As you look forward, it is always helpful to look back and gain perspective. Today’s organizations are more global, aligned and proactive than even just five years ago. The rapid pace of globalization and the growing number of collaborative technology solutions has enabled virtual work practices to accelerate – while recent current events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, demand that organizations worldwide change the way they engage customers. No longer is it viable for global customer teams to work in a microcosm and expect global customer objectives to be met. The demand for cross-functional, cross-cultural skills from around the world has made working across boundaries and borders a necessity when partnering with global customers. However, collaborative teamwork in global environments typically is not intuitive. It’s far more than dealing with technology and time zones – it is about people and the value that integrated intelligence can bring to the organization.
Post COVID, we see increasing customer challenges as people are getting back to work in hybrid and virtual environments – however, from challenge comes opportunity. As developing strategies for mitigating the risk of customer destabilization overtakes economizing, organizations will increasingly need to leverage strong value chains while stringently considering the bottom line. That balance will drive the success (or failure) of global companies moving forward. Although technology and the digital value chain are on the rise, without the comprehensive knowledge and collaboration of people interacting with global customers, we will continue to struggle to find that critical balance…and global customer opportunities will suffer.
Often, even though organizations may be consolidating for cost management and scalability purposes, the walls of the individual functions, channels and regions have become even thicker. As a direct result, it is harder for you, as a leader, to build end-to-end value chain functionality in an ever-changing global marketplace. It has become increasingly difficult to gain agreement on specific, customer focused initiatives or broader organizational change.
This is not a technology, process or policy problem – it is a people problem:
People establish relationships…
People control systems…
People make decisions…
People change processes…
People establish policies…
People build and maintain organizational walls…
People create challenges that impacts suppliers, partners and customers…
Although we tend to observe and react to events (or the fires they cause), it is critically important to really look at and assess the root cause of our problems and how people impact outcomes. Go ahead, rip that band-aid off and look at what is really causing the infection –
Your “Core System” Is Flawed
Recently I was speaking with a client in the customer support space. He was trying to understand why he could not consistently get the global business results he was looking for and needed to understand how he could drive consistent results on a global basis. What did we find?
The Organization Was Not Designed For Effective Interaction And Optimization – The “System” Was Broken.
The bottom line – his organization was not designed to function as a unit… a single system. His division was not performing at optimal levels because of sub-optimal organizational design. Instead of deploying aligned processes, policies and technologies to leverage various forms of optimization across the spectrum, his organization consistently tried to implement old practices with new tools and technologies – without the support of the people and other organizations that were affected. Customers paid the price of the misalignment.
There is often an (implicit) misperception that internal politics and processes are more important than the final outcome – customer success. Individuals become so enmeshed in “the way it has always been done” that they don’t take the time or make the effort to understand why the old practices are failing in the first place. They repeatedly make the poor assumption that a new process or technology will fix the problem instead of understanding that no policy, process or technology change can be successful without recognizing the people component… and the system as a whole. As a result, my client was not comprehending the inherent value in meaningful organizational change – nor the lack of value in neglecting the structural and behavioral changes that needed to happen to drive effective, efficient service operations.
We were able to work together to create a plan around “systems thinking” that incorporated not just his division, but the organization as a whole. He was able to leverage his new knowledge of “the system” to work across functions, channels and regions to get the very best from operations as a whole and stay focused on customer outcomes. As a result, he is now seeing strong, consistent results on a global basis and the business is growing quarter on quarter.
Interacting With The System As A Whole Provides A Distinct Advantage.
My client is not unique in his challenge – the lack of a systems approach is pervasive in most organizations – just as sub-optimal business results are. However, when it comes to customer success, the lack of visibility and collaborative endeavor inevitably results in not only poorly run operations, but ultimately causes declining client relationships that lead to less than ideal business outcomes. Many leaders implement policies, procedures or technologies without ever looking at them in terms of the effects on the “system” and its people… and then wonder why they have not gotten the results they anticipated. Millions of dollars are wasted (and customer contracts lost) each year on failed projects for this very reason.
The reality is that today the average company has variant policies, procedures and technologies across the different functions and channels that preclude them from realizing exceptional results for themselves – and their customers. Leaders typically focus only on their area of responsibility. Critically important, to be sure. However, the challenge in this methodology is that when working with clients on a global basis, customer teams must have the capacity to work across both boundaries and borders to achieve the results the customer is expecting. An organization may have channels or functions that operate well in and of themselves, but if they don’t integrate well with the wider system, there is fallout for the customer. Consequently, the organization suffers as renewals decline and customers choose to partner with organizations viewed as more customer-centric.
Progressive Leaders, Especially Those Working For The Success Of The Customer, Are Recognizing How Important Aligning The Various Parts Of The Organization, And The Interrelations Of Those Parts, Is To Their Success.
As leaders responsible for customer success, we need to ensure our focus is on matters of ongoing organization and feedback across the global organization. We need to diagnose problems, not by examining just our pieces of the puzzle, but by recognizing the larger patterns of interaction between different parts of the integrated whole:
- Focus on the outcomes needed from the wider organization in terms of the customer and overall business results
- Work backwards from the ultimate goal to determine what is needed from the system to succeed
- Understand that we are not an island and in order to be successful, we need to consider and integrate all the moving parts
While most of us like to consider our business as unique and different, the reality is that the more congruency we can build into our organizational systems, the more we increase efficiency, visibility, innovation and knowledge management across the global entity – the more potential we have to maximize customer outcomes, impacting our own business results.
While there may be functional or cultural differences across the spectrum, the more we can partner to translate and align, the more likely we are to succeed on a grand scale. It is important that we work hard to understand our counterparts and build consistent policies, procedures and technologies together. Each and every disparate instance adds to the challenge of building effective customer solutions that support holistic planning and deployment.
What do we have to gain in addition to the obvious? How about:
- An Innovation Incubator
- Connectivity That Breeds Efficiency
- Cross-functional/Vertical Leverage
- Improved Business Results Across The Board
- Competitive Advantage Fueled By Solving Customer Issues Efficiently & Effectively
How Can You Contribute To Creating An Effective “System”?
Please engage the discussion and let us know how systems thinking can help you to exceed your potential. Have further questions? You can always contact me at SheriMackey@gmail.com.