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    Cultures that Know Your Customers

    It's hard to care about the success of people you don't even know. How many of your team members are in that same situation when it comes to knowing your customers? Probably a lot. So, what do you do to give your team members a face for them to connect to?

    Face

    Give your team a way to “see” your customer as a vital part of their working day. (photo - david-miley - private)


    As a Modern Enterprise Leader, the question to you becomes, “How do I build a strong pattern of customer awareness into my corporate culture?” There are already examples in your company from which you may draw.


    Such as, your marketing people who do this all the time. They build a variety of profiles of the ideal target customer. They bring in focus group after focus group to test everything from that basic customer profile to the preferences people for this or that color on your packages. How easy would it be for you to build a customer awareness campaign based on the phrase, “What would your mom like...?”


    Let's move from marketing to sales. In most industries, sales activities have at least a little face-to-face time with customers. The sales people often, if not usually, know your customers personally. Well, then, how easy would it be for you to build a customer awareness campaign based on customer visits to the people in any or all of your departments? Some of these could be implemented as incentive programs, right?


    Obviously, few people care about others outside of their families and small circle of friends. There's a lot of social inertia to push against when it comes to building corporate-wide customer awareness. Most people think in simple terms: their job is their job. It's natural. Might they work better, maybe even with a bit more enjoyment if they thought of the customer as their job?


    Since a lot of corporate culture drops out of the personal habits of the corporate leader, let's aim this back at you. If you only see the customer as a faceless pocket to pick, you won't convey much vision of the customer to your people. In fact, your people might feel like you think of them in the same stingy way. Not much for morale in that, is there?


    Your marketing people have a sense of relationship with your customers. Your sales people probably have real relationships with your customers. It's better for business if they do. How much better would it be for business if everyone in your team had a sense of relationship with your customers?


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M021219 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    LO+FTTM Culture and the
    Mission of Customer Success

    To make corporate culture visible and measurable, we define culture as the entire collection of behavioral habits that makes your organization operate the way it does. If you are in a business that's dominated by personal customer interaction, here are the primary characteristics you want your customers to express about your people:

    Leader

    What kind of enthusiasm does your team have for your customers' successes? (photo - agnieszka-boeske - unsplash)


    1. “Jim has exactly the technical skills we needed to get this job done, especially when it came to working through unexpected problems.”
    2. “Jim keeps his promises. On the ethical side we trust him completely, and when it comes to managing our expectations, he always gets things done in the way he described them.”
    3. “On top of all that, Jim is a great guy to have in our business environment. He's great for morale!”


    Some people can naturally conduct themselves with this level of professionalism, and some people can be trained to deliver this level. Short of this level of performance, expanding a business relationship is probably not going to happen, and basic customer retention is questionable.


    However, these types of service delivery habits cannot be limited to the customer-facing personnel. This is where the culture-level sense of mission toward the customers' success comes in. Everyone on your team, customer-facing or not, has to believe that getting the customer to success is what the business is all about. Simple things, even like making sure the invoices are accurate, are a huge part of creating the perception of success for your customer. No part of the business process should be taken for granted as a part of customer success. If a job doesn't build toward customer success, why is it part of your business's processes?


    Let's assume that your company can truly deliver on services sold. Let's skip, then, to ethics and expectations. Customers view all of your promises as contractual commitments whether legally binding or not. Obviously, real ethical and legal violations cannot be a part of your businesses practices. But where many companies fail their customers is on expectation management. Usually, these conflicts arise when someone in the team is careless about what a customer is told. The most common type of carelessness is making a promise before checking “back home” what can and can't be done, or who is or isn't available for the work to be done. Safeguards can be built into customer interaction processes to improve customer expectation management.


    So that leaves the skill of congeniality to consider. Business relationships have a much better chance of growing if customers like to see your people. If the competition has friendlier people than you do, they've got a good chance at taking your business, other things being equal. Your people don't have to be aggressively friendly. We're talking about professionally pleasant when things are good, and cool-headed, leadership-effective when things aren't going well. Competent leadership in times of trouble will do much to keep customer success on track, and greatly build a positive reputation for your company.


    Let's sum this up. Everyone in your company has to have the right skills. Everyone in your company needs to know how to make promises that can be kept. Lastly, everyone in your company has to make sure your company never loses its welcome in the customers' offices.


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M013119 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    LO+FTTM Culture:
    Team Plus Leader

    The one thing leaders can't delegate is their own involvement in the mission. As a rule, leadership involvement in the mission has to make a substantive difference in the team's ability to perform. The strategic advantage for the leader is built on the feedback and new information that the team supplies on the mission's progress.

    Leader

    Corporate culture is the machine that replicates corporate results. If the leader isn't connected, the team malfunctions. (photo - rawpixel - unsplash)


    In the previous week's blog I described a vital network of connections in the team produced by leaders thinking through issues with their teams. Problem solving with the team is a fundamental anchor in a corporate culture that builds success for the business as well as the business's customers. Everybody's work habits get focused on solution building. This is crucial, culture-level behavior.


    When I was a kid I worked at a fast food joint. We all got training in managing unhappy customers. Why? Because high school kids almost always take the bait when it comes to some form of fight. That's dreadful for business. Fights at the counter disrupt other waiting customers. They disrupt cooking at the grill. Bad customer relations at a fast food franchise usually go bad for the franchisee.


    It was up to the restaurant leader to sand off all of our rough, teenage edges, not only to run an efficient business, but to build a reputation of friendly service in our small town. The leader had to form good business habits in each of us individually in order to build the company level habits, the culture, that would lead to a successful restaurant.


    Suppose your work force is older, and even though they aren't an evil bunch, maybe they have no habits of professionalism. Well, let's start at the top: Do you have any habits of professionalism? If you don't have that to share with your team, then you and the team take training together to put that part of your corporate culture together. If you have adversarial relationships with your clients, that has to go. If you and your team spend time squabbling or worse, that's got to go, too.


    Anything that threatens market retention or team productivity has to go. Conversely, company habits that draw customers to your goods and services, and that build highly productive team members who like their work, those you want to strengthen as company-wide ideals. Something to think about: If people are busy doing things well, like aiming all of their efforts to make customers happy, they won't have time to cause trouble.


    The connections between leaders and their teams support critical success factors. They either strengthen the company or leave it weak. As a leader, you have to decide on the results you want. Do you want to make money, or do you want to win fights? Do you want high levels of job satisfaction in your company, or do you want to drive your best employees into your competitors' businesses? Just note: You will achieve the results you most deeply want! That's a metric you can take to the bank...or maybe not.


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M012319 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Critical Thinking as a Team Sport

    I had an acquaintance (not a friend) who used to disappear once in a while to “do stuff” for the government. Something he lived by works everywhere. He'd say, “If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough!” If this guy figured that his team ran more effectively and less painfully by thinking through their missions, maybe that's a clue for you, too.

    Whiteboard

    Don't like thinking hard? No problem! Learn how to
    think with your team.
    (photo - kaleidico - unsplash)


    Critical thinking is the step after information collection. You spend time gathering hard facts from personal connections and your trusted news feeds. For some reason, that's where a lot of people stop. They stop at being well informed. Being well informed is certainly empowering, and it looks impressive in front of a crowd or behind a talk-show microphone. But for the thinking leader, that's just the needed material for building truly powerful competitive advantages.


    You might say, “I don't think with my team. I figure stuff out and bark orders.” That's a very common process, and some people make decent progress with that. But like I say, it's a very common process which leaves you solidly within the pack of your competitors.


    Here's an example of how I think with my teams. I get the gang together and open up with something like, “This new technology has taken hold in our customer base, and we need to interface our library to the new tech. What do we know about this?” Turns out, the gang knows a lot about it. Great! I go on: “I have these five opening customer experience requirements to get started. Who's ready to put together a first pass on them?” The team suggests Janet, and she agrees.


    The next afternoon Janet says, “Tom, I've got the draft demo ready to show. While I was putting that together there were five other obvious requirements that popped out, so I went ahead and put those in the demo, too.” Of course, Janet's concept blew my concept out of the water...which is, in fact, what I'd hoped for!


    So, you don't have to do all of the thinking. But you do have to do enough fact-based thinking to get the ball rolling for the rest of your team to build on.


    This mode of team thinking produces great results for innovation and productivity. The payback on job satisfaction and loyalty to the work is also extremely high. I'm still in touch with two of my larger teams, and they all say that our work together was the professional highlight of their careers.


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M011619 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Your Business Future:
    Build Lead Time through
    Real-World Connections

    Remember me asking, “Got any ideas?” The future doesn't run on your opinions. There are over seven billion people in the world, each of them following their own paths. You create lead time for your business actions by figuring out, as soon as possible, whose paths create your opportunities and your dangers.

    Connect

    You connect to the world to create lead time for your decisions and actions. (photo - rawpixel - unsplash)


    Mapping out the right paths requires information collection, and you have two big sources already available to you. The first is your human network, your real network, not the useless pile of likes or whatever you have on social media. Who in your network builds real knowledge out of their leadership activities, and who will share it with you?


    The second source of lead time producing information should be your news feeds. Specifically, data-driven, or facts-based news. While every news item or business report contains a viewpoint, the useful sources hold viewpoints other than obsolete “conservatism vs. liberalism” time killers. Instead of wasting time on old, irrelevant debates, you want to tap into viewpoints that open the windows to the true changes coming into the world. Those are the viewpoints from which you can generate the lead time you need to interact with one of the more likely futures that will form.


    You might not be used to collecting so much information. You might prefer having some solitary, trusted individual spoon feed you your course of action. You might like the apparent convenience of one-stop informational collection. But if you want to participate in the future and come out with the level of success you desire, you have to push youself to broaden your view of the world.


    Why does that work (and believe me, it does)? There are two big processes that having a wide range of fact-based information enables. In no particular order, one is the cross-checking process. You correlate apparently related facts and data to see which hold up, or how this collection mutually reinforces a given perception of the emerging world.


    The other process is trends evaluation. It takes a lot of data to establish one trend. It takes a lot more data if you want to bring together the meaning of a half dozen related trends. Defining one trend is meaningless for building a lead time strategy. Multiple trends taken together start to reveal potential acceleration of current events toward specific ranges of critical future action points.


    Now, at this point I get tons of moaning and groaning. "Yeah, that's all great for an astrophysicist like you. What I've been doing works just fine for me." OK, then you don't need LO+FT. I can live with that.


    But here's an unexpected result. It's impossible to tell the future, right? Of course, right! So, then, what's all of this huge information collection, cross-checking, and trends analysis good for? As it turns out, you don't have to get the right answer to be better prepared to engage your future. Just thinking hard about these things (using good information, of course) gives you new ideas that you would never have thought of before. Reading data-rich news will change the way you think, and build up innovative ways of designing your strategies for the future.


    The “simple” act of imagining four or five possible futures is great preparation for dealing with whatever future actually emerges.


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M010719 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Your Business Future:
    UP or Down?

    The future is the only place where the new opportunities live. The past offers lessons learned, and very little else. Your way of doing business IS obsolete, and your market is probably evaporating faster than sea-level is rising. Got any ideas?

    Store Closed

    Do you understand enough about the future to stay in the game?


    A friend recently sent me a link to an article about the future and going “all in on digital” to meet it. The points of interest to me, though, were the points that had the most general applications. This article suggested that we executives need to win four fights, mostly with ourselves:


    1. Fighting ignorance
    2. Fighting fear
    3. Fighting guesswork
    4. Fighting diffusion


    (from McKinsey Quarterly October 2018)


    In Optimizing Luck, we give the thinking executive the needed program to win those fights:


    1. Foster connections to the world (read: relationships), especially the part that affects your organization.
    2. Observe continuously by keeping track of news events, business news, pinging your connections to the world, and other real-world data.
    3. Think critically. No knee-jerk reactions unless time leaves no option.
    4. Work hard: If you do those first three things right, your efforts will be focused on the correct activities.
    5. Stay in it together with the working teams to get real-time feedback on your efforts to engage the future.


    (from Optimizing Luck, p. 17)


    That's the “quick-kill” listing of what to do. Over the next few weeks we'll unpack each of those bullets to present some simple, how-to examples. In the mean time, just to circle back to the McKinsey Quarterly article, give some thought as to how the right deployment of digital technology can amplify your ability to build on each of Optimizing Luck's five basic practices for powerful executive leadership.


    Thomas Meylan, Ph.D.
    CEO
    Digital Clones, Inc.


    If you wish to respond to this post, please email melblog at digitalclones dot biz and be sure to include the code M121318 in the subject line. Constructive input will be reposted under this blog post.

    Modern Enterprise Leadership and LO+FTTM

    Optimizing Luck Cover
    1

    Study the present very carefully to build possible versions of the future.

    2

    Generate strategic options based on those possible futures.

    3

    Work quickly to create long lead times, and watch events carefully to select the best options.


    Optimizing Luck
    Get Your Copy Now!