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Tammy Savage: “Tackle any strategic initiative”

I’ve studied the most complex problems in the world — the prevention of crime and terrorism, the outbreak of infectious disease, and the recovery after disasters. I was looking to understand why extended teams break down and after deep research, the answers are clear. Now, I am obsessed with what’s possible with crowd solving. It enables leadership […]

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I’ve studied the most complex problems in the world — the prevention of crime and terrorism, the outbreak of infectious disease, and the recovery after disasters. I was looking to understand why extended teams break down and after deep research, the answers are clear. Now, I am obsessed with what’s possible with crowd solving. It enables leadership at scale, and makes the impossible, suddenly possible.


As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tammy Savage.

Tammy Savage, CEO and Co-founder of Groopit, has decades of experience leading extended teams at Microsoft and studied complex problem solving including crime & terrorism prevention, crisis recovery, and infectious disease outbreaks around the world. She is an expert in the breakdown of extended teams and what keeps us from doing our best work in some of the most challenging situations. Groopit.co, the enterprise crowdsolving solution, was founded on the idea that extended teams are essential to solving our most complex problems and bringing our biggest ideas to life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in the Central Valley of California, in a family of hard working and forward thinking entrepreneurs.

The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?

Our country is in an unprecedented crisis permeating every aspect of life. Business leaders are trying to transform work, grow revenue, and anticipate supply and demand shifts. Governments are on point to tackle escalating unemployment to racial equity to PPE sourcing. Nonprofits are feeding, clothing, and housing people. Schools are trying to educate students in a constantly changing landscape. The true crisis is our inability to solve these complex problems, fast.

This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

We are reaching a boiling point because in this crisis the challenges are not just complicated, they are complex. There are a multitude of dependent and independent decision makers. There are a multitude of issues occurring simultaneously at all levels of our organizations, and over an extended period of time. Progress is dependent upon people stepping up at unpredictable moments and taking unpredictable actions. People working on behalf of competing departments, disciplines, locations, hierarchies, organizations, industries, expertise and perspectives. The work is not linear. It is fluid and complex. Traditional leadership strategies and technologie are not designed for this environment. As a result, the complex problems we face go unsolved and fester, until they boil over.

Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?

The corporate challenges of workforce re-entry has and will continue to have a constant stream of new challenges related to employee concerns, remote work, on-site work, commutes, quarantines, childcare, health risks, ppe, openings, closings, cleanings, partial reopenings, policies, practices, accountability and more. What one employee perceives as the “ideal” situation is another employee’s definition of the “worst” situation. It’s complex.

Most companies approach workforce re-entry by assigning a leader, creating a task force, and getting to work. They start gathering information over email, channels, surveys, spreadsheets and the leaders use that information to inform their decisions. It all sounds perfectly reasonable, but it’s not.

There are a multitude of dependent and independent decision makers. Countless issues emerge simultaneously at all levels of our organizations, and over an extended period of time. Progress is dependent upon people stepping up at unpredictable moments and taking unpredictable actions. People work across departments, disciplines, locations, hierarchies, organizations, industries, expertise and perspectives. The work is not linear. It is fluid, complex, and progress requires a crowdsolving approach.

If you’ve used the navigation app Waze, then you have experienced how loosely connected people can solve a complex problem together. Drivers have a dedicated place to outsmart traffic and know exactly what to do. With the tap of a few buttons, users report road closures, traffic accidents, construction, police presence, hazards, and more. Drivers see the traffic problems immediately, add their observations and adjust their routes. They are loosely connected people, outsmarting traffic together.

Could you imagine if, for each road closure or accident, users had to input information into a spreadsheet, respond to a survey or send email to a task force? It just wouldn’t happen. It would be impossible to outsmart traffic. But, that’s exactly what leaders are doing when they tackle a complex problem, as if it were merely complicated. As a result, the nuances of a problem change faster than the organization’s ability to identify, understand and solve them. It’s what causes people, customers, and businesses to fall victim to the crisis at hand.

If you’re transforming the work environment during the pandemic, don’t make the same mistake. Enlist every frontline manager to transform the work environment and create a dedicated place online. Ask them to report employee concerns, emerging problems, every new practice that gets a positive response, and any other data that you need. Make it easy to report data in-the-moment, with a few quick taps. Give them immediate visibility to what their peers report, so they can learn, add observations and adjust their own management. Use the aggregate data to inform priorities and decisions. Soon, frontline managers will be working together to get people back to work.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Our world needs the ability to solve complex problems by working together. People can learn how by shifting how we solve the problems we face today, during the pandemic. Here are five opportunities to solve complex problems during the pandemic and build the capabilities to solve any complex problem in the future.

  1. Transform the work environment during the pandemic by crowdsolving. Bring together frontline managers together into an extended team. Capture real-time data about progress, problems, and employee quotes. Give frontline managers real-time visibility to see how the work environment is changing, replicate what is working, and eliminate problems ahead.
  2. Grow revenue during the pandemic by crowdsolving. Bring account managers together into an extended team. Capture pandemic related-data about furloughs, closures, changing priorities, and investment areas after every account call. Give account managers real-time visibility so that they can offer suggestions and learn from each other. Use the aggregate data to inform priorities and adjustments.
  3. Anticipate unpredictable shifts in supply during the pandemic by crowdsolving.Bring together supplier-facing staff, planners, plant operators and suppliers into an extended team. Capture real-time data like inventory levels, capacity constraints and unexpected events as soon as they happen. Give everyone real-time visibility into the reports, to improve their ability to anticipate and rapidly solve problems.
  4. Inform a product strategy by crowdsolving. Bring employees together across disciplines to contribute product-related insight. Capture positive customer quotes, requests, frustrations, competitive changes, demos given, and how customers are using the product. Give the extended team visibility into data as it’s captured, so everyone can learn, be heard, and see how their contributions influence product strategy.
  5. Tackle any strategic initiative with crowdsolving. Bring the people closest to the problem or opportunity together online. Define the problems, progress and activity data they should track in real-time. Give them immediate visibility into what’s being reported. Use the crowdsourced data to manage and measure the strategic initiative outcomes.

This is a leadership approach to accelerate results at scale. It is a practice where leaders provide real-time direction, make it easy to contribute real-time data, and create an extended team empowered with real-time visibility. It can be applied to this country’s most complex problems. This crowdsolving model can also support racial equity initiatives, climate change, and any progress that requires people to work together across organizations, departments, or geographies. It can help us respond to a second COVID-19 outbreak or the next crisis we face. When people have the ability to work together at scale, we can catch up to the problems as they arise and solve them faster.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?

Our recovery from the pandemic is dependent on the extended teams’ ability to solve problems fast, whether you’re trying to transform where people work, how they work and the culture itself. After the pandemic, that same capability will allow your organization to solve its most complex problems, bring its biggest ideas to life, and create competitive advantage. Turn this moment into an opportunity to listen to the people closest to the problem. Get frontline managers working together in real-time, so your company is prepared to tackle whatever lies ahead.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I’ve studied the most complex problems in the world — the prevention of crime and terrorism, the outbreak of infectious disease, and the recovery after disasters. I was looking to understand why extended teams break down and after deep research, the answers are clear. Now, I am obsessed with what’s possible with crowd solving. It enables leadership at scale, and makes the impossible, suddenly possible.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can visit the Groopit website (https://groopit.co/) to see what we’re working on or follow us on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/company/letsgroopit/) where I regularly publish articles and share whitepapers on how to solve the world’s biggest problems and how to reach our most ambitious goals with crowdsolving.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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