The Power of Peer Networks: An Interview with Katharyn White, Former CMO, T-Systems (Part II of II)

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Katharyn White, Former CMO, T-Systems and now IBM General Manager, Federal Ecosystem about some of the challenges and growth that she experienced in building an advisory network at T-Systems amidst a pandemic. This is Part II of a two-part interview; please click here to read Part I.

Can you share what you value about Farland’s approach?

“One of the things unique about Farland Group is that they ensure value at the individual and systemic level. In other words, there’s value for everybody that participates because they uniquely have an approach and a formula that recognizes that if that isn’t true, then your resulting advice is either going to be short-lived or incomplete.

Whether that advice is peer-to-peer or company-to-company—or, in this case, for the sponsor of the engagement, the person that has reached out to Farland for help—the goal is to get clarity and insight into the problem they are trying to solve.”

How did Farland help you shape the advisory interaction to be most effective?

“One of the things I think is key in the preparation phase is: don’t prepare on the content—prepare on the questions you want to facilitate the discussion around. Farland helped us with this. Of course, you need to know the content, but the execs know their content. What they don’t know with enough clarity is where they are really seeking the advice. Even if the questions are imperfect, the preparation of getting to the questions enables better advice in the moment.

Whether you do this internally or with another company, my nugget of advice on what makes a great engagement compared to a less valuable one is the power of your question. Because Farland Group is external and they may not have domain expertise, they ask questions that experts wouldn’t ask and that often leads to the right discussion.

Getting the content together is a necessary step but that is not the most important step. I think 9 out of 10 people in this world we’re talking about could present without a slide, but they won’t get the question seeking advice right without the preparation.”

“One of the things I think is key in the preparation phase is: don’t prepare on the content—prepare on the questions you want to facilitate the discussion around.”

What are the advantages of partnering with Farland Group?

“It’s always a benefit when our clients tell us ‘that’s not differentiating’ or ‘that is very meaningful.’ The facilitation of Farland Group really helps to enable that.

I would never engage another company or engage in the process without Farland. I believe anybody can have a good meeting or two, but the trick is an ongoing relationship with the members around this point of mutual value, and that’s what Farland has perfected. They truly approach this as a system where each individual and organization are subsets of these nodes and have value in this process, and therefore, the system will continue.

It’s that continuous process that I think is missing in some models, particularly those that organizations do on their own. They don’t have that focus, clarity, or connectedness that enables a successful systems approach to this.

Farland’s model is one of co-creation at each step of the process. They also have experience with more of the steps in the cycle. More of us have been through the startup phase than the ‘keep going’ and ‘phase-out’ dimensions; Farland has perfected each phase and for anybody doing this, that should be highly valuable. It’s particularly valuable in the post-startup phase. I think more people get the startup phase right on average than they do the rest of the process. It’s the rest of the process that creates the lasting value.”

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