Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pragmatically speaking, which plays the dominant role: customer culture influencing work or work influencing customer culture?

We’re all schooled to think of culture as something instituted top-down – just as we’re schooled to think that our inner psyche drives our behavior. But some psychologists are now using a “what if behavior” model that doesn’t start with the psyche, but first changes behavior as a means of rewiring the brain. And the approach is considered mainstream rather than exotic or experimental. So what about changing work behavior in order to back-feed new values into business culture? 

Although we’ve only realized the implications of what we’ve been doing for many years over the past several, we’ve experienced instance after instance where instituting customer-centric work behaviors at primary and secondary points of contact changes culture far faster than using the top down approach. 

Of course, C-level management first has to make and back a business decision to migrate from inside-out to Outside-In, but good intent, great leadership, all that don’t get companies to Outside-In unless without redesigning work early in the transition and letting the cultural impact percolate up.

 Have you had similar experiences?

Is It Time to Redefine the Boundary between Outside-In & Traditional Process?

We (HYM) commonly characterize O/S (office & service) work as O-I’s natural domain and production as more apropos for inside-out approaches, especially Lean, which is our preference. Since most work directly affecting customers happens in the O/S, this creates for a nice, clean, understandable distinction. But every once in a while, complexity does help – as is the case with accurately describing the O-I/production process dividing line.

Case in point. A very high volume reconditioner of capital goods interviewed us for a process engagement intended to increase throughput (we formally kick off next week). The company’s customers had voted with their wallets that they wanted to sacrifice pristine quality for a lower finished price point, which made throughput and efficiency the primary goals. Sounds like a job for Lean (or LSS) rather than O-I, no?

No. During an initial day observing we quickly discovered the major impediments to reducing cycle time. Communication breakdowns and slowdowns only addressable through systems architecture changes plus an infusion of new, communication-based process automation technologye. Yes, we’re to recommend plant layout changes and work force disposition and training, but this client’s primary issues aren’t origi9nating on the shop floor.

From our perspective, neither Lean nor LSS redesign communication process well, especially at the level of specifying systems architecture and application layer changes. In contrast, the full O-I regimen – which aligns strategy to customers; process to strategy; and then technology to process – gets deep into enabling technologies. So we made what I believe is fair representation saying that O-I was a better fit than Lean or LSS, crossing over the basic O-I/production process dividing line. The client agreed with our thinking.

I know our saying that Visual Workflow, the O-I approach we use, will outperform Lean and Lean Six Sigma in this setting will rile up some traditional process types, who’ve at least had safe competitive refuge from O-I Process on the production side. But I’d venture a prediction that we’ll soon see more encroachment by O-I on what’s been accepted as traditional process space as O-I continues to grow in share of overall process redesign work.

Can companies change what they deliver customers without changing process…and without changing organizationally?


They sure think they can. Many a company tries to become more customer-centric by:

• Retraining current staff in the niceties of customer interaction
• Motivating staff to deliver great service
• Hiring new staff more inclined to “play nice”

But doesn’t the right person doing the wrong work – or doing the right work the wrong way -produce the same negative effect as customer-unfriendly people interacting with customers? Shouldn’t we start down the road to customer-centricity by changing what work we do and how, first?

And BTW, changing what work we do, coupled with optimizing who does what work, shuffles the deck organizationally. So what I just called “first” is really second. Making requisite organizational shifts has to lead off.
So can we please put aside the bellows we’re using to inflate employee enthusiasm for customers long enough to get the right people doing the right work the right way – and with the proper technology support?

Isn’t this just common sense? And if it is, why aren’t more companies taking steps in proper sequence?

Is Marketing in Transition, in Denial, or In Between?

A Linkedin-er recently started an excellent discussion thread in several groups, asking whether Marketing had become more science than art. The discussions quickly drilled down to identifying the true purpose of marketing today, and then the fun started. Before long, commenters had aligned themselves around one of two perspectives – with enough fervor to resemble two sides of a religious schism.

One sect claimed that once you’d peeled the onion to get to the core, marketing’s true role is selling the companies goods and services. That simple. And as a corollary, creativity drives sales, with science contributing precision targeting. True, inside-out, company-centric thinking.

 But a second sect claimed marketing’s true role today is understanding customers and representing customer interests within the company. Approaching Outside-In, customer-centric thinking. Without going back and tallying comments, I’d say the comments were 60% inside-out and 40% Outside-In.

 What’s obvious from the fervor is that these two sides aren’t going to peacefully merge. So my question is: “What happens from here?” One side winning out? An armed truce? Traditional inside-outers being left behind as a dying breed? Futuristic Outside-Inners getting too close to the flame of innovation and burning up?

 IMHO, reality is not always in the middle. Yes, there will always be a sales element in marketing. And there will always be a mass media element, a significant one, at least for the foreseeable future. But the marketing people manning or womaning these roles will become the tail, not the dog―the executional side, not the thinking side. Customer-related innovation will be centered around finding new ways to satisfy customer desires―and thereby adding new value to customers. And today’s marketing “creativity” will become yesterday’s ad jingle. Stiff functional, but hardly heralded.