As in previous years, the Skopje conference will be organized around an opportunity for participants to be immersed in a unique live teamwork experience recently renamed, Open Assist. This important centrepiece, which runs throughout our conference, provides an exciting opportunity for teams of participants to engage directly with senior management representing a real organization (client).  The objective for the teams is to respond to the organization’s (client’s) Request For Proposals (RFP) to outline an approach for resolving a current problem the organization is facing and/or to identify and take advantage of opportunities to perform and produce “even better” results.

Through the Open Assist process the client organization receives real value for their participation, as measured by their immediate feedback at the end of the process and also, importantly, one year later.  Participant teams gain valuable knowledge and actual experience, working on a diverse multinational team, as they interact directly with, present to and get feedback from a senior management team, all in a “safe”, supportive, constructive environment of learning, sharing and enriching each participant’s experience and ability to grow their professional network.


open“: looking outside of the organization’s boundaries to get something (innovation, solutions, ideas, etc.) from external individuals or organizations in a crowdsourcing environment.
assist“: putting the client in the best conditions to achieve its objectives. In basketball, an assist (the proposal)  happens when a player (team at the conference) passes the ball to a teammate (the client) in a way that leads to a score by field goal (achieve the objectives illustrated in the RFP). It reminds the magic chemistry of Karl Malone (the second scoring leaders of NBA ever: 36,928 points, more than the legend Michael Jordan) and John Stockton (holding the NBA records for most career assists: 15,806): in the NBA, there is no other combination of passer and scorer that even comes close to Malone and Stockton.
At the conference, client is the scorer (the champion) and teams are the passer (who sets up the best conditions for the champion to make a field goal).



The process begins by inviting professionals, who are already registered to participate in the upcoming conference, to volunteer for the important role of Open Assist Team Leader, in advance of the conference. In order to properly introduce them, we ask them to provide us with a brief bio and a short statement about why they were willing to take on the Team Leader role.


The Request for Proposals (RFP) made by the Client is delivered to each participant at the registration desks. Team Leaders are provided with a package of Open Assist Overview Materials before the conference. The Client explains the key elements of the RFP during the opening session of the Conference.


Each Team Leader has 60 seconds to introduce herself during the opening session and invite participants to join her team. Participants that want to try the Open Assist exprerience can join the preferred team. At the end of the “recruiting” session, team members of a bigger team are invited to join a smaller team on a voluntary basis, to balance the number of members of each team.


In order to develop an effective proposal, teams often need more information than what is detailed in the request. Information about the request itself, the business of the client, the context in which it operates, its organization, structure and culture. A 2 hours session of questions and answers with the client held on Friday morning should help to clarify each additional detail.


The time to work on the proposal is never enough. An hour and a half on Thursday after the opening session, two hours on Friday afternoon, an hour and a half Saturday morning. These are the slots for team working. In a very short time you need to contribute in creating a collaborative team, exploring the request and making a winner proposal. This is the challenge.


On Saturday afternoon, all the proposals are presented to the Client. Each team has 10 to 15 minutes to deliver its presententation,  answer questions, and convince the Client that its proposal is absolutely perfect for them. The advice is to use few Powerpoint slides, and make them very effective.


After the presentation of proposals made by teams, the Client  people move in another room, take some time to closely evaluate each proposal and choose the one that most suits their request and needs. Then they come back to the plenary room and announce who is the winner. No prize, just glory.

2019 Open Assist Client

Introducing ISPI EMEA 2019 Open Assist Client

Wines of Macedonia

Wines of Macedonia – Who/what is it?

Wines of Macedonia (WoM) is an organization that unifies the work of Macedonian wine producers around a commitment to promoting the quality and image of Macedonian wine throughout the world.

The WoM Association of winemakers was established in April 2010 as a NGO to represent the common interests of its WoM members, as well as important goals to benefit the entire winemaking and viticulture industry in the country, which, in turn, benefits the overall economy of North Macedonia. Note that WoM is also very much concerned with sustainable use of natural resources as well as corporate and social responsibility.



To increase awareness of North Macedonian wine among global customers, and to promote, protect and improve North Macedonian viticulture. To build and promote the image of North Macedonia as a wine country and increase the awareness and recognition of North Macedonian wines within international markets, worldwide, in order to enable greater export opportunities and enhance income generation for grape growers and wineries.


Worldwide recognition of the Republic of North Macedonia as one of the leading wine producing countries in South – East Europe (SEE), through our collective efforts


Developing strategic programs, branding, marketing and promotion, and education

Main WoM Objectives

  • Provide strategic support to the North Macedonian wine sector including developing the wine and viticulture industry in the Republic of North Macedonia
  • Increase the export of both bottled and bulk wines
  • Build umbrella recognition for Macedonian wines within regional and international markets
  • Advocate in front of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and other relevant national and international institutions
  • Identify opportunities and design and implement joint marketing and promotion activities, including participation at international Trade fairs and other events.

Wine Industry – Republic of North Macedonia (RNM)


Wine is one of the traditional symbols of, what is now, the Republic of North Macedonia. The secret of the taste of Macedonian wines is the sun, which in Central Macedonia, contributes to the taste of each and every grape.  Even though North Macedonian wines might be new to many people in the region and internationally, wine and wine making are not at all new to North Macedonia. The country, situated in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula, has been making wine from ancient times. In this area, the vine has been cultivated for more than 4000 years.

The first winery in the modern age was opened in 1885 and is today the largest winery (Tikves, a WoM member) in South – East Europe (SEE).  Wine was packaged in this wine cellar before the dawn of the 20th century, and the winery even had a semi-automatic machine for filling bottles.

Since that time, viticulture continued in the area, through ups and downs caused by political and economic adversities, an attack by a very destructive, but almost microscopic insect called phylloxera, the Second World War, and the process of gaining independence from the former Yugoslavia, to form the Republic of Macedonia, now the Republic of North Macedonia. While part of the former Yugoslavia, North Macedonia was a major producer of wine, accounting for 2/3 of Yugoslav production. After the declaration of independence from Yugoslavia, formerly state-owned wineries in Macedonia were privatized and a number of small family owned wineries flourished all over the country.

Modern Era

Despite a long winemaking tradition, only moderate international recognition as a wine producing country, is one of the crucial challenges that the RNM wine industry faces in its efforts at promotion within foreign markets and improvement of its export performance. One of the priorities of the WoM association, is creating the image and promoting North Macedonia as a country that produces high quality wine.  The first challenge has been to gain recognition as a country producing and exporting its own recognizable/distinctive wine and certainly not as a country known for the production of “cheap” and/or bulk wine only or predominantly.

Beginning in the late 1990’s, Macedonia’s wine industry entered a decade of intensive development in grape growing and wine making, with new wineries being built, old ones restructured, and leading producers and wine makers committing to put North Macedonia on the international wine map. This has resulted in a devotion to quality and a sincere desire to offer unique wines to the world’s consumers – to continuously improve and enhance the image of North Macedonian wines.

Over the last 5 years, the Wines of Macedonia association coordinated many joint promotions, master classes and specialized wine tastings, in addition to participation in leading Trade Fairs within international markets.  These efforts have all been aimed at strengthening recognition in order to get North Macedonia included on the global wine map. Currently, wines from the Republic of North Macedonia are distributed throughout most of the EU and all countries of the Balkans, making wine Macedonia’s second most important export product.  Despite the progress made, there are significant opportunities and challenges for individual wineries, the wine industry in North Macedonia, the overall economy of North Macedonia, and the Wines of Macedonia association, whose mission and aim is to make a significant positive difference that will help member wineries, the RNM wine industry in general, and, ultimately, the overall RNM economy.


Current Statistics


Economy (RNM)

  • Economic Impact: 17-20% of Agriculture GDP
  • Export of Alcoholic Drinks: Wine driven
  • Second largest agricultural export after tobacco
Wine Industry Sales

  •  15% domestic market
  • 85% export to 38 countries
  • Total Export income: 50.000.000 Euros
WoM Association

  •  12 of the 84 currently RNM registered wineries: WoM Members
  • Member wineries:  50% of total RNM wine production
  • Member wineries:  90% of bottled wine exports


Export Performance

Competitive Environment

According to WoM, the most important competitors, for the RNM wine industry, are countries from South East Europe and countries that are newcomers in the marketplace.  However, it is critical to look at each individual target market separately, because wine is a product that depends upon all of the typical business success factors and differentiators, plus one, shared by only certain businesses.

That is, the wine industry, in addition to all of the fundamental business issues, must also deal successfully with taste, recognizing that everyone’s taste is different and there is no right or wrong . . . only what appeals to consumers, and, again, taste is highly variable.  Further, tastes are subject to change!  It has been said that, “Those things that make the wine business fun, exciting and rewarding, are the same things that make it illogical, annoying, arbitrary and downright frustrating.”  For example, sound reasoning and good business sense may take an organization in a far different direction than decisions based on taste alone.  Winemakers must somehow consider both.

RNM wines are relatively well positioned within regional markets and enjoy a good reputation.  However, there are growing challenges, such as Vranac from Montenegro, and increasing domestic production of high quality wines in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, as well as the growing presence of imported wines in other Balkan countries.  Currently, primary competitors for the wine industry in RNM, include Moldova, Georgia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania.

WineA Strategic Asset

The enormous diversity of brands competing internationally has made Country of Origin an important brand and quality differentiator.  Since it is said that wine is the product that RNM is most proud of, WoM believes that it should become the country’s ambassador and considered a strategic asset.  Further, as a product typically linked to tourism and cuisine, recognition for the country’s wine, could help to develop a wider recognition for the country itself, and offer the potential to attract international investors, tourists, travelers and businesses.


Join us in Skopje and you will have the opportunity to offer assistance to our 2019 Open Assist Client, Wines of Macedonia on its journey to gain worldwide recognition for the Republic of North Macedonia, as one of the leading wine producing countries of South East Europe!



John B. Lazar, MA, MCC

CEO, John B. Lazar & Associates, Inc.

John has been an NSPI/ISPI member since 1981, presented at the last five ISPI EMEA conferences and is a current ISPI board member. He coaches/consults to companies about leadership and management practices, communications, organizational change and performance improvement. A Master Certified Coach, John works with leaders and teams, shifting mindsets, developing practices and improving results. He received his Master’s in Clinical Psychology from University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. You can contact John at

Lisa A. Giacumo, PhD

Assistant Professor of Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning, Boise State University

Lisa’s interests focus on global and cross-cultural workplace learning, technology for workplace learning and performance improvement, and preparation of instructional designers. She has worked internationally as an instructional designer, trainer, and manager for businesses, universities, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations. Lisa is an ISPI member, and frequent presenter at AECT, ISPI EMEA, ISPI, and Humentum (formerly LINGOs). Contact Lisa at

Felix Shapiro


Felix Shapiro has been working in consulting for more than 18 years now. During this time he has been working on performance improvement through IT systems.  Applied IT solutions in performance improvement for different Institutional systems such as: HRMS, PMES, Financial System and Int & Ext communications. Key to his work is adding value to the client and creating great partnership. Felix has been working with public and private companies during his carrier. He has recently started his own NGO and found that NGO work is very important for improving public sector. He considers an important principle: The client might not be right every time, but the client must enjoy the results. Contact Felix at

Dr. Fritz Lebowsky

Consultant in Management of Technology and Innovation

Dr. Fritz Lebowsky received PhD degree in electrical engineering from the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. He became extremely curious about investigating astonishing human performance in visual perception and transferring the findings into consumer products.

A Master degree program of executive Management of Technology and Innovation at the Grenoble School of Management led to exploring new concepts of creating harmony between human emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence enabling a human sustainable future for ALL. 

Contact Dr. Lebowsky at

Sharne Van der Burgh

Business Coach

I love facilitation and have been a business coach now for 17 years, working independently and as an Associate within businesses in different industry sectors – mostly with top teams and Boards but also with mid-level managers.  I have experience developing mentoring programmes and supporting businesses to design and implement their own mentoring programmes.  I have designed many learning events and programmes for a wide range of businesses.  I am British – but I have lived and worked in the US and now live and work in Poland.

Send email to Sharne:

The Simulation Case Study (now Open Assist) was a great, interactive way to meet people, try out new ideas, and get practice making a pitch to a potential client. I met great people and thoroughly enjoyed the valuable experience. I hope I am able to return again in the future.Lisa A. Giacumo - Boise State University

Open Assist Team Leader - First time participant, Bonn, 2016


Gothenburg – 2018

Culture Administration of City of Gothenburg, Sweden

Bologna – 2017

City and Municipality of Arezzo, Italy

Never Again Ruanda – 2016 Bonn experience feedback

NAR - Never Again Rwanda

Once again, it has been a pleasure working with you.  We look forward to gaining more skills regarding Performance Improvement from your side. … I hope that we will be able to share with you the outcomes of the entire exercise at the ISPI EMEA conference next year

Bonn, 2016

IETT - Istanbul Electric Tram and Tünel Company

From the beginning to the end of the program, we both learned and enjoyed at every step.  … We witnessed how performance oriented your program is.   You and your team’s enthusiasm and also the professional quality of the participants, all made the event a real learning experience. … Of course, the case proposals will be of great help for us to check-up our performance initiatives from a fresh outlook.
It was an absolutely unique and very valuable event for us!

Istanbul, 2015

Al Majmoua - The Lebanese Association For Development

Thank you very much for the opportunity and for the case study.  We are so excited to review the groups’ proposals and start working on an action plan.

Warsaw, 2014

EQE - National Center for Educational Quality Enhacement

Thank you and the whole team that was working with us!  Patrick, special thanks to you, as your primary interest in the NCEQE has moved this interesting project forward!  This endeavor was quite timely for the Center, as it will help us in our plans to move the organization forward and develop its capacity.

Tbilisi, 2013