Report: Activating Executive Commitment to CX

We just published a Temkin Group report, Activating Executive Commitment to CX. Here’s the executive summary:

Organizations that want to drive sustainable customer experience (CX) improvements need to have senior executives who are committed to propel change throughout the entire journey. Successful transformation efforts require senior executives to set the direction, lead communication efforts, model desired behaviors, align resources, and hold the rest of the organization accountable. However, CX leaders and their teams often struggle to obtain the commitment and involvement necessary from senior executives to ensure these change efforts succeed. In this report, we provide a model for how CX teams can effectively engage their senior leaders. Here are some highlights:

  • The blueprint includes six levers CX leaders can use to gain and strengthen senior executive commitment: Create Vision Clarity, Share Compelling Opportunities, Amplify Emotional Empathy, Feed Intrinsic Motivations, Enable First Steps, and Fuel Ongoing Confidence.
  • To illustrate how these levers work, we share examples of 24 best practices from companies including Anthem, CA Technologies, Cisco, Fidelity, Microsoft, Penske Truck Leasing, and Regions Bank.
  • We provide CX leaders with an assessment they can use to identify the commitment stage of their senior executives and offer advice on which of the six levers can have the greatest impact by stage.

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Here are the six levers for activating executive commitment:

  1. Create Vision Clarity. Many senior executives are enamored with the idea of customer experience, yet lack a clear picture of what CX really means for their organization. As a result, they aren’t able to persuasively advocate for the required changes. Therefore, CX teams should provide leaders with a clear understanding of where the CX efforts are heading.
  2. Share Compelling Opportunities. Senior leaders will only stay committed to a CX effort for as long as they remain convinced that it will help the organization succeed. That’s why CX leaders must continue to make and reinforce the CX business case to senior executives. This requires establishing a tangible business case and setting realistic expectations for the upside of action and the downside of inaction.
  3. Amplify Emotional Empathy. An executive who is emotionally committed to CX efforts provides a different level of support than one who is only intellectually bought-in. To gain this emotional commitment, the CX team should enhance executives’ natural empathy by bringing customers’ experiences to life for them.
  4. Feed Intrinsic Motivations. Executives are motivated by a myriad of different objectives, such as being seen as successful or reaching some self-defined goals. Intrinsic motivators – like meaning, choice, competence, and progress – can be particularly powerful levers for activating commitment. CX leaders should connect their efforts to the personal goals of executives and should make them feel good about the efforts underway.
  5. Enable First Steps. Even executives who are fully committed to the CX agenda may not know exactly what they can do to help propel the CX efforts forward, especially since they are often juggling many different priorities. It’s up to the CX leader to make it easy for the senior leaders to participate in the efforts by recommending specific, doable steps that they can take.
  6. Fuel Ongoing Confidence. CX teams need ongoing support from their executives; however, senior leaders are prone to distraction and doubt. To keep them on track, CX leaders need to keep executives informed of the progress and success of CX efforts and need to demonstrate to executives that resources are being used well and risks are being managed well.

Here are the best practices discussed in the report:

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Sorry POTUS, But Good Business Does Require Heart

I recently read this quote attributed to President Trump:

Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government involves heart, whereas in business most things don’t involve heart. In fact, in business you’re actually better off without it.

My take: No, no, no! This is wrong-minded, and very outdated thinking. To succeed, businesses must make emotional connections with customers, employees, and partners. The idea that success comes from being heartless promotes the debunked view that companies exist only to create value for shareholders. Here’s one of the points that I make in Modernized Leadership, which is an update to leadership theory:

Management focus has been driven by economists like Milton Friedman who argued that corporate officials have one core responsibility: making as much money as possible for their shareholders. But the value that a company creates comes from a combination of resources contributed by different constituencies (not just investors) who’s returns should also be maximized, especially employees who contribute their knowledge and skills.

POTUS is free to view his businesses as heartless entities that exist to increase his net worth. But I am hopeful that other leaders and emerging leaders don’t follow his lead. Even Jack Welch has rebutted the blind focus on shareholder value:

On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world. Shareholder value is a result, not a strategy… Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.

If you’re a leader, than I hope that you focus on engaging the hearts and minds of your employees, customers, and partners. Creating value for an entire eco-system is more sustainable and rewarding than counting your profits.

The bottom line: Businesses need even more heart.

CX Competency: Purposeful Leadership (Video)

Temkin Group has found that the only path to sustainable customer experience differentiation is to build a customer-centric culture. How? By mastering Four Customer Experience Core Competencies.

This video provides an overview of one of those competencies, Purposeful Leadership, where the goal is for leaders to act consistently with a clear, well-articulated set of values.

Here are the Five P’s of Purposeful Leaders:

Customer Obsession Lessons From Amazon.com’s Bezos

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos recently sent a letter to shareholders sharing his view on how Amazon would avoid what he calls “Day 2,” because…

Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.  

I’ve shared the full letter below, but want to share my thoughts on Bezos’ four themes he shares for avoiding Day 2:

  1. True Customer Obsession: Obviously this theme completely resonates with me. I love the line… “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.” My take: Companies need to look for the unchartered white space, and innovate at the intersection between customers’ latent needs and emerging capabilities.
  2. Resist Proxies: Bezos calls out “process” and “surveys” as proxies to watch out for. Process is an issue because it can reinforce compliance and complacency, instead of empowering individuals to drive innovation.  Surveys are an issue, because they can provide employees with a superficial understanding of customers. Deep insights into what people like, love, and dream about aren’t fully answered with percentage points. My take: You need to create deep customer empathy, not just statistically significant charts and metrics. Find ways to include more qualitative research.
  3. Embrace External Trends: Amazon will likely be more adept at grabbing the “tailwinds” of trends than most companies, but it’s critical for all leadership teams to keep an eye on how the world is changing. That’s why we issue our annual listing of CX trends. I was also very intrigued by Bezos’ discussion about easy access to Amazon’s “deep learning frameworks.” An API that taps into Amazon’s rich analytics backbone could be much more exciting than even IBM’s Watson. My take: Every organization should identify a set of key trends and ask the question: “How will these put us out of business or help us to create even more value to customers?”
  4. High-Velocity Decision Making. Bezos discusses three elements of his leadership philosophy. First of all, treat many decisions as reversible, so that you are creating an option — not just putting all your chips on a single approach. Second, is to get comfortable with making decisions without full information. Thirdly, he talks about “disagree and commit” which means that everyone needs to get in line when a decision has been made. Finally, he wants true misalignment to be identified and dealt with immediately. Nothing kills a culture more than lingering, unaddressed issues. My take: It’s smarter to get moving and learn along the way (see my post Modernize Leadership: Learn and Adjust).

The bottom line: Every leadership team should proactively avoid Day 2.

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An Ugly Uber Lesson In Organizational Culture

1702_ubercultureIn a recent Fast Company article, This Is What Caused Uber’s Broken Company Culture, Uber was described as having a…

“Hobbesian environment” where “workers are pitted against one another and where a blind eye is turned to infractions from top performers.”

While I haven’t investigated Uber’s actual culture, it’s worth examining what could have caused this type of an environment in one of the fastest growing Internet companies. To be fully transparent, I’m an Uber customer who is thrilled with how the company has transformed the taxi experience.

My take: Culture is frequently neglected. Why? Because it often doesn’t seem to show up until there’s a problem. That’s what happened at Wells Fargo, and it is also what appears to have occurred at Uber. Very few leaders set out to create a dysfunctional culture, but they exist in many places.

Every organization has a culture, whether its leaders explicitly attend to it or not. It represents how employees think, believe, and act:

  • Think: Employees are intellectually bought-in and understand the company’s vision and why it is important to the company. What is the company communicating?
  • Believe: Employees see that leaders are truly committed to what is important to the company. What are leaders demonstrating with their behaviors?
  • Act. Employees adjust their behaviors to align with what is important to the company. What do employees do when no one is looking?

In young companies, organizational culture closely mirrors the attitudes of its leaders. If they care about fast growth at all costs or winning through combat, then that’s the context that frames how employees think, believe, and act. If the company is successful, then the culture tends to be strong, as it is implicitly reinforced by that success.

What does strong culture look like? Picture a cult. Behavior isn’t judged on a normal good/bad scale, but on how well people conform to the tone set by its leaders. Inappropriate behavior such as the sexual harassment alleged at Uber can go unchecked, unless it overtly bumps up against a cultural norm. If alleged allegations of wrong doing are not important to the leaders, then they will not be taken seriously or even acknowledged.

To all of the leaders reading this post, especially those who are running young, fast-growing companies, please stop ignoring organizational culture. You’re responsible for much more than financial results. You’re creating an organization that can hopefully endure and add value to society. So focus on your organizational culture and create a company that you can be proud of for generations.

Wondering how to do it? Read my post: Put Culture Change On Your 2017 CX Agenda. Here’s How. 

The bottom line: Organizational culture really, really matters!

Podcast: Purposeful Leadership With Tom Feeney, Safelite CEO

As part of Temkin Group’s celebration of 2017 as The Year of Purpose, I interviewed Tom Feeney, President & CEO of Safelite Group.

Temkin Group defines purposeful leadership as operating consistently with a clear, well-articulated set of values. That also describes Tom. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tom for many years, and believe that he is a great example of a purposeful leader.

While Safelite is by far the largest auto glass repair and replacement company in the U.S., the podcast does not focus on the company’s strong financial growth. Instead, Tom and I discuss Safelite’s purpose statement: Making a difference by bringing unexpected happiness to people’s everyday lives. Enjoy the podcast!

You can also download the podcast

Tom Feeney’s Bio:
Since joining Safelite Group in 1988, Tom Feeney has held several positions within the organization including senior vice president retail operations. In October 1991, Feeney was promoted to senior vice president, client sales and support and again in 2003 as executive vice president and chief client officer with responsibility for Safelite Solutions. Feeney became president and CEO of Safelite Group in 2008 and introduced a new vision for Safelite supported by two core principles: “People Powered, Customer Driven.”

Modernize Leadership: Observe and Improve

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In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining the shift from:

Measure and Track to Observe and Improve

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. That’s a refrain that I often hear, and it pushes people in the totally wrong direction. The reality is that most things in life are managed without explicit measurements. Think about a typical day. You get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and commute to work without referring to a dashboard of metrics. That does not mean that measurements can’t help, but they hardly ever tell the entire story.
  • Managers often look for metrics they can to use to hold people and organizations accountable. Setting measurable goals is not a bad thing, but it can cause bad behaviors. Managers will sometimes overly focus on the metrics and ignore nuances such as actual behaviors of the team and shifts in the situation. They act as  if it’s possible to manage something you don’t truly understand. That all falls apart when the an organization needs to deviate from a “straight ahead” orientation.
  • When employees believe that a metric is very important, they are explicitly and implicitly encouraged to do whatever it takes to achieve the goal. This can lead to inappropriate behaviors such as a car salesperson insisting that you give him a “10” on a survey. At Staples, a metric of $200 of add-ons for each computer pushed employees to refuse selling computers to customers who weren’t going to purchase add-ons.

Heres a quote that is often attributed to Albert Einstein:

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Look positively forward. Metrics often show how an organization has performed during some previous timeframe, but what you really care about is how it will get better in the future. Make sure that your discussions with people are focused on what the organization can learn in order to  improve, not on blaming people for the problems that caused a poor score.
  • Encourage the right behaviors. If you want your organization to make improvements, then nurture the employee behaviors that will deliver better results. So celebrate employees who are doing the right things, even when the metrics aren’t great.
  • Build operational empathy. If you want your employees to do the right things, then they should feel as if you know their environment. Rather than having employees just see you commenting on metrics from afar, set aside time to regularly get immersed in different parts of the organization. Ask employees how they think the company can improve. This will help you understand when to “back off” reacting too strongly to the metrics and let employees know that numbers aren’t everything.
  • Enable continuous improvement. Instead of using measurements as a pure grading system, use them to identify places for improvement, and always ask: what have we learned and how can we get better? Your organization needs to have an ongoing improvement cycle that is at least at the same pace as your measurement system, otherwise metrics will only lead to frustration.

The bottom line: Observe your organization and focus on improvements.

Modernize Leadership: Detect and Disseminate

1609_ML_DetectDisseminate

In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining one of them, the shift from:

Amass and Review to Detect and Disseminate

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • Leaders rely on periodic, deep understanding of the business. But the pace of change is increasing, and that point-in-time understanding of the past does not always provide a meaningful view of the future, or even how to compete in the present. Leaders need a more continuous set of insights.
  • Leaders often act as if customer insights are difficult to gather, so they periodically ask for a large project to provide a Powerpoint-dump to their executive teams. But current technology allows for more ongoing collection and presentation of insights.
  • Customer insights teams are required to focus many of their resources on the needs of the leadership team, providing support for a few key decisions. At the same time, a myriad of decisions across the organization are being made without the benefit of strong customer insights.
  • Customer insights teams aim to provide “statistically significant” insights, requiring large datasets and extensive timeframes for collecting data. But it takes only a few datapoints to create actionable insights when they are presented to employees across the business who have more context about the business.

Galileo Galilei, the father of the scientific method, once said:

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Build a customer insight backbone. Given the state of technology, companies need to stop viewing customer insight as a set of market research projects and see it as a core organizational infrastructure. That’s why companies need to build what we defined in 2010 as customer insight & action (CIA) platforms. The goal should be to enable a continuous flow of customer-insightful decisions.
  • Distribute role-based insights. All employees make decisions on a regular basis, and many of those would be improved with a deeper understanding of customers. But distributing a common set of monthly Powerpoint slides is not the answer. Engineering teams, for instance, don’t need the same information as the legal department. Companies must tailor insights for each organization to provide the right information at the right time to fuel the decisions that are being made by employees with different roles.
  • Tap into the power of context. While analysis of large datasets may be great, people across an organization can often act on smaller timely nuggets of data. A call center supervisor, for instance, only needs to see one negative piece of customer feedback to kick off a coaching session if she is already concerned about that phone rep. These relevant datapoints fuel what we call contextual insights.
  • Raise all employees’ customer-awareness. Since insights can be more easily distributed, leaders should look for ways to tap into the insights in order to make everyone in their organization more aware of (and empathetic to) customers’ needs and perceptions.

The bottom line: Turn customer insight into a continuous, distributed capability.

Wells Fargo: A Lesson in Leadership & Culture Gone Awry

In case you missed this in the news, Wells Fargo is under investigation for opening fraudulent accounts for its customers. During a period between 2011 and 2015, it is estimated that there were as many as 1.5 million deposit accounts and more than half a million credit card accounts opened inappropriately on behalf of customers.

As part of a hearing of the Senate Banking Committee, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren grills Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf and makes a few very important points. Stumpf heavily, heavily pushed his organization to cross-sell products, setting a long-term goal of 8 products per household, while the industry average was around three. He regularly touted the increase in products per household (over 6.1) to investment analysts and pushed his organization for the growth to continue.

My Take: Stumpf should resign (or be fired). That sounds abrupt, but let me explain…

In this blog, I often discuss the power of culture. It’s one of the most critical drivers of the behaviors of employees across large organizations. As a matter of fact, Peter Drucker has been credited as saying, “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Whenever there is a consistent set of widespread actions (good or bad), then the first place you should look to explain them is the culture. One of our Six Laws of Customer Experience is that employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. Clearly at Wells Fargo, cross-selling new accounts to customers was measured, incented, and celebrated.

So Wells Fargo employees acted in ways that were consistent with their environment.  They acted in accordance with the company’s culture. Does that mean that the individuals who did the wrong things should be absolved of their errors? Absolutely not. They were wrong and should face the consequences for their actions. But the acts of individuals are symptoms, while the culture that encouraged those behaviors is the systemic issue.

That gets me back to Stumpf. He created (or at least nurtured) the culture across Wells Fargo, and should therefore be held accountable for the consequences. Let me put it this way, should Victor Frankenstein be held accountable for the damage caused by the monster he created? Of course!

Stumpf was rewarded handsomely for the cross-sell results of the culture he created. It’s now time for him to pay the price for the problems caused by that culture.

The bottom line: Leaders must be more mindful of the culture they create.

 

Modernize Leadership: Learn and Adjust

ML_LearnAdjust2In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining the shift from:

Strategize and Plan to Learn and Adjust

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • Leaders spend a lot of time with their leadership teams fine-tuning precise strategies and laying out high level plans, hoping that their Powerpoint slides will come to life throughout their organizations. Unfortunately, employees need to make adjustments in order to operationalize elements of any strategy. As a result, many strategies and plans fall apart when those adjustments don’t live up to the original plans. Sometimes leaders can force their organizations to initially come close to delivering on their strategies, but there’s no way to consistently live up to those expectations.
  • Leaders amass a lot of information to develop their strategies and plans. Unfortunately, the information they use to make those decisions can often change between the time that they make decisions and when things get rolled out. The pace of change is accelerating in most industries, which shortens the useful lifecycle of the analysis that leads to decisions.
  • The improving technology for collecting data and doing analysis is making it easier to more frequently understand what’s happening in most organizations. This makes it much easier to make decisions more frequently, instead of waiting until the annual strategy cycle.

As Winston Churchill once said:

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Increase strategic planning frequency. If you make most of your important strategic decisions once a year, then you’re likely losing connection with the marketplace. At least make key strategic decisions on a quarterly basis, and look to get it monthly. The shortened cycles will push you to make learn and adjust a continuous activity.
  • Test, test, test. Instead of blindly executing on a large strategic plan that defines a single direction, you need to be constantly experimenting with multiple, smaller ideas. But don’t start this process unless you are committed to actively learn from them and adjust your activities.
  • Embrace failures. As you become more nimble in your decision making, you’ll be making more decisions which will lead to a larger number of smaller failures. In most cases, there’s a lot that you can learn from things that don’t work out the way you expected. You have to create a thirst for learning from these situations, and keep from looking for blame.
  • Double-down on successes. Part of being better at learning and adjusting is the ability to invest (time, energy, capital, etc) on ideas that appear to have strong potential. You need to be prepared to more aggressively shift resources to activities that show promise, even if it means more quickly closing down some other activities.

The bottom line: You need to learn and adjust more frequently.

Modernize Leadership: Engage and Empower

ML_EngageEmpower

In a previous post, I described how today’s management techniques reflect outdated assumptions of technology-enabled practices, human behavior, and the meaning of success. That’s why organizations must shift to what I’m calling Modernize Leadership.

I’m writing individual posts for each of the eight key changes required to modernize leadership. In this post, I’m examining the shift from:

Command and Control to Engage and Empower

Here’s some more information to better understand this shift:

Outdated Thinking
Here are some ways in which leaders must change how they view the world:

  • Leaders focus on assets such as products, customers, and cash, but don’t fully recognize the true value of employees. In many cases, employees are THE critical asset. As a matter of fact, engaged employees are the start to a virtuous cycle that leads to better financial results. It’s no surprise that companies that significantly outperform their peers financially have 1.6-times the number of engaged employees than do companies that underperform their peers.
  • Leaders often act as though the success and failure of their business is based solely on the decisions being made by their most senior people, so they focus a large portion of their time and energy on developing and vetting strategies. But all too often, strategies fail because of a lack of support and follow-through by employees who are unaware of what needs to be done, unable to do what it takes, or unwilling to support the change.
  • Leaders often respond to problems by putting in place new processes and stricter rules, while there is no ongoing mechanism for removing or simplifying those elements. Over time, the organization gets bloated with so many rules and regulations that employees feel little ownership for the success of the company. And the company loses its ability to adjust to new situations.

Southwest Airline’s founder and former CEO Herb Kelleher captured thinking about Engage and Empower when he said:

“If you create an environment where the people truly participate, you don’t need control. They know what needs to be done and they do it. And the more that people will devote themselves to your cause on a voluntary basis, a willing basis, the fewer hierarchies and control mechanisms you need.”

Modernized Leadership Actions
Here are some ways in which leaders should act based on a modernized perspective:

  • Influence better decisions. Leaders need to be less focused on the small number of decisions that they make, and more focused on the myriad of decisions that they influence across their organizations. How can you help employees make better decisions?
  • Measure employee engagement. If you measure other assets, why not employee engagement? But only do it if you plan on taking action on what you find. Consider using the Temkin Employee Engagement Index.
  • Master the Five I’s. How can you engage employees? Learn and master the five employee engagement competenciesInform, Inspire, Instruct, Involve, and Incent.
  • Assume positive intent. Instead of trying to keep employees from making mistakes by limiting their span of decision-making, find more ways to enable them to use more of their own judgement. Start by believing that your employees can (in almost all cases) be trusted—and train them.
  • Activate middle managers. It’s hard to get any group of employees to change their behavior when their managers are still reinforcing old processes, measurements, and beliefs. When you’re rolling out changes, don’t consider these efforts as being successful until your middle managers are fully on board. This may take some extra work, but the initial investment in time and effort will pay dividends.

The bottom line: Engage and empower your employees.

14 Highlights From the 2016 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

This week, I made my 5th annual pilgrimage to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. As always, I really enjoyed hearing players, owners, general managers, members of the press, and experts discuss two of my favorite topics: #sports and #analytics.

This was the 10th year of the conference. I want to say congratulations and thank you to the two co-founders and leaders of this great event:

  • Jessica Gelman (VP of Customer Marketing & Strategy, The Kraft Sports Group)
  • Daryl Morey (General Manager, Houston Rockets)

Moneyball Reunion

The conference opened up with a session called Moneyball Reunion, looking back at the book that fueled the sports analytics movement. Jackie MacMullen led a panel with Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball), Bill James (godfather of sports analytics), and Paul DePodesta (key player it the Moneyball story and now Chief Strategy Office of Cleveland Browns). Here’s one of my favorite scenes from the Moneyball movie:

Interesting comments from Michael Lewis:

  • He started out researching an article on financial inequities in baseball, wondering what the Oakland Athletics’ right fielder (who made $100K/year) felt about the fact that the right fielder was making $4M/year.
  • Bill James referred to a picture of the baseball diamond that was on his wall as a “field of ignorance.”
  • “Billy Beane had to learn not to trust his intuitive judgement.”
  • When he looked at the Oakland Athletics coming out of the shower for the first time, he was shocked at how fat and un-athletic they looked. He went on to say that the trick was to “find people with some defect that was overvalued.”

Interesting comments from Bill James:

  • I was just trying to get from a question to an answer. I never thought of the use of the data by baseball professionals.”
  • There was a lot of discussion about what people can’t do, which is irrelevant. What’s important is what people can do…. You win games with what people can do.”
  • When MacMullen asked how to speed up the game of baseball today, James said to get rid of the balk rule. He said the balk rule slows down the game the same that basketball would be slowed down if the fast break was eliminated.

14 Key Highlights From the Conference

Here are some other key themes that I heard during the conference. They don’t represent a full view of the event, because I only attended a subset of the sessions.

Read More …

Modernize Leadership: Steve Jobs Demonstrates Purpose and Values

wordle4bIn a recent post, I discussed how management practices have become outdated and that there’s a strong need to Modernize Leadership. This change requires eight distinct shifts in how we lead organizations.

I just ran into this great video of a speech that Steve Jobs gave in September 1997. It’s really worth watching. Jobs demonstrates a few of the elements that I discuss in Modernize Leadership, and in particular he does a great job of highlighting this necessary shift:

5) Goals and Objectives to Purpose and Values

The bottom line: Tap into your purpose and values to drive simplicity

Modernize Leadership: Shifting 8 Outdated Management Practices

wordle3b

Over the previous decade, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and study thousands of companies. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that the world has changed a lot, but organizational management has stayed substantially the same.

Technology has enabled entirely new practices and we’ve developed a much deeper understanding of what drives human behaviors and business success. But these new realities have not been translated into how leaders run their companies. Instead, management techniques continue to reflect outdated assumptions such as:

  • Mainstream economics works on the assumption of Homo Economicus, a model of people as rational self-interest maximizers. So “agency theory” informs management that employees can’t be trusted to act on behalf of the firm and, therefore, controls must be put in place to align their efforts.
  • Strategic planning cycles (annually, quarterly) have been established based on a constraint of limited data availability. When these processes and cycles were initially created, it was impractical to more frequently pull together meaningful insights about the business.
  • Management focus has been driven by economists like Milton Friedman who argued that corporate officials have one core responsibility: making as much money as possible for their shareholders. But the value that a company creates comes from a combination of resources contributed by different constituencies (not just investors) who’s returns should also be maximized, especially employees who contribute their knowledge and skills.

While these underlying assumptions aren’t necessarily discussed explicitly, they frame the basic structure of today’s approach to management. Well, it’s time to Modernize Leadership. We need to redefine how we run organizations based on the realities of today, which will require more inspiring leaders in the future.

To help make the shift, I plan to write individual posts that describe eight key shifts required to modernize leadership. In those posts I’ll describe the move from:

  1. Command and Control to Engage and Empower
  2. Strategize and Plan to Learn and Adjust
  3. Amass and Review to Detect and Disseminate
  4. Measure and Track to Observe and Improve
  5. Goals and Objectives to Purpose and Values
  6. Problems and Solutions to Strengths and Appreciation
  7. Process and Projects to Culture and Behaviors
  8. Price and Features to Experience and Emotions

ModernizedLeadershipOutdatedAssumptions

The bottom line: Let’s Modernize Leadership together!

Nadella Pushes Microsoft to Rediscover Its Soul

In a letter to all Microsoft employees called Starting FY15 – Bold Ambition & Our Core, CEO Satya Nadella established a mandate and vision for significant change across the technology behemoth.

Microsoft has great assets, but it has not kept up with changes in how people use technology. The Redmond giant was becoming increasingly less relevant in a world where digital technology is becoming more relevant.

Microsoft has needed to change for a while. There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago and the second best time is right now. Nadella has made it clear that Microsoft’s time for change is right now.

My take: First of all, it’s hard to talk about any large-scale culture change without recommending that people review our model called Employee-Engaging Transformation, which is built on five practices: Vision Translation, Persistent LeadershipActivated Middle ManagementGrassroots Mobilization and Captivating Communications.

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We work with many of the world’s leading technology companies, so I could go on and on about what changes are necessary at Microsoft. But I’d rather examine broader lessons from Nadella’s letter. Here are some excerpts that I thought were particularly valuable to discuss:

“...in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core

Successful companies almost always start with a strong raison d’être, but it can get lost as the company grows and the world changes (see my post on Starbucks). Without a “soul,” companies drift along as employees across the organization start operating in a disconnected way. This is where the brand comes in. Companies need to constantly refresh their brands and make sure that the brand drives decisions across the organization (see my post on Walmart).

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. .. At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Our research shows that employees are more productive and engaged when they are inspired by their organization’s mission. Which one of these statements do you think is more inspiring: “We are the devices and service company” or “We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

“We will create more natural human-computing interfaces that empower all individuals.”

This is a comment about technology, but its also points to a broader commentary about making things easy to use. We have entered into a world where people have more options, more distraction, and less patience. Every organization needs to relentlessly focus on making their products, services, and processes easier for customers to use.

Obsessing over our customers is everybody’s job. I’m looking to the engineering teams to build the experiences our customers love.

What’s not to love about this excerpt. My customer experience manifesto (and Temkin Group, for that matter) is built on a fundamental belief that sustaining great customer experience is not about applying a veneer, but about building competencies across the entire organization that create great experiences for customers (see our four CX core competencies). Also, it’s interesting that Nadella used the word “love.” Experiences are made up of three component (functional, accessible, and emotional) and our Temkin Experience Ratings show that companies are weakest at driving the emotional component. To get people to “love” your company, I suggest applying what we call People-Centric Experience Design.

“I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work.”

One of the Six Laws of Customer Experience is that unengaged employees can’t create engaged customers. Any company looking to improve how it interacts with customers almost certainly needs to focus on its employees.

“We will be more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market.”

How companies use customer insights is changing rapidly. Technologies such as text analytics and predictive analytics are helping companies tap into more comprehensive and ongoing insights, rather than relying on periodic customer surveys. Ultimately, companies will need to reinvent their operating frameworks so that they can adjust more frequently to take advantage of these rapidly-flowing insights.

Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy.”

This type of statement only works if it’s backed up by clear actions that employees can observe. These “symbols” of change need to be clear departures from how the company operated in the past, and can include reorganizations, firings/hirings/promotions/demotions, killing projects, accelerating projects, etc.). Don’t just say change is coming, demonstrate it (see the 3 characteristics of transformational leaders).

“We must each have the courage to transform as individuals. We must ask ourselves, what idea can I bring to life? What insight can I illuminate? What individual life could I change? What customer can I delight? What new skill could I learn? What team could I help build? What orthodoxy should I question?”

The notion of a personal challenge is a great way to help employees think about how they can be (and must be) a part of the change. But the questions won’t be too powerful if they are just statements in a letter from the CEO. Use these questions as part of discussions across the organization and embed them into leadership training and competency models.

 The bottom line: Change isn’t easy, but Microsoft seems ready to give it a try.