Agile for the C-Suite

agileIn a recent HBR article by Eric Garton and Andy Noble – both of Bain & Company – explain how senior leaders can adopt agile practices in an early first move to transitioning their organisation to becoming more agile. Something that takes time.

This helps set the stage for such a transition as it shows the leaders are walking their talk before asking others to do the same. Leaders will also learn some of the nuances along the way in regards to where these practices might work and where they likely won’t.

  1. Create a managed backlog of enterprise priorities:  See your leadership team as an agile Scrum that prioritizes the backlog based on importance, then tackles them in sequence until completed. Reprioritize your enterprise backlog when new initiatives are added.
  2. Create small, talent-rich teams working outside the hierarchy to address your most important priorities: These teams are given permission to use Agile methods and processes and to work outside of the often energy-draining and slower-moving traditional processes and decision hierarchies. Self-managed teams with limited hierarchy and bureaucracy are explicit features of such organizational models.
  3. Time-box your work and make extensive use of test-and-learn techniques: Working in smaller increments of focused time, typically one to four weeks, also accelerates decision velocity and the overall corporate metabolism. Using test-and-learn techniques with both customers and internal stakeholders allows companies to take minimum viable solutions and iterate on them quickly, abandoning weaker solutions for better ones.

Agile, and the resulting decision velocity, starts at the top of the house. Senior leadership teams that lead in an agile manner and make high-velocity decisions will see these behaviors mimicked at lower levels in the organization.

You can read the full article here.

 

Board of ‘Digital’ Directors

digitalA recent HBR article by Tuck Rickards and Rhys Grossman, explains that as companies start to realize the Digital does in fact mean a total transformation of a business and not just modernizing parts of it, its important to have Board Directors that have Digital acumen to help facilitate such holistic transformations.

The pair articulate four types of Digital Directors:

  • Digital thinker. The director has had little direct interaction with digital as an operator but conceptually understands the digital environment. They have been a board director or adviser in a digital business but are not a digital native.
  • Digital disruptor. The director has been deeply embedded in digital, often with experience from a pure-play company. This type of leader typically has less general management breadth.
  • Digital leader. The director has had substantial experience running a traditional business that leverages digital in a significant way (retail or media, for example). It’s likely that this person has less hands-on digital experience but has managed disruption as a general manager.
  • Digital transformer. The director has led or participated in a transformation of a traditional business. Typically the person does not have the seniority of a digital leader but is more digitally astute.

The appointment of directors from the fourth category is increasing and encouraged by Rickards and Grossman, although they recognise that the distinction between a ‘Digital’ Director and a ‘non-Digital’ Director is blurring.

Your can read their full article here.

A Customer Centric Vision

customer-mg-2A recent blog post from Annette Franz reminds us of the importance of a company vision statement that captures the essence of what the company aims to do for customers.

As Franz explains,

A well-defined and clearly-communicated vision becomes the organization’s north star and helps employees understand how they are consistently expected to deliver the experience for your customers.

Franz goes on to list some great examples of customer centric vision statements such as the following:

  • Warby Parker: We believe that buying glasses should be easy and fun. It should leave you happy and good-looking, with money in your pocket.
  • State Farm: Remarkable. Every day. Every customer. Every interaction.
  • The Ritz-Carlton: The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
  • IKEA: Create a better everyday life for the many people.

Before going onto articulate how to develop a vision statement and how to apply it.

You can read the full article here.

 

 

The 4 Types of Innovation

4-types-innovation

In a recent HBR article, Greg Satell, articulates there are four basic types of innovation depending on the problem that needs solving. In turn there are various techniques that are best leveraged depending on the situation.

  1. Sustaining Innovation: Where most innovation occurs as we are simply trying to improve what we are already doing. The problem and the domain skill sets are fairly clear
  2. Breakthrough Innovation: Where the problem is well understood but it’s a very tricky one to solve and the skill sets required to solve it are not clear cut.
  3. Disruptive Innovation: When innovating your products or services further won’t help and you need to innovate your business model as the marketplace has changed.
  4. Basic Research: When neither the problem nor the domain skill sets required to solve it are well defined. A base level of research needs to be conducted to gather more data.

You can read Satell’s complete article here, including how a bag of clams saved a microchip manufacturer hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A Case Study In Re-branding Using Design Thinking

double-diamondEarlier this year, an Australian based company specializing in helping organisations improve their customer experience using Design Thinking, The Customer Experience Company, re-branded itself after 15 years of considerable growth. They also created and moved into an entirely new office space. And they wrote all about it.

So for an interesting read how Design Thinking professionals “eat their own dog food” and use the same practices they use with clients for designing their own brand and new office, check out their Brand Manager’s blog post here.

Change your thinking before you change your strategy

3-way-pieIn another recent HBR articleMark Bonchek and Barry Libert, argue that organisations wanting to undertake a transformation are in need of a new mental model and new measurement model just as much as a new business model.

You have to change how you think before you can change what you do, and then change what you measure to close the loop.

The authors cite examples of companies trying to copy the business model of another and failing as they had not change the way they thought or measured results. The primary example given is the Southwest Airlines business model and the attempts to copy it by Continental Lite, Ted by United, and Song by Delta which all failed. Whereas JetBlue, which has emulated all three models, has succeeded.

Southwest cofounder Herb ‘Kelleher is known for saying: “I tell my employees that we’re in the service business, and it’s incidental that we fly airplanes.” Other carriers fly airplanes that carry people. Southwest serves people using airplanes.”

“Traditional carriers were still thinking about their business as flying planes rather than thinking about serving people, still worrying about capturing share rather than growing the market, and still measuring success based on how well they utilized planes rather than how well they served passengers.”

“In contrast, companies like JetBlue decided to emulate Southwest’s entire system: mental model, business model, and measurement model. Like Southwest, JetBlue focuses on people over planes, with a mission to “bring humanity back to air travel.” Beyond the usual financial metrics, JetBlue also measures the strength of its culture and the quality of its experience.”

You can read the full article here.

 

 

Are you Customer Centric or Competitor Centric?

Cus-v-compIn a recent guest post on HBR, Tara Nicholle-Nelson, explains that companies need to obsess over their customers, not their rivals. As she explains, “The question is not who your competition is but what it is.”

Your competition is any and every obstacle your customers encounter along their journeys to solving the human, high-level problems your company exists to solve.

Nicholle-Nelson goes on to articulate that companies need to change their thinking from selling a ‘product’ in a one-time transaction to selling a ‘transformation’ from the “status quo to the new levels and possibilities“.

In turn, your customers are everybody whom has the “problem your business exists to solve”, not just somebody whom has brought something from your previously.

As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt once said: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

You can read the full article here.

Aussie and example of Australian companies that ‘get it’

aussieIt was good to see at a panel discussion at this year’s annual CMO, CIO and ADMA Executive Connections breakfast event, evidence that some Australian companies are really starting to get what it means to be customer centric.

Particularly Aussie, an Australian retail financial services group,  where Aussie Home Loans’ general manager of customer experience and technology, Richard Burns explained he saw a danger in appointing a chief customer officer. “Debates around who owns the customer, I think, are a waste of time,” he said.

“Debates around who owns the customer, I think, are a waste of time.”

“It shows there are some tensions in the culture, which have to be worked through. Because if everyone in the organisation is not passionate about the customer, you will spend a lot of useless time debating what you should be doing.

“Originally my title was general manager, customer, and I changed that because I didn’t want people in the organisation thinking, ‘well you can take care of the customer’. Part of my role is making sure we are all passionate about the customer – that’s part of the ongoing challenge I have. But to say there is one person, I think is very risky.”

At Aussie Home Loans, a number of operational procedures are taking shape in a bid to break down the siloed approach, according to Burns, such as activity-based working.

“If you came into the studio where my team sits, you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s in technology and who’s in marketing,”

“If you came into the studio where my team sits, you wouldn’t be able to tell who’s in technology and who’s in marketing,” he said. “We have also adopted agile right across the business. That started in technology, but now literally every single team, with every single initiative we undertake, is cross-functional. Right through to executive level, everyone can see what the main priorities are, what we are doing and why.”

Read the full recap here.

Why surveying customers is a waste of time…and money!

SurveyA recent survey by James Dodkins at the BP Group helps articulate why surveying customers is a waste of time and money. Shutting down any customer survey functions or activities within an organisation represents one of the ‘quick wins’ of any Transformation Program to transform any organisation into being Customer Centric. Quite simply put, its not customer centric behavior and it costs money, so stop doing it.

  • Only 16% of customers feel their feedback makes a big impact on business improvement
  • 80% of customers feel their feedback makes no, not very much or only a moderate impact on business improvement
  • 65% of customers only give feedback if their experience is extremely good or extremely bad
  • 67% of customers are most likely to give honest feedback electronically
  • 43% of customers feel they have been led, persuaded or coerced into giving better or higher feedback than they otherwise would have
  • 62% of customers are most likely to give feedback on a numerical scale at the expense of getting actual explanations
  • 55% of customers admit they are not always honest with their feedback
  • 59% of customers feel some level of frustration with the frequency of requests for feedback

Read the LinkedIn article here where there is also a link to download the full report.

Why Poor Management Practices are like Viruses

Now we’ve all worked for companies that exhibit poor or bad management practices. Many of us find these practices a great source of frustration. But why do these practices exist? Why do the managers and executives that purport these practices not only continue to survive but thrive?

In this short YouTube video, London Business School Professor, Freek Vermeulen, outlines why bad management practices continue to thrive rather than die out with competitive pressure and ‘progress’.

Interestingly the reasons are similar to the continuance of viruses in nature and therefore Vermeulen calls these bad management practices, corporate viruses.

The three conditions that allow them to continue to exist are:

  1. There are short term benefits and therefore they are associated with success;
  2. The gestation period may be many years and there is an inability to understand the relationship between cause and effect; and
  3. The practice is easy to imitate and therefore spreads faster than it kills.

There is however one thing companies, particularly those in homogeneous industries, can do to aid innovation and increase the competitive advantage – stop doing things that don’t work or in other words “stop doing stupid things”.

 

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