Solving Your Customer’s Problems

The Scots charge

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker this afternoon that was essentially an analysis of what we can do to effect change for our organization in the marketplace. It was a quick strategic assessment of what was realistic, and what was not, with the focus on what we felt we could achieve if we mobilized the organization behind it. It was a great discussion, definitely focused on our client audience, and reminded of an article I had read recently at about exactly this topic.

Often, organizations undertake major strategic initiatives with goals of market penetration, diversification, growth, and perhaps all at the same time. All too often, these are challenged to move beyond an internal analysis. Also, there can develop groupthink when leadership teams begin to get down to strategic direction, and that groupthink often loses touch with the reality of what is actually strategically possible. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as initiatives are connected to operational realities, and it is typically born out of the passion and energy that thinking about possibilities, innovation, and the future can instill in people. These thinking processes can be energizing for a company, and deliver tremendous value to both directional strategy and team building.

While there is a strong element of truth to the point made in the article by the CEO of A.T. Kearney, Paul Laudicina, that strategy is more about the journey than the destination, I believe that can set a difficult and dangerous organizational precedent. If strategy is not directly linked to a strategic objective, to a destination, we run the risk of expending time, resources, and valuable thought on exercises that are not linked to value creation, that are not directly related to organizational goals. Perhaps this is an argument for incremental strategy, I’m not sure and I am not entirely convinced of that myself, but I am incredibly weary of creating strategic plans that sound good in the conference room but are unbelievably difficult to execute. This sets up failure without purpose and is not good. I am cool with failure, when there is a purpose. That’s called learning.

Where I believe that Paul Laudicina nailed it was in relation to A.T. Kearney’s customers. He put his company through a valuable strategic risk assessment exercise, something discussed here before, but not for the risks posed to his company. His team assessed the risks to their clients, and then organized their efforts around how best to position to help them. That is the sort of audience/customer focused vision that is incredibly difficult to sustain when you operate in a competitive environment, but if you can will bring great opportunity to your team. It begs the old adage that your customers problems are your problems, or you won’t have any customers.

Leave a Reply