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Posts Tagged ‘Medtronic

If a Customer Shouts in the Forest and No Customer Service Rep is Around to Hear it…

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Should she post a comment on Yelp?

Nancy Beiersdorf of Medtronic’s e-Commerce and global strategy hinted (in this SAP talk) at the medical device company’s evolution from a product company to a solutions and service company. One important ingredient in this new recipe will be hearing from the people with problems (people in need of a solution) and helping them solve those problems (that is, service).

But hearing from customers is not easy—even for other customers.

If you’ve ever used Yelp to locate a restaurant while traveling through a new city, you know to toss 30-50% of the comments as someone having (a) evil intent or (b) a bad day. Even our favorite national parks suffer from poor Yelp reviews:


Sorting fact from fiction has been a traditional problem with hearing from the customer. Customer service must wade through long, rabbit-trail narratives to finally get to the actionable item. That is the way of human conversation—sometimes it takes a while to get to the point. All this unquantifiable blather plays havoc with our quality systems. Surely customer service will soon chart a metric like “Time to actionable issue” and pay employees accordingly.

Hearing from customers is an inherently messy business. Especially for Medtronic: where reps once talked only with cardiologists and electrophysiologists now there will be all sorts of real people on the phone (or more likely, placing orders and comments on a web site).

All this conversation cannot help but change things upstream and downstream. In particular I expect at least two results:

  1. Increasing masses of consumer-to-company interactions will train consumers over time to use certain words and press certain buttons to get what they want. Much in the same way we are conditioned by repetition to bypass our bank’s introductions to get to a real human.
  2. Corporations may grow more sensitivity toward customer voices–the very thing Ms. Beiersdorf  advocates. By that I mean conversations have a way of working backward into the machine-gears of a corporation. As solutions and service show up more clearly on the P&L sheets, people will start to pay more attention to human interaction.

At least that is what I hope.

Let there be more advocates for the customer voice.


Image credit via Adfreak

Why Medical Device Twitter Feeds are Boring

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It’s because monologue can be enforced. Dialogue cannot.

Twitter is all about the quick, personality-laden human voice. Twitter carries truncated thoughts by design—more like a human talk—one thought at a time.

Official medical device Twitter feeds are boring because the communicators behind those feeds are trussed and bound by legal and regulatory protocols. The feeds are boring because competing lawyers have police scanner-like attention for claims that fall outside of the FDA-vetted matrix. And those feeds are also boring because many of us are not in chronic pain, or worried about going through airport security with a defibrillator or insulin pump or mechanical heart valve. If we were, we might get those medical device tweets instantly on our smartphones and find them very interesting indeed.

I’m glad those tweets are boring. I hope they continue to bore many of us because we don’t need the product.

How could medical device tweets be more interesting? Clearly the human voice must be involved. When Omar Ishrak tweets (@MedtronicCEO), the tweets are at times more personal, like when his daughter runs a marathon:


But generally medical device tweets lack the sound of the human voice. They tend to sound like monologue-rich press releases:


Some companies don’t even try:



Ok: SJM does tweet over here:

Granted, medical device firms will never sass it up like DiGiorno pizza


But surely as we move forward into deepening inter-connections between professionals and regular humans, every company must find a way to sound human or risk not being heard.

Maybe that means special release from the legal/regulatory straightjackets for certain chatty employee/storytellers. Let them tell their stories in ways that are unique to them while continually repeating “My Opinion Only.” Can medical device firms institute official unofficial-storytellers? People who claim nothing but that they work at the place and this is what they see?

That might result in fun tweets that gather an audience and endear a company to a larger public.

The era of siloed communication is fading quickly in the rear-view mirror.


Medtronic, “Accounting Fiction” and Irish Performatives

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How do you say “Fridley” in Irish?

To those who live as if words are worthless and refuse to see the role of systems in building wealth, let us now gaze on Medtronic’s deal to buy Covidien. What does $42.9 billion get you these days, besides a cohesive portfolio of medical devices and a bunch of intelligent workers and systems? Smart people are speculating it also buys freedom to spend foreign profits without worrying about more taxes, which may amount to a roughly $20 billion future spending spree.

Of course corporations will seek the best deal for making money—that is the project of corporations—and will surprise no one. Do Minnesotans worry a beloved company born and bred in Minnesota is growing up and leaving home? Of course. But the significant investment Medtronic has made in their operations in the state should cause worriers to back off a bit. A quick driving tour through Fridley and Mounds View reveal a rather permanent corporate presence.

How do you control chaos and churn?

How can you control chaos and churn?

But then—of course—stuff happens and things change. Which produces anxiety in hard-working people.

What I find interesting is that while the deal involves a significant exchange of money, it also changes a key definition that then dodges a set of tax requirements. Note this: becoming an Irish company is mostly in name only. The StarTribune quotes Eric Toder of the Urban-Brookings Tax Center as describing the newly formed Irish company an “accounting fiction.” So while Medtronic will always be a Minnesota company, it will become an Irish company. And there is money to be saved in being an Irish company. By cutting this deal—by pronouncing these words in international legal documents—a new thing happens at Medtronic that will please shareholders and worry local workers. JL Austin might call that corporate speech-act a performative. And there is no question that performative will change things in the real world.


[Full disclosure: The author has worked for Medtronic and continues to consult for Medtronic.] [At least the author did until posting this.]



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

June 17, 2014 at 9:56 am

How To Solve Things With Words

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Business, guns, diversity could all benefit from simple talk

tumblr_mflvnkZbaf1r082jyo1_500-12272012I had a boss who would stand amazed at what could be accomplished through simple communication. After a team meeting with a difficult client, she would say, “All we did was talk and that problem just went away.”

She went on to become Le Grand Fromage at Medtronic, which seems fitting and a happy circumstance of a good person rewarded for aggressively doing good (an atypical reward, in my experience).

Could simple communication help us hash out reasonable restrictions for assault weapons? Just people talking together about the rights we cherish, but also weighing them together in the multi-dimensional needs of a diverse culture—aloud. It is OK to become heated, but adults know also how tone it down. Our leaders have led us to bitter partisanship, which our media has been happy to reinforce, so maybe it is up to the regular people, the ruled (as it were) to point the way back to ordinary conversation. In fact, I would argue that it is the ordinary conversations that carry the most extraordinary power for permanent change.

Let’s bring our passions to discussion, and let’s also listen to understand that good point our opponent, but fellow human, wants to make. Covey’s advice to “First Understand” makes sense for today. What if we began to appreciate the very things that made us different?


Image credit: marcedith via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

December 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

How To Talk With Your Boss (Dummy’s Guide to Conversation #11)

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3 Realizations that Change Everything

It would seem this person controls my future, given that she signs off on my paycheck every two weeks. And she is the barrier between me and climbing the ladder. And all that baggage swirls around my head every time I talk with her. But there are a few fundamental realizations that can help power useful conversation.

Realizations help you prepare

  1. Talk is and always will be human to human. No matter what power levels come into play, the bottom line is that conversation is about two humans uttering words. And humans have equal value. So reject power-plays and the assumed rights and privileges of authority to talk over or down to you. How to do that? Persist in your questions and answers—all the while being respectful. If Marty Buber were in the next cubicle, I’m not sure what he would say about power distance, but he would maintain (maybe in his affected tone) that I-Thou relationships are to be honored from employee to boss, even if the boss thinks of you as a tool. Marty might argue that you not throw your bosses’ low opinion back at her. Instead, respect that she is a human of equal value, and try not to put too much weight on her biweekly signing of your pay stub.
  2. She does not control your destiny. She is only your boss at this job. And this job is not everything, even in a down and down-turning economy, you have choices. As anyone who has been laid off or changed jobs knows, change may have immediate negative effects but unseen positives gradually resolve—positives you would never have guessed at.
  3. Be the person you are meant to be. This is more than saying “I’m OK. You’re OK.” And this is also more than saying “Be yourself,” though I generally agree with both (with caveats). This is about garnering a vision for the person you want to be at work and having the balls and hope to respond that way right now, even though you haven’t achieved it.

Look: jobs come and go. But let each job and the people you interact with help shape you into the person who can do the work only you can do.

Postscript: I was blessed to have three terrific bosses during my tenure at Medtronic: David Laursen, Julie Foster and Noreen Thompson. Each of them encouraged the three points above and were/are simply delightful people who saw potential at every step. So—no sour grapes here.


Image Credit: Albert Macone via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

September 19, 2012 at 5:00 am

New Medtronic CEO: Neutron Jack or Charming Nerd?

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The World Needs Another Earl Bakken

Before he was a Six-Sigma Savior, Jack Welch was Neutron Jack. Before Omar Ishrak becomes CEO of Medtronic, he was a disciple of Jack Welch and the GE religion. But the Star Tribune quotes industry sources as saying Mr. Ishrak is “…charismatic…and able to embrace, change or direct culture.”

When I was an employee of Medtronic, and even later when I served as a consultant, these were the very characteristics many remembered about Medtronic founder Earl Bakken. For many years Bakken’s signature caring, geeky optimism fueled the organization—long before the company was populated with neophyte Ivy-league MBAs and their outsized ambitions. Employees coming into contact with Bakken were uniformly energized by his caring, compassion and passion for healing.

In a very real sense,  Bakken was the pacemaker of the organization.

Let’s hope Mr. Ishrak can pick up Bakken’s pace and energize the talented folks at Medtronic.


Written by kirkistan

May 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

Open Your Pie Hole: #1 in the Dummy’s Guide to Conversation

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Talking can feel like a leap.

Do you remember the conversations that changed your life?

Decades ago a guy gave a talk at our church. This guy had made a career change from working as a medical device executive to becoming a leader in the denomination. In a quick conversation after his speech, I mentioned my interest in the medical device industry. He gave me a name to call. I called the guy that week and caught him at a generous moment—despite being an executive himself he spent 30 minutes telling me what he loved about the industry, the company and how helping people provided meaning for his workday. Then he gave me Dave’s name, said I should call Dave and drop his name.

I did that.

Dave turned out to be the best boss on the planet.

The conversation followed by the conversation followed by the conversation turned into decades of writing for the medical device industry, starting with Medtronic. The point of the story is that conversations can take us places we might have wanted to go to but had no idea how do get there. Of course, conversations don’t always work like that, but it happens more often than we might realize. In fact, I think simple conversations change our life every single day. That’s my premise as I write “Listentalk: How simple conversations change your life every day.”

Those conversations start with the courage to share what is going on inside—sometimes deep inside. Using words. Out loud.

Can you remember a life-changing conversation? Tell me.


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