Meaningful Mature Puppet Theater in Tblisi

20141011_141948I was exposed to yet another day of rarity in Tbilisi. First, we conducted day 2 of the 5-day workshop training therapists and psychiatrists in Georgi

a. Steven led an especially good Satir Anger Model piece, with support from me, Sasha, and Sophia. There are a little over 20 people in attendance, and the work is going very well. The Georgians and Ukrainians in attendance are very grateful for the work and eager to learn everything we can teach. With the recent events in Ukraine, and the fact that Georgia has spent a lot of time under Soviet occupation, there is a big theme of war and displacement that we have not yet scratched the surface of.  Here is a picture of the statue outside the hotel where the workshop is held – it is St. George slaying the dragon.

In the evening we went to the Gabriadze Puppet Theater. It was an amazing performance. Yes, it is acted with marionettes. But you have to remove all your pre-conceived notions of marionettes, except for the strings, if you want to understand anything what it was like. The theater troupe travels around the globe doing performances, and it’s home theater is here in Tbilisi.

20141011_184310Rezo Gabriadze is the genius behind the show – he even designed the building, with a bizarre coo-coo clock tower the at noon and seven revolves the cycle of life (picture to the right). The performance we saw was Ramona. The story was absolutely ridiculous and wonderful. “Love is in pairs” launches  the story of two train engines in love, that are separated. Ramona, the female engine, rescues a circus troupe that is trying to avoid being censored and imprisoned by the Soviet party. Both of the circus ringmasters fall in love with Ramona, and one of them saws his feet off in a magicians box to prove his love. She not only gets them to their next destination, but agrees to perform in the main tightrope attraction after the primary performer breaks her leg. There is a hilarious scene where the ringmaster gets a letter from his feet, and learns they have no interest in returning. While tightrope walking, Ramona is distracted by the white smoke of her engine-lover, Ermon, and falls and dies. The play ends with an old man telling Ermon “love is in pairs, and you and I are alone”. Ermon does not want to go on without her, and is dismantled by the puppeteer while an old black and white movie of a train plays in the background.

It was remarkable how this puppet production could be so ridiculous and remain so straight and true. It was no fair to see this performance when I’ve been away from my wife, Toni, for a week, for it captured the almighty importance of love and made me miss her terribly. It also showed me how a nation copes in a post-war era. It taught me Georgian humor. And it stretched my definition of creativity. Marvelous.

Svengali Prayer Acapello in Front of Bagrati Cathedral

We had a very nice day visiting old churches today. And we got a special treat when a Svengali man (from the northern mountainous region of Georgia) took a liking to Steven and had his acapello singing troupe sing to us in front of the Bagrati Cathedral. Here is a picture of the cathedral followed by a video of the song. If you can imagine being under the front arch that you can see in the picture, listening to these men singing from the heart – it was amazing!



Tblisi Architecture

We toured more of the city today. I like the juxtaposition of old (sometimes very old) architecture, to their modern architecture, which is unique. Sasha says that Georgians sometimes just want to do things their way, regardless of what others think, and that characteristic is displayed in their architecture. Below are some examples, with a picture of me, Steven, Sasha, and Sophia at the end.

We also did some good prepping for the upcoming workshops while we toured the city. And we ate some delicious Georgian food – fried fish with currant sauce, tomato and cucumber salad with parsley, fried potatoes, traditional Georgian bread, unpastuerized village-made cheese, and other delectables.

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First Day in Tblisi, Georgia

I arrived in Tblisi, Georgia, early Tuesday morning. I am here to facilitate a couple workshops with my teacher, Steven Young, hosted by the Caucasus Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Family Psychotherapy. He came two years back, and they asked him to come again. We will conduct one workshop to train therapists and healers from Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Ukraine, and another workshop on business planning and agile process development.

We spent the day with our long-time friend Dr. Alexander Cheryomukhin, known as Sasha, and Sophia Verulashvili, the President of the Caucasus Institute. We arrived at 3 AM on Tuesday and Sophia and Gulnara, who will attend the workshop and whose name means “pomegranate flower”, picked us up. We are staying in Gulnara’s apartment. We were fed a nice meal of bread, fruit, and cheese, and we talked. We then went to sleep. Sasha took a train in from his home in Baku, Azerbaijan, and when he arrived at the apartment at 1 PM, we got up and ready to go. We bought tickets for the theater and then ate at an old-style restaurant downtown. Here is a picture of the street and Sophia and Sasha sitting at a table in the restaurant:





We saw a modern dance performance at the Rustaveli Theater that was very nice. The theater itself was old and inspiring. Here are pictures of the ceiling of the theater, the street outside, and Steven and I in front of an iron gate outside the theater.

















I am enjoying being introduced to Georgia, and learning about the people, the lifestyle, and the politics. There are still a couple days before the workshop where we will see more of Georgia and plan for the upcoming workshops.

Does IT need a Customer Success Team?

Is it time for IT in non-technology companies to create a Customer Success team? I had coffee yesterday with the managing partner at a technology consulting firm. They focus on strategy and methodology, primarily for business technology consumers. It’s a successful practice with over thirty customers, and she had not yet heard about Customer Success teams.

Is it time for IT in non-technology companies to create Customer Success teams? I had coffee yesterday with the managing partner at a technology consulting firm. They focus on strategy and methodology, primarily for business technology consumers. It’s a successful practice with over thirty customers, and she had not yet heard about Customer Success.

In the technology product space, Customer Success has reached a tipping point. Customer Success is the evolution of account management and professional services, combined. It is a big enough shift in how to approach customer relationships that it warrants a new name. When I first had the title “Vice President Customer Success” in 2006, it was not something people had heard of. People wanted my business card so they could see it in writing. Nowadays, if you are a technology company and don’t have a Customer Success group, you are behind. There are Customer Success meetup groups, and SaaS solutions that are “Customer Success” solutions.

If you are in IT, and you were to create a Customer Success team, it would mean the following:

  • A dedication to knowing who your customers are. I would expect this includes the other departments of your company, probably some of their customers, and hopefully the customers that provide your company with revenue.
  • Understand how your customers determine value. Don’t just think about their label (Accounting, Store Managers, etc…) – understand the persona – what they do and how they derive value from technology.
  • Know how you are providing value to your customers. What actions of yours help your customers derive that value from technology. Do you maintain systems, customize solutions, run a help desk, etc…
  • Create ways to track and measure your value delivery. Not just with questions and surveys, but also by such means as how many help desk tickets they open, and the average response rate, how much they use the technology that’s been implemented or built, how many projects have they requested, etc…
  • Maintain proactive relationships with your internal customers. You not only understand them, but are able to suggest solutions and solve problems before they may know they need them.

If you are looking for a holistic view of your internal customers, what they need, and how well you are delivering it to them, then you either need a Customer Success team, or something that acts a lot like one.


This was originally posted on LinkedIn here: I am experimenting with different mediums to get my messages out. I will report on my findings when I have something to report.


Presenting at Customer Success MeetUp Session on Sep 11:

I’m excited to be presenting at the Colorado Customer Success MeetUp Group this coming Thursday, Sep 11 in Denver. I’ll be presenting the model that I am building on the Developmental Stages of the StartUp ~ Customer Relationship. Since this is a group of people who enjoy thinking about Customer Success and know something about it, I am going to make this an interactive session and use feedback to improve upon the model. If you would like to participate in the discussion, or just sit back and listen, please come.

Join Me at #DenStartupWeek Session: Developmental Stages of the StartUp ~ Customer Relationship

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I am excited to be presenting at Denver StartUp Week this year. My presentation “Developmental Stages of the StartUp ~ Customer Relationship” is on Friday, September 20 from 1-2:30 PM. Exact location TBD. Here is the summary from the DSW website:

All companies grow through developmental stages. To move through the stages you must master the relevant developmental tasks. How you build relationships with your customers today, and how you prepare for tomorrow’s relationships are key tasks to master to move your company forward. Some leaders live in the status quo and do not anticipate the developmental tasks that must be mastered for proper customer development – present or future. Tasks such as driving product adoption, providing technical support, gathering feedback, and up-selling.

In this session Josh Forman, an eight-year Customer Success executive and consultant to technology companies, will present a model of the basic developmental stages of the startup ~ customer relationship. The session will show you how to use the model to guide decision making for executives, directors, managers, and anyone who aspires to a greater understanding of the customer relationship process.

Please pre-register if you are planning to attend:

Denver StartUp Week is a great event that you shouldn’t miss if you are in the Denver area. You can find lots more info here.

@SeedPaths – Tech Training for Multiple Learning Styles is Good for Society

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 7.18.09 PMSeedPaths is an awesome organization in Denver that offers technical and professional development skill tracks to young adults who don’t learn well in the traditional learning model of today’s society. The students have either no or very little college education. The American academic system is just that – academic. And it doesn’t work for everyone.

Along with my colleague Jeffrey Laner, I am honored to be a regular facilitator in the SeedPaths program – conducting a training in the professional development track called Say It Straight. It is a communication course that helps prepare the students for the interpersonal and organizational stresses that are inherent in all organizations. I have witnessed first-hand how well this program does at improving the lives of the students. I think this statement from the website says a lot:

89% of graduates who sought employment secured an opportunity within 90 days of graduating and enjoyed a 460% increase in pay.

The success of this program and their students signifies that society is tearing down stereotype barriers. It shows that employers are embracing the idea that an organization can better serve its customers if the employees within are representative of the entire customer base, even if not everyone in the company resembles the leaders. The more successful we can make all learning styles in society, the more successful our society will be as a whole.

Good for SeedPaths. Good for society.

If you know someone who could benefit from the program, a new cohort starts every 8 – 10 weeks. Send them to to learn more. And feel free to give them my information:

Use Intersecting Territories of Customer and Product to Drive Technology Adoption and Expansion

I’ve developed a repeatable process that enables technology companies to drive their product’s value and enable adoption and expansion. This post is to briefly describe it. The key concept to the approach is what I call the Stakeholder Capability Matrix. It looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 12.44.24 PMTo drive value and sell you must know the territory. And there are two overlapping territories – that of the customer organization and that of your product. How they interact, and most importantly, where they intersect, must be understood and taken advantage of. If you stop at the customer contact who made the purchase decision, you are missing opportunities.

There are two main phases to the approach. First, I work with the technology company internally to define their basic matrix. Then I work with the company to develop the process on how they approach and work with their customers, using the matrix as the map.

First Phase: Build Basic Matrix:

  1. Define the Stakeholders inside your customer organizations that your product serves.
  2. Define the Core Capabilities of your product. How does your product create value for customer end users?
  3. For each Stakeholder / Capability intersection, define how that capability could potentially serve those stakeholders.

Second Phase: Design Customer Approach:

How do you espouse this to your customers? You can’t just tell them “that stakeholder group within your organization should use our product to do this.” The basic process includes:

  1. Identity Named Stakeholders (real people)
  2. For each named stakeholder / capability intersection:
    1. Determine Current State
    2. Educate on Capability
    3. Plan Future State
  3. Build roadmap to future organizational state

The technology company needs a methodology on how to do this with their customers. It can take many forms. For a recent customer, we created a new offering “Assessment & Enablement Services”. In it, the technology company runs the project at the customer site, talking to the named stakeholders with the primary customer contact. The conversations are very illuminating, for both the technology, the customer champion, and the stakeholder being interviewed. And they lead to more sales.

Smaller Batches Win In Transportation

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 7.27.56 AM I’ve written about doing things in Shorter Cycles / Smaller Batches in the technology realm. This is a quick observation about how this has materialized in the transportation industry by looking at trains versus trucks.

My family went on a two-week camping trip, returning the end of last week. We drove over 3,200 miles – from Colorado through Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, and then back again. On the big interstates we were often close to train tracks.

I didn’t keep count, but I saw on the order of 100 times the amount of semis hauling trailers than trains moving cargo. I see this as evidence that transportation operates more in smaller batches (semis with trailers) than larger batches (trains).

I just did 15 minutes of quick research and learned that most sites say that hauling freight via train for long distances is more energy efficient, and includes lower fuel costs. However, the operational inefficiencies of working in large batches means shipments arrive later and inventory sits longer. Imagine a long train unloading, and moving containers to staging areas, to be picked up later by a truck and taken to it’s final destination versus a semi driving from the warehouse directly to the final destination.

The only type of freight where trains rule is coal. And with coal, a long train loads all cars up at one location and takes all of it’s payload to one or very few destinations. So it is in essence a very large small batch operation.

Not surprisingly, working in Shorter Cycles and Smaller Batches is clearly preferred for transportation. How can your work be accomplished in smaller batches to provide results more quickly?