When new behavior and new ways of thinking are required, an essential step is for the CEO, the board, and key managers to have an image in their minds of what the organization will look and act like after achieving its strategic goals.
Companies frequently talk about “our mission, vision, and values.” The trouble is that most of the time, the word “vision” is used incorrectly. When CEOs say they’ve defined their company’s vision, I ask them to explain it to me. Many respond with something like, “Our vision is to be the most innovative, agile company in our industry.” To which I reply, “That’s a mission, not a vision.”
In cases like these, the so-called vision merely repeats what is already in the strategy, and, worse, does nothing to emotionally engage the people who are being asked to implement it. A leader’s vision — particularly if that leader needs to bring about significant change in the organization — should start as a vivid, credible image of an ideal future state. The clearer a CEO is about what people should do differently to achieve new, challenging objectives, the greater his or her chances of achieving the changes necessary for success. New behavior doesn’t come from missions, however aspirational, but from deep, emotional commitment to doing things differently.
CEO’s must enlist the organization’s most influential managers so they roll up their sleeves and become committed enough to new ways of operating to cause changes both in their behavior and that of the people they influence.
The most effective way to engage these key executives is to communicate a vision — a vivid, detailed, and inspiring description of what will be seen, heard, and felt when the company has implemented the needed changes. Anything that doesn’t meet this standard is not a vision.
Following are five guiding principles:
- Find your own unique way. There is no simple, generic way to craft a real vision, one that is a powerful asset for change. It must be tailored to the character of the company, must be described in the leader’s own words, and must reflect the leader’s personality. No one should question whether it represents the CEO’s true and thoughtful ideas for the organization’s future.
- Appeal to emotions often and vividly. As important as anything else, a description of the optimal organization must paint a picture that people are drawn to because it strikes them as more satisfying than today’s environment — in particular, as a place where their needs for achievement, affiliation, and control can be met.
- Describe changes that can be imagined. For the leader seeking to implement a new strategy, a carefully crafted vision is the best way to acknowledge the extent of the changes that will be necessary, particularly when those changes affect popular, long-standing practices. No one is happy to give up habits and ways of operating that have worked for them and that feel comfortable. Usually, people will accept the need to change behaviors gradually, after being involved to some degree in determining the specifics of new practices.
- Describe valued behavior, not values. In describing the vision, the leader should distinguish between core humanistic values and the behavior that will be valued in order for the organization to successfully change.
- Be both firm and flexible. A leader who is formulating a vision must be firm about core elements of what should be in it but can and should be flexible on others. Key managers must be included in the process of refining the vision and made an integral part of finalizing and honing it. They must understand what the leader believes is not negotiable, where there is some room for negotiation, and where he is not certain what is best and wants to discuss ideas.
You can read the full blog post here.
In a recent HBR article, David Robertson highlights how Gatorade addressed a decline in sales by re-engaging with its core customer – the elite athlete. They found that while elite athletes needed to hydrate throughout competition, they also loaded up with carbohydrates prior to an event and consumed protein shakes after an event to help with muscle recovery.
Gatorade in turn, created energy chews and carbohydrate drinks for pre-event preparations and protein shakes and bars for post-event recovery. At the same time they reduced the number of flavours available of the core Gatorade drink that were available and discounted less.
From a low of less than $4.5 billion in 2009, Gatorade hit $5.6 billion in sales in 2015, and owned 78% of the US market. Competitor Powerade’s growth stopped.
You can read the full article here.
A 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.
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.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
In another recent HBR article, Mark 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.
In 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.
It 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.
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:
- There are short term benefits and therefore they are associated with success;
- The gestation period may be many years and there is an inability to understand the relationship between cause and effect; and
- 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”.
I have to admit, up to this point, my customer centric mindset has led me to believe that if there is one area of your business that you should not outsource, its your front line. These teams are the people interacting directly with your customers and delivering ‘moments of truth’, delight or misery to them every day. They are essentially your brand. But the fact is, many business units and organisations do outsource their internal and external front lines, generally for cost reduction purposes.
But as this interview with a Vodafone Spain executive demonstrates, it is possible to outsource your front line and deliver a great customer experience in line with your brand promise. And its no different to how you should align all your teams inside your organisation to deliver successful customer outcomes. So hold off on the ‘in-sourcing’ and ‘re-shoring’ and read this interview undertaken by McKinsey with Vodafone Spain’s, Carmen López-Suevos Hernández.
Vodafone Spain started with a situation that looked like this:
- almost fully outsourced (onshore & offshore)
- large number of vendors as each customer service function had outsourced individually
- often short term contracts
- ranked last for service levels among major Spanish mobile providers
- cost pressures made it hard to in-source
- first contact resolution rates were low
- call volumes were growing
- costs were actually increasing (despite the goal of outsourcing)
- vendors found it difficult to work with Vodafone
- focus on costs meant relationships were transactional with an emphasis on volumes and fixed prices
- vendors disliked the constant price pressures
- vendors with multiple contracts found it was like working with different companies
Vodafone realised it had to refocus on quality of service, not just cost and reevaluate vendor relationships and front line agents who serve their customers.
Vodafone always had goal to reduce overall cost to serve and reducing cost per call is one avenue to do this but when you squeeze vendors on price, they squeeze back by:
- reducing the quality of people,
- reducing the ratio of team members to team leaders,
- reducing the attention given to development & retention
Attrition increases while skills fall and the result is fewer calls resolved on first contact and up front cost benefits are essentially lost as call volumes rise.
The other way to reduce the overall cost to serve is to reduce volumes by solving more calls at first point of contact. This could allow a higher price per call which vendors could re-invest in further quality improvements while Vodafone still comes out in front.
Vodafone realised it needed to change a lot about how they operated, their mind-sets about the role of vendors, performance expectations of them and how they interacted with them. And while they indeed needed to reduce number of vendors and sites, what they really needed was a new operating model.
Fundamentally Vodafone wanted call centre agents whom could turn customers into brand advocates, not just handle calls.
After a 3 year transformation Vodafone Spain was now ranked first for customer satisfaction among major Spanish mobile providers and operating costs fell by double digits. Not a bad turnaround.
And for all the gory detail on how Vodafone did this, you can read how Vodafone did this here.