How Kirsten Paust is Accelerating Growth by Enabling A Culture of Continuous Improvement
Our team of experts from the Revenue Enablement Institute studies how leading organizations are transforming their commercial models to accelerate revenue growth. We profile growth leaders – CXOs – who are at the forefront of defining, enabling, and leading the execution of the 21st Century Commercial Model.
Kirsten Paust is Vice President of the Fortive Business Systems Office at Fortive, a corporate team that supports a portfolio of more than 20 companies across Fortive (FTV), a global family of industry-leading industrial growth and technology businesses. Over the past decade she has been helping the leaders of these businesses find ways to accelerate growth by unlocking the capacity of their people, processes, and markets.
Kirsten shared how her team is applying a process mindset to growth and innovation at Fortive.
Organic revenue growth is a top priority at Fortive. Historically Fortive built their portfolio of businesses through mergers and acquisitions. But today, their leadership believes strongly in their ability to drive organic growth from within those businesses. Their view is that organic growth creates a multiplier effect because it produces profit margins and free cash flow which can be reinvested in sales, marketing, new products, and innovation to fuel even greater growth.
“Without a question growth is a top priority in our company,” according to Paust. “To us it’s the ultimate indicator of success. We have a very strong philosophy that growth drives a virtuous cycle: a flywheel of opportunity for our people and our businesses. When we add growth focus to a strong foundation of operational performance, we are truly driving a new level of impact and outcome in our markets. We refer to this as the flywheel – growth creates great opportunities for our people, enables us to invest back in the business, which creates even more opportunity and enables us to attract and keep the best talent.
The mission of the Fortive Business Systems Office (FBS), which Paust leads, is to instill a culture of growth through continuous learning and improvement.
Paust asserts that “my team exists to bring best practices and processes that enable our teams to deliver strong performance and to exceed their customer’s expectations. That performance includes growth, innovation, quality, delivery, and cost. There’s no confusion about what our measuring stick is – creating improved business outcomes.”
The way the Fortive Business Systems Office helps drive growth is by applying the principles of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement to front-office processes – including sales and marketing, new product development, innovation, and market development. “If you look at our history, the foundation of our business system was in the productivity toolset from lean manufacturing,,” shares Paust. “Over time, we’ve added to our solid foundation in the areas of growth and innovation. “We believe that a process mindset and orientation can be applied to unlock more growth and innovative capacity in our teams and businesses.. It is one of the core aspects of the evolution we’re driving in the company. Some might debate whether innovation can be a process. But we’ve had success teaching our people an organized way to go about this that leads to improved business outcomes,” says Paust.
“We work directly with our teams in our 20+ businesses on four primary core commercial processes,” explains Kirsten. “We have programs and best practices to improve the sales and marketing process, or what we call commercial execution. We have another team that focuses on product development. This team is increasingly working with the research and development communities in software, which is a large and growing part of our business portfolio. We also now have a team that is focused purely on innovation, helping our business create and grow new disruptive offerings in their markets.
“Our innovation process, called Growth Accelerator, brings together teams to solve meaningful problems for our customers. We work with teams over the course of about 3 months to help them generate and build new solutions. This process is not only about creating breakthrough ideas, but also helping teams build and execute in the market. These teams go back into the businesses, where they continue to build the most promising solutions that drive growth. Projects like these are producing breakthrough thinking and helping accelerate growth in our companies,” reports Paust.
“All of this stems from our belief that our greatest asset is the capacity of our people,” she continues. “Our team thinks a lot about this concept of unlocking the potential and contribution of all of our people, and how leadership and teamwork can multiply the talents of our people individually and collectively. We’re students of Liz Wizeman’s notion that the best leaders make everyone smarter. That is at the core of our culture and belief in the mindset of constant learning and continuous improvement.”
Technology is another multiplier that the Fortive Business Systems Office is putting to work. To help apply the power of analytics as a growth enabler, Fortive has developed a team that supports our businesses in applying data science, according to Paust. “More and more of these core commercialization processes are being supported by AI, insights and technology that enables our teams to get to insight and action faster. As an example, sales teams are making changes in their go-to-market models based on better insight into customers and markets, all enabled by technology and data models. There’s a pretty significant and powerful application of AI and ML underway in our commercial processes.”
“Our data science team, called The Fort, is an incredible team of highly skilled researchers and analysts who are building and deploying business models across our businesses that are changing the way we do business” continues Paust “We understand the race for talent in advanced analytics, and our leader of The Fort is doing a wonderful job of attracting strong talent that is having a real impact across Fortive.”
Kirsten’s team takes an operational mindset to applying data analytics to the problems of business growth. “We’ve put together a number of tools within FBS that our businesses are using to grow more efficiently,” says Paust. “This isn’t just a data science project, but it’s the way we are generating insights faster to enable our most precious resources, our people, to execute better, more informed actions. We believe strongly that real value is created when we combine the power of data analytics and process changes that drive outcome. We are known for saying – if you don’t do something different, you’ll never get a different outcome – and the same holds true in applying data analytics to our processes.”
“We’re maniacally focused on building data insights and models that produce measurable outcomes and lead to a change in trajectory for our businesses,” she continues. “Teams are using these tools to improve everything from the value customers realize from our products and services, to helping us create entirely new offerings.
“When it comes to analytics, our philosophy is making progress over perfection,” according to Paust. “One of our fundamental beliefs on this is to start with the data that you already have. And over time you can decide to enrich those data sources based on your need to get better visibility into things that will make you more effective. Most of our companies have readily accessible data they can use. For example, everyone has revenue or sales data so they can use it to better understand what customers are buying from you as well as renewal and churn rates. Most also have service records which helps them understand who is asking for service and what we might be doing better for them. Many of our businesses have what we call product telemetry data, which is product usage data that provides invaluable insight into what customers are using, where they are getting value, and where we can help them realize value they aren’t getting today” says Paust.
Kirsten believes that the performance that results from these growth initiatives and investments has to be measured, not just in terms of top line growth, but also effectiveness in the market, and the value to customers. So Fortive is measuring things like their ability to expand customer adoption of their products and services, grow price with customers, and improve customer profitability.
“The whole idea of accountability for growth outcomes and attribution of revenue is really important in our culture,” shares Paust. “It stems from our performance mindset. Data science is really the tool that lets you understand and track that performance. That’s a critical role for analytics because if we want to excel at sales and marketing as a company then we have to measure it. Our leaders work to really understand the connection between investment in sales and marketing and growth outcomes. This understanding is so critical because it turns sales and marketing into an enabler of growth, not a discretionary expense.”
Another area where data analytics and FBS are having significant impact is in understanding and driving performance in digital channels. The world is moving to a more digital environment, particularly through this pandemic,” says Paust. “Our businesses have significantly increased digital engagement with customers with more of our sales and marketing activities occurring online. We are leveraging data analytics to understand the digital footprint and behavior of our customers so that we can serve them better. From understanding what is generating interest and opportunities, to helping customers through a buying process, to ensuring that we are delivering delightful experiences through the lifecycle of using our solutions, digital is playing a critical role.”
“At the heart of our approach to driving growth and innovation is our mindset that we can always improve, that today can be better than yesterday, tomorrow even better than today,” continues Paust. “this is such an incredible time for transforming commercial approaches and models; it really is remarkable to be part of it and to combine our passion for continuous improvement with these new approaches. There’s definitely more to come at Fortive on this journey.”
Kirsten Paust Vice President of the Fortive Business Systems Office at Fortive
You can learn more about the next generation of growth leaders and the state-of-the-art management tools, skills, capabilities, and practices they are using to accelerate revenue growth and adapt to the new buying reality at the Revenue Enablement Institute Web Site. You can nominate growth leaders for our CXO 100 list.