We continue our "Women in Japan-US Business" profile series today with Kimberly Wiefling - Founder and President of Wiefling Consulting, and Executive Editor of the Scrappy GuidesTM and Author of “Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, growing in popularity around the world and published in Japanese by Nikkei Business Press.
"Scrappy Women in Business: Living Proof That Bending the Rules Isn’t Breaking the Law", a compilation of a dozen women’s stories, was published this past summer.
Read Part 1 of Kimberly's interview below. Part 2 will appear tomorrow.
Japan-US Business News: What was your educational experience? Was it helpful in getting you where you are now?
Kimberly Wiefling: My dad was a welder, my brothers were both welders, and, if I had been born a boy, I probably would have been a welder, too! But, as luck would have it, I grew up in a time when girls weren't encouraged to be welders.
So I went to college instead, earning a B.S. in chemistry and physics and an M.S. in physics. But don't be so quick to write me off, 'cause I've got marketable skills, too! For example, I earned a marksman's ribbon while in the U.S. Air Force right after high school (I used my GI Bill money to pay for college), where I learned to repair electronics equipment.
Japan-US Business News: What were your professional experiences?
Kimberly Wiefling: A physicist by education, and a successful business leadership and project management consultant for the past 10 years. I began my professional career working for a decade at HP in product development project management and engineering leadership.
My motto was, "When it absolutely, positively has to be destroyed overnight—bring it to me! I spent ten years working at HP in various engineering and technical jobs, including one that involved a long stretch of explosion testing and other destructive testing of lovingly handcrafted one-of-a-kind R&D prototypes.
I got bored with all of the stability and job security of HP, so I quit and joined a series of failed startups (not all my fault!). I spent 5 years in the wild and wacky world of Silicon Valley startups, including a Xerox Parc spinoff where I was the VP of Program Management. I helped to start, run and grow a dozen small businesses. Several of the startups that I co-founded are still in business and profitable.
One of the keys to the success of these start-ups was a focus on not only a winning strategy, but a winning culture. Culture transformation lies at the heart of all of my work.
In 2000, I rose from the ashes of the dot-com bust, launched my own consulting practice at what was not exactly the most hospitable environment in which to launch a business and never looked back. I wanted to associate with other women entrepreneurs and intended to extend my business globally.
I lurched fitfully forward for several years before my big break came—a chance to work in Japan with my Japanese "sister" Yuko Shibata of ALC Education, Inc. starting up their Global Management Consulting Group.
Yuko was doing work with NTT DOCOMO – UC Santa CRUZ Language institute and was searching for someone who could do a program with the Japanese. Yuko spoke with me and we decided to collaborate. We started writing proposals and trying to figure it out.
We created it from scratch really. Other institutions were doing this similar kind of learning and teaching on a large scale. There wasn’t anything at this price point, or this kind of experimental approach— focused on highly interactive, engaging and exciting “Action Learning.”
Japan-US Business News: Did you have a start-up business plan of any kind?
Kimberly Wiefling: In a sense it was an expansion of something ALC had been doing for many years, so we had that original plan and direction. We were also developing new parts of the program as we were going along because we realized that customized programs in companies where teams could work on real business problems together were better than offering public programs.
Japan-US Business News: Tell us about your business and the services your offer?
Kimberly Wiefling: It has grown incredibly over the years, even through the rough years! For example, in 2009 revenues from our “Global Management Consulting Business” grew 17%. Our team of 8 consultants has someone traveling to Japan or elsewhere every month, and frequently 2 or 3 of us are out and about. I am the Executive Program Director for ALC Education, Inc’s Global Management Consulting Business, and I personally am traveling several weeks every month to work with high-potential leaders in Japanese companies, facilitating leadership, innovation and execution excellence workshops to enable Japanese companies to solve global problems profitably.
My clients include Cisco Systems, Symantec, Intuit, HP, Agilent Technologies, Mazda, Daiichi Sankyo, Dow Corning Toray, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the University of California, Siemens, Hitachi, Alcoa, Xerox PARC, NECsoft, NTT DoCoMo, and many more.
These global leaders emerge from these programs with new eyes to see the opportunities in which we are all swimming, a global mindset, and the determination to solve global problems profitably—for their companies and for the sake of all the people of the world. It's like a dream come true for me, and my experiences have ranged from hilarious to deeply moving.
In pursuit of planetary transformation, I'm contributing to making the world a better place in a number of ways. I'm the Co-founder of the Open Kilowatt Institute (OKI) and the Founding Co-chair of the SDForum Engineering Leadership Special Interest Group (EL SIG).
I'm supporting micro-finance for entrepreneurs throughout the world via Kiva, and I support the economic independence of women in various ways because I believe that this is the most effective way raise the quality of life for all people. I am obsessed with collaboration.
My main focus has always been equipping people with the tools to tackle major impossible problems at an affordable price. Solving problems around the world at a profit.
Japan-US Business News: What are your plans for the future?
Kimberly Wiefling: We want to move to doing more intensive, consultative programs—longer programs that give participants a chance to tackle substantial projects that matter to the business, and that give them time to change hot they think, communicate and act. Our job is changing brain cells in order to improve business results! Our programs assist them in developing new ways of thinking and problem solving as well as ways of “being”.
The question I always keep in my mind in my work is: How can I work with people in ways that will make a sustainable difference in their work and personal lives?
I feel that there is a need for a transformation of the mindset of business leaders in Japanese companies, including an expansion of the Japanese global business brain. This requires new ways for students and adults as well to learn. This year we worked with Kyoto University professors on developing new teaching methods to use in the classroom to encourage students to learn in new ways. Inspire and encourage them to move away from the rote learning of the past and into more creative, out of the box thinking. I feel that the Japanese University system needs to be overhauled going forward. So do many American universities, for that matter!
Join us tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with Kimberly Wiefling.
Kimberly Wiefling is Founder and President of Wiefling Consulting, and Executive Editor of the Scrappy GuidesTM, and the Author of “Scrappy Project Management: The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces”, growing in popularity around the world and published in Japanese by Nikkei Business Press. Scrappy Women in Business: Living Proof That Bending the Rules Isn’t Breaking the Law, a compilation of a dozen women’s stories, was published this past summer. Kimberly can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org