Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Angry People

There sure are a lot of angry people these days. Some are protesting in the streets right now against Wall Street. Others are upset at the government. Some are deeply frustrated with Congress. Many are just fed up with this prolonged period of economic uncertainty and instability.

As one who regularly works with large and small organizations in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, I see this anger and frustration on a regular basis. But what interests me the most right now are the organizations that are not angry or frustrated, the ones who instead continue to improve, make a difference, and actually accomplish their goals.

One element that makes these organizations unique is how they are planning for the future. In particular, they are taking two very unique actions. First, they are actively engaged in deep strategic level dialogues about the customer experience. This is not a passing curiosity with a singular experience but instead a profound and in-depth commitment to understand the total customer experience. From start to finish, they are examining the routine interactions of the customer with the company. They want to know if the experience is one that is in alignment with what they say as a company and what customers expect. They want to know if the experience is generating a greater depth of engagement. They also want to know if it is elegant in the sense of ease of use and practicality. In essence, they want to know if the customer experience with their company is creating value, building brand loyality, or causing more long term problems.

Second, these same companies are willing to examine their core assumptions about the customer, themselves and the future. For example, progressive non-profits are willing to explore a future where Medicaid and Medicare are no longer the major source of their funding. For-profits, on the other hand, are examining a future where bricks and motor office buildings are no longer the foundation of their business. Instead, they are considering what their company would be like if all employees were virtual and all customer service was done through hand held mobile devices. By challenging their core assumptions, these companies are not trapped by the “hubris born of success.” As Jim Collins in his book, How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In, HarperCollins, 2009, wrote, “Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 [hubris born of success] kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they loose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.” With the right questions, we can return to the underlying factors for success rather than the arrogance of assuming we will always be successful.

Given the challenges and deep divisions before our society today, there will continue to be many angry, frustrated and upset people for quite some time. However, as leaders, we have choices to make in the midst of these difficulties. Based on what I am seeing currently, focusing on the total customer experience and proactively challenging our core assumptions through in-depth strategic dialogues are wise actions to take in the midst of these challenging times.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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