How to Build A Customer Driven Growth Engine

Customer Culture

Not too long ago, I spoke with Jeanne Bliss about the 7 Inhibitors to Customer Driven Growth.  Jeanne’s new book Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine is a success roadmap for leaders wanting to build a customer-focused organization.

Jeanne also answered my questions about how to establish a customer culture, social media strategy, leadership, earning the right to grow, and establishing a sense of urgency:

 

Establishing a Customer Centric Culture

“Culture is the action, not the words.” How do you connect corporate aspirations with employees’ actions?

For customer-driven work to be transformative and stick, it must be more than a customer manifesto. Commitment to customer-driven growth is proven with action and choices. To engender this culture, people need examples. They need proof.

 

“Culture is the action, not the words.” -Jeanne Bliss

 

Customer culture is talked about by many leaders but misunderstood by most organizations. “Commitment” to customers must be attached to deliberate operational behavior, such as, “We will go to market only after these 12 customer requirements are met” or “Every launch must meet these five conditions, which the field requires for success. We won’t launch without them, no exceptions.”  People inside organizations need to see the commitment translated to actions that they will feel proud to follow and emulate.

Moving well past words, a deliberate and united set of leadership actions and behaviors practiced in unison is required.

One of the first activities we often undertake to unite leaders is to employ the journey framework to build an operational “code of conduct.”

 

codeofconduct (1)

 

7 Inhibitors to Customer Driven Growth

7 Key Inhibitors

Jeanne Bliss is an expert on customer-centric leadership. Her new book Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine is a success roadmap for leaders wanting to build a customer-focused organization.  Jeanne pioneered the Chief Customer Officer position and has held the job for twenty years at Lands’ End, Allstate, Coldwell Banker, Mazda and Microsoft. She has led Customer Bliss since 2002 where she has consulted with some of the world’s largest companies.

With all of her experience and research, the very first thing I wanted to know was about the mistakes leaders are making.  She shared with me the 7 growth inhibitors companies are making again and again.

 

“Culture is the action, not the words.” -Jeanne Bliss

 

What mistakes are holding companies back from building a customer-driven organization?

 

Are You Making These Mistakes?

There are 7 key inhibitors that companies stumble over in trying to earn customer-driven growth:

1. Not having executives engaged in the effort.

Often executives will say that they want to focus on the customer experience, but they hand off the tasks to a department or area to work on it. It is hard to sustain this work without executive involvement driving the new prioritization, removing actions that are in the way, and giving people permission to work together.

2. Starting with a mantra, not an action plan.

Often companies decide that they want to get some early traction by telling everyone to “focus on customer experience.” What happens next is that people realize this is a big corporate priority and begin making plans, creating new scoreboards and taking action. A lot of action occurs, executives get a false-positive that change is occurring, but it eventually stalls out because the actions don’t add up to improve complete end-to-end customer experiences.

3. Not defining the customer experience and gaining alignment.

The most potent recurring use for the journey map is to guide work and discussions from the customer perspective. Without this framework to unite efforts, silo work continues to proliferate.

4. Not breaking the work into actionable pieces.

3 Essential Keys to Navigate Your Political Force Field

This is a guest post by Joe Scherrer, author of The Leadership Forge: 50 Fire-Tested Insights to Solve Your Toughest Problems, Care for Your People, and Get Great Results. Joe is the President of The Leadership Crucible and a decorated Air Force veteran. His 24 year career included command of five units.

The Importance of Playing Politics

Ever heard comments like these?

“That decision was all about politics.”

“So-and-so is a real politician.”

 

Or, consider your answers to these questions:

How has politics impacted your ability to lead?

How would you assess your political skills?

Here’s the point: Even if you find “playing politics” distasteful, as a leader you’re a part of your organization’s political environment whether you like it or not. That’s because any time a group of smart, ambitious, type-A, competitive, achievement-oriented people gets together, there will be conflict of various kinds.

 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato

 

In your leadership role, you will experience disagreements, deals gone sour, questionable ethics, undermining, jockeying for position, currying of favor, backbiting, and all of the unsavory things that arise when the stakes are high, resources are scarce, power is to be gained or lost, and reputations are on the line.

In short, this is politics.

The reality is that if you if you want to get things done, you need to learn to play the game well.

 

“If you want to get things done, you need to learn the game of politics.” -Joe Scherrer

 

Simply stated, your political force field consists of the dynamic interaction of leaders, each of whom seeks to:

  1. use and increase their power in order to
  2. advance and achieve their agendas and to
  3. protect and satisfy their self-interest.

As a result your political force field fluctuates constantly as power is gained or lost, agendas succeed or fail, and self-interest is fulfilled or frustrated.

Let’s look at what it takes for you to maneuver successfully within your political force field.

 

3 Essential Keys for Successful Navigation

Of course, the ideal policy would be to act altruistically in the service of the organization with the expectation that those around you will do the same.  However, since the real world falls short of the ideal, you must adopt other methods to navigate successfully through the human minefield that is the politics of leadership.

Key #1: Maintain Your Integrity.

Know what you believe in and remain grounded in your values.  Although you’re playing in the arena of high-level professional politics, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to sacrifice your integrity to do your job.

Key #2: Realize You’re Not Above the Politics.

Since you’re part of the system, the way you handle yourself and deal with situations will cause the political force field around you to flux and change.

Key #3: Be Aware of the Politics.

Part of your problem-solving calculus and decision-making process must include an assessment of your political force field.  Leaders who fail to account for the political situation wonder why their solutions don’t fly and their decisions fail.

 

“Integrity has no need of rules.” -Albert Camus

5 Vital Steps for Successful Navigation

Completing these five straightforward steps will allow you to map out your political force field, remain aware of your status within it, and take action to navigate it with confidence.

Step 1.  Identify the key actors who make up the political situation in which you find yourself.  List all the people who control, influence, or otherwise affect your ability to produce results and achieve your goals.

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

 

I’m always looking for ways to improve the strategic planning from a dreaded annual activity to a meaningful, helpful process.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read Elevate: The Three Disciplines of Advanced Strategic Thinking by Rich Horwath.  Rich has helped numerous companies and managers with the strategic planning process and evaluating strategic capabilities.  I had the opportunity to talk with Rich about the most common mistakes leaders make.

 

“If your strategic plan isn’t driving daily activities, then you’ve wasted time doing the plan.” -Rich Horwath

 

3 Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning

 

Rich, you’ve worked on strategy both as the CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute and before that as a Chief Strategy Officer.  What are the most common mistakes you see in strategic planning?

 

There are typically three mistakes when it comes to strategic planning.

 

“The number one cause of bankruptcy is bad strategy.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #1:  Confusing strategy with other planning terms.

 

The first is the group not having a universal understanding of what strategy is and how it differs from other key planning terms such as mission, vision, goals, objectives and tactics. There’s a tremendous lack of precision when it comes to strategic planning and that starts with the fundamental building blocks.

 

“Concepts change thinking and tools change behavior.” -Rich Horwath

 

Mistake #2:  Regurgitating last year’s plan.

 

The second is that most plans are simply a regurgitation of last year’s plan.  This is because managers don’t think before they plan.  I’m a big believer that new growth comes from new thinking.  If you don’t take time and tools to generate new insights, then don’t expect your group to perform any better than the year before, or the year before that.

 

Mistake #3:  Not linking the strategic plan to daily activities.