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TCL

T

Interviewee

129 Designer

Team Advantages

Team Disadvantages

0, 3

Project Outcome

Successful

Industry

Home electronics/cameras/TV/copiers

Location

Shanghai

Team Risk Tolerance

Medium

Team Dynamics

TeamDynamics_FunandProductive

Company

TCL


It's for our key client TCL and then what we are going to deliver, first of all, is to help to sell to supplement their products from a user behavioral point of view. At the same time, we also did lots of looking in sessions and to understand what the company's capabilities are. So for those two aspect. Also, we need to give suggestions of some complementary accessories, so that's the project is about. [6278]
So for this project we're gonna go out and we're gonna think less about premium and think more about mass market and low end and put all that together and come up with a strategy for them to come up with a product line that will cover all the statements they want to address. [5896]
After the research phase, the designers in Palo Alto, they can take those things we found out to further develop their ideas and concepts around that. [6279]
And then we get to the kick-off, and the client lead is like, "Oh yeah, we want this to be a global project." Like, "What do you mean you want it to be a global project?" "We want you to do research all around the world, and these products are gonna be launched globally, so it's gotta be global." And ... [5961],[5897],[5898]
All right. And then the language barrier of course makes it very difficult to dig down into these thing. Because you're like, "Really, did you just say what the translator says you just said?" [5963],[5899],[5962]
Yeah, it's a Chinese client. And I'm still not sure we've completely recovered from that. Because, it's really weird how one comment can be made and it just has this ripple effect through a whole project. Like, "Really, we're gonna go global? Or is that just this one guy who thinks maybe it would be nice someday to go global?" And you have to figure that out. [5901],[5964],[5900]
And it's like, "Is it even possible for you guys to launch this in Europe next year? We don't really think that your company is actually able to do that. So are we gonna really design for that? No." And then it's like, "Well wait, you want these products done by June? Really? Well if you want us to go global, if we're really gonna do a global research program, seriously that's like six more weeks of research. Do you really want us to do that? Because it's gonna blow your whole schedule, and we don't think you're gonna be able to do it anyway." [5967],[5968],[5905],[5904],[5903],[5965],[5902],[5966]
And then the next thing you know, you spent two weeks figuring all this out. And it's very unclear how this decision is being made and what's supposed to be driving it and how we can help them come to the right decision. So we just went on with our plan as it was, originally, what we wrote the proposal for. [5970],[5908],[5910],[5909],[5906],[5969],[5907]
And we scrambled and got some people in Munich to go out and look at some people in Europe. And we got some people in California to go out and look at some people in America. But they weren't comprehensive research programs, they were just quick hits, and feed us some information and we'll see if we can make some sense of it. [5971],[5911]
And I'm still not quite sure to what end. But instantly, that was the kick-off. And it kind of knocked me off balance, and I feel like we never really quite recovered. So you get buffeted, and you're staggering through the project trying to find your center again, and then the next thing you know, it's over. And you kind of have this thing, and you're not quite sure if it's what people wanted, and you're not quite sure if it makes sense. [5972],[5912],[5913]
And you kind of have this thing, and you're not quite sure if it's what people wanted, and you're not quite sure if it makes sense. [5973]
So that was one whole dimension of it. And then the other is like the TCL, in the span as less than a year they've grown as a part of our business to be a really significant client for IDEO. And as a result, obviously Michelle here is very engaged in managing that relationship. And Andy Switke is very invested in owning that relationship. And David Nicholson, who was here and is now in Palo Alto and who led last year's design project, is very invested in it. [5914]
And all of a sudden there's this whole group of senior IDEO people who wanna be associated client, it's becoming a big success story. And none of them speak Chinese, with the exception of Michelle. And everyone has their own point of view about what's right for the client, but nobody's really that intimately connected with the client. And we don't have the personal relationship, I think because of the language barriers, that I don't think we really understand them as well as we understand most of our key clients. [5916],[5915],[5917]
And all of a sudden there's this whole group of senior IDO people who wanna be associated client, it's becoming a big success story. And none of them speak Chinese, with the exception of Michelle. And everyone has their own point of view about what's right for the client, but nobody's really that intimately connected with the client. And we don't have the personal relationship, I think because of the language barriers, that I don't think we really understand them as well as we understand most of our key clients. [5976],[5974],[5977],[5975]
t. And we don't have the personal relationship, I think because of the language barriers, that I don't think we really understand them as well as we understand most of our key clients. [5918]
So it's sort of the blind leading the blind, and way too many cooks in the kitchen. And when some red flag gets raised over here and this person reacts, and this person who it affects has no idea what's going on, that's led to some anxiety-ridden times, I think, with that client. [5978],[5919],[5920],[5921]
And frankly, I think we're kind of lucky that it's not a really sophisticated client when it comes to branding and design strategy. They're in the mode of a Chinese manufacturer, which is "Let's go rip off Samsung and crank something out that kind of copies them, we'll sell it for a little bit less, and that's our strategy." [5979],[5922]
And these guys kind of get it that they need to rise above that, but they have no idea what it means to do that, and they're looking to us to help them do that. And we're fumbling a little bit I think with them. We've got growing pains. We've got growing pains here in Shanghai and in China, and we don't have the infrastructure in place to manage that kind of project and that scope of relationship out of this office. [5923],[5980]
We'll get there, but we're kind of lucky that this is a little bit of a naive client and we can afford to make some mistakes as we go along. And we can give them deliverables that might not thrill a client like Sony or Samsung, but are perfectly adequate for this client, and it gets them to be able to take the next step on their journey. So we're helping them, but we ourselves could use some help in organizing ourselves and organizing our resources to better help this client, I think. [5925],[5981],[5924]
Although they said they had very big tolerance, but in reality, I think it's not because they regarded IDEO as we're a class consultant and they spent a huge amount of money on us. It is my impression that while we visited their company to do the presentation, they always get a huge conference room and the whole company come over to that room. I'm exaggerating, but it's like 40-something people from all the key people or the most successful employers from each division to participate the presentation. [6261]
So, they were almost like looking up at us like looking at some hero and then they want to learn from that hero and dream maybe one day they can become the hero or, at least, something similar to the hero, so they all want to learn something from us. I think our main sponsor, he gave us lots of trust, but that trust will not fail. Then, one day, with IDEO's help, they can become as good as Samsung, so I would say it's very well. [6280],[6263],[6281],[6262]
Then, they will always tend to, from my perspective based on their manufacturing capability, and also based on their maturity in terms of handling branding and their business, it's better to provide them something lower risk because you providing something really special. They can handle it. [6264]
It was crazy. Especially towards the end when we were putting together the presentation. We were happy with and we reviewed it with one group and got one set of feedback. And we changed it, we reviewed it with another group, and they thought something completely different. And there's just way too many people. [5926]
But everybody had their own little element of the relationship that they were trying to protect and grown and nurture. But I won't say nobody was in the position of trying to coordinate all the various activities for this client, but the person who was was over-stretched and unable to stay engaged well enough to be effective. [5982],[5928],[5983],[5984],[5927]
I feel they don't really have the capability to react to the research part because, basically, they are not sophisticated in terms of marketing and branding and they barely had any marketing research department at all, so every time our experience, like a comer is me or Lucy, went to them and give them presentation and they go like oh, wow. That's interesting. Hm. All right. [6282]
Yeah. The phase two part is still in Palo Alto and they are working on ... Actually, sometimes, I feel they don't really have the capability to react to the research part because, basically, they are not sophisticated in terms of marketing and branding and they barely had any marketing research department at all, so every time our experience, like a comer is me or Lucy, went to them and give them presentation and they go like oh, wow. That's interesting. Hm. All right. [6265]
And they will give more ... the feedback will increase while the process go into later phases. So, for example, if it's start to have something visual, they will have more things to interact with, and even later, for a simply manufacturing process, they will suddenly become expert and they don't want to accept our suggestions. [6284],[6266],[6283]
So, from my side, they are always very happy, but for me, at the very beginning, I feel disappointed because I feel they didn't give me any feedback. And then, gradually, I realized it's not because they don't want, just they can't, so I feel our role here is more like to tell the client direction instead of asked or cultivate the direction with them. [6285],[6268],[6286],[6267],[6287]
On a good day that's what would happen. What would usually happen was everybody in TCL who had a concern about this project would come to Oscar, which was the right thing to do. But instead of Oscar being an effective point person where we could just communicate and negotiate with him, he really just became a sort of cruise director and was like, "You guys need to come down here. I'm gonna set up 12 meetings over two days for you guys to come and say the same thing over and over again to all these different people, and you're supposed to collect all their feedback and put it into your project." [5986],[5929],[5930],[5985]
Which was just ... You just can't do it. You need somebody who's effective at prioritizing and synthesizing, and directing our team from their point of view. So Oscar's not particularly effective. Hon Ching is okay, but every time Hon Ching shows up his whole entourage of 30 mid-level managers shows up. [5931],[5987],[5932]
And you present to him, and then you solicit feedback, and nobody says anything until Hon Ching says something, and then everybody nods and says, "Yeah, what he said." And in Beijing, there's no real back and forth. It's just sort of, wisdom is spoken from on high. And then you really can't dig any deeper than that. [5988],[5934],[5933]
Because it actually is the third project we did for TCL. The first one we did was just about premium T.V. It's called [Redox 00:21:31] and the second one was called Retail. Viva was the third one, so to that point, we already understand part of their company's expectations and their goals and in the project brief ... [6269]
Too many. I should've been the in-house decision-maker. And I sort of was for my little piece of the project. I tried to keep it self-contained, and manage the scope, and effectively manage decisions for what I had been asked to do. But the fact that it was one phase of a four-phase project that was gonna get handed off to Palo Alto meant that I had to keep that group in the loop. [5935],[5989]
And then the fact that future projects that we were proposing were sort of deriving out of the work that I was doing meant that Michelle became a decision-maker, everything we did had to align with what she was proposing. Richard as being the new head of Shanghai, and the brand, and the guy who's gonna inherit this relationship, became invested. And he wanted to have a say in everything. [5937],[5936]
I think that's something very interesting because although they signed the contract, but when we did the workshop in Palo Alto, they all of a sudden proposed other 10 things they also want to do. Originally, the project was focused on China and then, during the workshop, they say oh, by the way, we are also interested in France. Now they just say we are also interested in Europe and the U.S.A. Can you also do research for us in those two areas? [6270],[6288]
Ofer as the current lead here, rightfully insisted on reviewing what we were doing, but ... It's a challenge to assert yourself as project manager with him, sometimes. Because he expects all of his contributions to be incorporated. Whereas as project manager, I need to solicit this input, filter it, prioritize it, and communicate some of it, not all of it, to my team. [5939],[5938]
And then, besides the product segmentation, can you do the brand part at the same time, and that's how we push back. We did enlarge our research group scope to incorporate France and U.S.A. briefly, but we didn't do the brand part. We still focused on T.V., but I felt that also declined. They didn't really think through what they accept and then when they feel excited, they will suggest something else. [6289],[6271],[6290]
I feel it's okay. Yeah. It's not that tight. There's a reason why I picked that project because the rest of the projects I did were very tight. But, the only pity I felt is the budget wise. We didn't have enough budget to involve the whole team all the time. So, I'll describe you a sequence of who joined and who leave. [6272]
So, for example, Ken, the Project Manager, or the industrial designers, they come on their team all the time and they always come in and out while they have time or we have extra resource to put them on the team. Also, we need to split and do many things in parallel without proper time to sit down together and do something together because I mentioned about creativity. [6291]
One important thing is, I felt, is to show ideas to people and to contemplate what that means. Also, within a very short period of time, brainstorming around that topic, but for this it's more like we know where our goal is and we just marched toward it. We didn't really have much space to think out of the box or to talk about it. It more like everybody did their own thing and put them together at the very end. [6273],[6274],[6275]
I think, basically, our learning from people and also from the discussion with the teams because, for example, Suzanne, she came from the State and then she had many other project experiences, so she can enlarge our territory while we did a discussion. So, the information from people isn't the only source we have, and also we learned a lot from talking to the client as well as from our design study. [6292],[6293]
felt, because it's our third project we did for them, so they already started to feel familiar with us and feel us less threatening, especially, for example, their industrial design has. So, that's a good part. I'll say it's pretty good because I remember when I did Redux, which is the first project the head of industrial designer, she came with me and then that time her attitude was very challenging. And she will said there's nothing interesting from the field, but during Viva, she quite enjoy it. Then, I actually realized her attitude changed and then she more see IDEO as a partner to cooperate with instead of to compete against. [6294],[6295]
I felt, because it's our third project we did for them, so they already started to feel familiar with us and feel us less threatening, especially, for example, their industrial design has. So, that's a good part. I'll say it's pretty good because I remember when I did Redux, which is the first project the head of industrial designer, she came with me and then that time her attitude was very challenging. And she will said there's nothing interesting from the field, but during Viva, she quite enjoy it. Then, I actually realized her attitude changed and then she more see IDEO as a partner to cooperate with instead of to compete against. [6277],[6276]
To which our response was, "Well, that's one way to look at it, but that's not really how we would look at it. You segment it that way, and the only thing you're telling me is this one's more expensive than that one." And our main goal was to give them a behavioral segmentation. To say here's a group of that looked at their TV in these terms. And here's a group of people who looked at their TV in this way. And here's how you can consider designing to how these people think about their TVs, not just how much they think they wanna spend for their TV. [5990]
And so that's really what my part of the project was all about. And we gave them a framework that identified four other groups, and we can say, "You can think of this one as being the super high premium segment, but this is what they really care about. And let's think about that when we're designing the TV." And likewise, "Here's a group, maybe this is gonna fit in your mid-level pricing tier, but don't think about it that way, think about it in terms of how these people relate to their televisions and what they wanna do with their TVs, and where they put them in their home." [5991]
So that's what we gave them, I think we were successful in that. The client I think was a little bit frustrated. Not in that we weren't giving them what they wanted, but that we were doing all this work, and we still haven't talked about what this TV is gonna look like. And they just struggled with that idea. [5940]
Like "Aren't we gonna design some TVs?" It's like, "Yeah, we're gonna design some TVs, but you know, first let's figure out-" [5941]
And then when I got here it was another month of "All right we gotta get this proposal signed, what's the hang-up, what's the work plan, what's the logistics of this?" I have never been part of a proposal that had that many man-hours gone into it. [5942]
And we have good proposals, like, "Here is the work plan, this is what's gonna happen this week, this is what's gonna happen this week, this is what we're gonna give you. When we're halfway through we're gonna show you this." And it was all there, and then we get to the kick-off and it's like, "Oh we wanna go international." [5992]
And we've been talking about this for two months. Couldn't this have come up some time in the past two months when we were negotiating this contract? And then I'm told by Michelle, "Well it's not about the contract, it's about the relationship." And okay, maybe I'm starting to appreciate that. I didn't appreciate that at all at the time. At the time I was just freaking out because I didn't know how I was gonna run this project at this point. [5944],[5943]
But I sort of get it, but on the other hand it's about the relationship, "Please by all means tell us what you're thinking so that we can try to accommodate you." [5945],[5993]
Yeah. And I think from what I've seen that's a pattern here in Shanghai. And I don't know that ... I think part of it is that our BD people here, they were brought in externally, aren't real intimate with actually what we do in the content side on these projects. And there's still a lot of learning there. [5994]
But both at TCL and my current project I think we were initially scoped very aggressively. Not taking into account the amount of time it takes to prepare these nice reports that we like to prepare for our clients. And what it really takes to do research in four cities or whatever, it's not just a matter of four cities, two days per city, that's an eight-day project, right? It's like, "Well no." [5998],[5995],[5996],[5997]
So yeah, time was probably more tight than budget. But both of them we had to renegotiate when the scope change was dropped on us on day one. We're like, well whatever happens we're not gonna go international at all in this amount of time. So we negotiated a few more weeks and another $100,000 or something like that. [5946]
They didn't object to it. Very quickly we said we can re-scope this, but it's certainly a change of scope and we need to treat it accordingly. And they seemed okay with that. [5947]
And using examples like that to show this company, "Look, it's not about price as you've been thinking about it, it's about something else, it's about your users and how they wanna use your products." So we used Apple, we used Toyota, with their, they've got the Toyota brand, they've got the Scion brand, they've got the ... what is it, Infinity? I can never remember. Anyway, they've got their different brands and they segment not just on price but on other ways people think about their cars. [6000],[5999]
Distant. The language thing has been super tough for me. And that was with a client where my main contact spoke English. Now I have a client where my main contact barely speaks English. He prefers to communicate by email in Chinese. And so I can't call her on the phone, I can't dash off an email. I have to compose a letter and have it translated by Vivian and then sent off. And then it comes back through Vivian. [5949],[6002],[5948],[6001]
Or maybe my client person just decides to informally chat with my Chinese designer, or my Chinese-speaking researcher, or Vivian our translator, and those communications don't come back to me necessarily. And it's very difficult as a PM to sort of stay on top of what the client's asking for, what the client has been promised. Managing communication is super tough. [5950],[6004],[5951],[6003]
But even on TCL. I guess both of these clients ... well TCL more so. TCL is like, "Okay, we'll see you at the next meeting. When's our next presentation, four weeks from now? Okay, we'll see you then, call us if you need us." And they're just expecting us to go off and work our magic. [5952]
My current client, Fotile, they're kind of like IDEO groupies, they've read the books, they've seen the shopping car video. And I think they're very interested in our process. And every time there's a meeting set up I say, "Bring two or three people" and eight show up. Because so many people are interested, and they wanna see what's going on. They're expecting the IDEO magic, because that's all they've read about and they don't understand that the process is not always as pretty or as exciting as the end result on our famous happy ending stories seems to be. [5953],[5954]
My current client, Fotile, they're kind of like IDO groupies, they've read the books, they've seen the shopping car video. And I think they're very interested in our process. And every time there's a meeting set up I say, "Bring two or three people" and eight show up. Because so many people are interested, and they wanna see what's going on. They're expecting the IDO magic, because that's all they've read about and they don't understand that the process is not always as pretty or as exciting as the end result on our famous happy ending stories seems to be. [6005]
I think I'm deviating from your question, but the relationships have been difficult to manage and often very difficult to read expectations. And very difficult to set expectations, as a corollary to that. [6006],[5955]
TCL was exhausting for me because it was a relatively junior team, and especially as we started recruiting help form other offices it was a very far-flung team. And so I don't even know that I even spoke to everybody who was on my team. Delegate to different people in different locations and trust that they'll recruit the right people to make things happen. [5957],[5956]
So it was a very far-flung, very loosely knit team on TCL. Which didn't help when it came time to tighten things up and bring things back under control. This is in contrast to my current project where we've got more experienced people on the team. Very solid core team, relatively focused set of efforts. [5958],[5959]
We've got the right resources to get the job done, we know what we're doing and we know who's gonna do what. And I think everybody knows what's expected of them and that makes the personal relationships on the team that much easier to manage, because everybody knows what's expected of them on this very far-flung TCL project. Like I said, we got knocked off balance and never really recovered. [5960]
Reference Tags
[6278] Empathetic disposition,[5896] Vague goals,[6279] Collaborative-Creative Disposition,[5961] Empathetic disposition,[5897] Irrational escalation,[5898] Vague goals,[5963] Cultural differences,[5899] Language barrier,[5962] Language barrier,[5901] Irrational escalation,[5964] Communication issues,[5900] Vague goals,[5967] Alignment,[5968] Communication issues,[5905] Irrational escalation,[5904] Lack of organizational encouragement,[5903] Planning fallacy,[5965] Planning fallacy,[5902] Vague goals,[5966] Vague goals,[5970] Alignment,[5908] Indecisive leadership,[5910] Irrational escalation,[5909] Lack of organizational encouragement,[5906] Vague goals,[5969] Vague goals,[5907] Yielding conflict about ideas,[5971] Empathetic disposition,[5911] Irrational escalation,[5972] Alignment,[5912] Irrational escalation,[5913] Vague goals,[5973] Indecisive leadership,[5914] Lack of organizational encouragement,[5916] Empathetic disposition,[5915] Lack of organizational encouragement,[5917] Micromanaging,[5976] Alignment,[5974] Communication issues,[5977] Indecisive leadership,[5975] Language barrier,[5918] Language barrier,[5978] Forceful conflict about relationships,[5919] Indecisive leadership,[5920] Micromanaging,[5921] Unresolved relationship conflict,[5979] Finding Existing Ideas,[5922] Reactive devaluation,[5923] Illusory superiority,[5980] Lack of resources,[5925] Lack of challenging work,[5981] Organizing effectively,[5924] Vague goals,[6261] Lack of real innovation mandate,[6280] Effort justification,[6263] Lack of real innovation mandate,[6281] Overconfidence bias,[6262] Trust,[6264] Lack of real innovation mandate,[5926] Indecisive leadership,[5982] Alignment,[5928] Indecisive leadership,[5983] Indecisive leadership,[5984] Internal changes/challenges,[5927] Micromanaging,[6282] Inexperience,[6265] Illusory superiority,[6284] Anchoring,[6266] Insufficient Feedback,[6283] Overconfidence bias,[6285] Alignment,[6268] Forceful conflict about ideas,[6286] Insufficient Feedback,[6267] Insufficient Feedback,[6287] Solitude disposition when stuck,[5986] Alignment,[5929] Indecisive leadership,[5930] Insufficient Feedback,[5985] Reactance,[5931] Indecisive leadership,[5987] Indecisive leadership,[5932] Insufficient Feedback,[5988] Authority bias,[5934] Indecisive leadership,[5933] Insufficient Feedback,[6269] Trust,[5935] Indecisive leadership,[5989] Indecisive leadership,[5937] Indecisive leadership,[5936] Micromanaging,[6270] Scope creep,[6288] Vague goals,[5939] Indecisive leadership,[5938] Micromanaging,[6289] Anchoring,[6271] Scope creep,[6290] Vague goals,[6272] Appropriate resources,[6291] Collaborative-Creative Disposition,[6273] Compromising conflict about ideas,[6274] Planning fallacy,[6275] Vague goals,[6292] Empathetic disposition,[6293] Listening disposition,[6294] Trust,[6295] Win-win conflict about relationships,[6277] Trust,[6276] Win-win conflict about relationships,[5990] Creative Confidence,[5991] Empathetic disposition,[5940] Compromising conflict about ideas,[5941] Compromising conflict about ideas,[5942] Planning fallacy,[5992] Alignment,[5944] Empathetic disposition,[5943] Planning fallacy,[5945] Compromising conflict about ideas,[5993] Empathetic disposition,[5994] Inexperience,[5998] Alignment,[5995] Communication issues,[5996] Inexperience,[5997] Planning fallacy,[5946] Planning fallacy,[5947] Scope creep,[6000] Creative Confidence,[5999] Empathetic disposition,[5949] Communication issues,[6002] Communication issues,[5948] Language barrier,[6001] Language barrier,[5950] Communication issues,[6004] Communication issues,[5951] Language barrier,[6003] Language barrier,[5952] Organizing effectively,[5953] Communication issues,[5954] Pro-innovation bias,[6005] Anecdotal fallacy,[6006] Alignment,[5955] Insufficient Feedback,[5957] Indecisive leadership,[5956] Inexperience,[5958] Indecisive leadership,[5959] Inexperience,[5960] Appropriate resources

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MADISON BARNETT
I get my inspiration from the fictional world. I’m a social geek. Completely exploit 24/365 catalysts for change whereas high standards in action items. Conveniently whiteboard multifunctional benefits without enabled leadership.
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