feel really tough. And especially in a commercial organization, and especially in marketing, who are people who like to celebrate wins typically and are really good at celebrating the success, but are really good at covering up maybe not the success, right? I think that’s an issue that marketers face. The building, especially to use it applying Lean. Definitely.
The other challenge I think that many companies believe they’re better at running their processes than they are. I can produce data that shows results. That doesn’t mean I can repeat it and that doesn’t mean I can believe in it. I do think that’s a big challenge for organizations when they go down this route, and I’ll tell you that we’re definitely building this capability now at Corning. Building systems and processes that you can actually troubleshoot and repeat in marketing is not easy. That’s definitely a challenge.
What I would say is using tools like Lean tools can help you get over that, but it does take time. These types of transformations in a functional area like marketing take time. I would tell you if you’re gonna pursue something like this, don’t tell your leaders you’re going to have better results in six months. It’s not the way it works. It works after years of cultural change, and capability building, and problem-solving.
What I would tell you, though, in the near term, and I think you asked this much earlier, the benefits you see are great. Even in eight months of working here, I think the team that I’m working with now, and they’ve told me, it’s been really refreshing to be able to dig into results, and problem solve, and understand when they make a certain decision what’s happening. That was very hard for them to do before, so just setting up the process of really robust lead management, really robust processes around demand generation, have made their jobs more fulfilling and made them more effective already.
I can’t yet say that I’ve made a huge impact on our demand generation capability yet, in eight months, but I can say that we’re moving the ship. And I’ll look back two to three years from now and we will have fantastic capability that is really world-class and differentiates us, and our competitors won’t be able to hold a candle to us in this area. That’s what I would say. Those are some big, systemic challenges.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. And that makes total sense to me. I mean, you can’t begin to improve the impact that you have without first understanding the impact that you have. And in being able to do that in eight months, to be able to get that surfaced to the team and they begin to understand the impact of their work beyond what they were able to do before this journey, I could see how that would be fuel for the fire, for sure.
I feel like we need to spin up about four more podcast episodes and just really dive further and further into this.
Jason Grizzi: Yeah, I definitely think getting into the tactics of how to deploy Lean in marketing is a multistep series, for sure. But I think a really good thing for people to think about, especially if you’re in a manufacturing company, you probably have process experts. Maybe Lean experts. Be willing and open to go to them, embrace what they’re doing, and not be adverse to it. I think what’s a common thing I see with marketing individuals might be they go look at Lean, or Six Sigma, or operational deployments, and their people in the factory show it to them, and they go, “That doesn’t work for us. It’s not the same.”
And I’m here to tell you that it’s not the same, but it does work, and you have to adapt to it. Reach out to the people in your organization who are experts, who have expertise in this, even if they’re not in the commercial area or marketing area, because it can get you a quick start, and get you people who care, and in fact, I would tell you that was one of the biggest wins for me at Ingersoll Rand, was having operational excellence people who came out of operations to help teach me and teach the team, and they loved it. It was exciting for them to take their learnings to a different functional area and work with us, so do it, embrace it, and I think that’s a real opportunity.
Jeff White: I love that.
Carman Pirie: I think that’s some great parting advice. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you sharing your expertise with us today. It’s been a fascinating conversation that I’m sure will lead to many more.
Jason Grizzi: Hey guys, thanks a lot. Really appreciate you inviting me to be part of it and I’d love to talk more in the future. So, you have a great Thanksgiving, U.S. Thanksgiving, and I’m gonna go have some turkey.
Carman Pirie: Yeah. We’ll eat some turkey just because. I think that makes sense.
Jeff White: It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that.
Carman Pirie: No, indeed.
Jeff White: Thanks again, Jason.
Jason Grizzi: All right, guys. Have a great day.
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