Sense Making

Playing your part in the machine of business is hard. Start with mindset.

Business transformations or change management efforts are a dime a dozen. We are bombarded by the constant need for change in the face of accelerating change. We get we need to build an ability to master change.

The problem is in the face of cynical change or transformation programs
where many have gone wrong, we have become inure to them.

Business is hard even without these constant demands and efforts. Competition is stiffer as the world becomes open to more entrants and barriers are lowered.

As individuals we are also constantly bombarded with admonishments to be better, more productive, keep up.

Mental health has never been more in focus and yet more pernicious in the face of all this. It imperils us as individuals and the businesses we work in – it comes at a cost to both. It can bring both to a grinding halt if left unchecked.

Mental health is a serious matter which often needs serious treatment that can come from expert help and with medication.

We also know instinctively that many afflictions arise in the mind by our own doing and can be solved there.

I am a huge believer in the power of the mind. As a keen follower of Buddhist philosophy over many years (a DharmaHacker really) I am convinced of the role the mind plays in guiding our reality. As the saying goes:

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought.

Acharya Buddharakkhita’s translation of the Dhammapada

But just as much as vacuous mission statements and change or transformation initiatives cannot really change an organisation if the behaviours of leaders do not reflect them, so too with thought alone we cannot change anything.

The Buddha’s view on positive thinking was that if it violates reality, it’s worthless. Just as you can’t make a boulder rise into the air by means of wishful thinking, so you can’t experience happiness unless you actually do the things that lead to happiness, such as living ethically.

Speech and action determine our reality as much as our thoughts do. Yet thought and mindset is a factor and so on that front, let us mind what we think.

We can do that through stories. And metaphors. And the minds of others.

I am as inspired as the next by great stories, metaphors, quotes and the great minds who have shared their thoughts with the world, like the Buddha.

Coming back to the world of business, there is none more inspirational than Buckminster Fuller (July 12, 1895–July 1, 1983).

In the light of all of the challenges we face as individuals in companies big and small and faced with the daunting proposition that we cannot make a difference, Buckminster Fuller presents the ultimate metaphor to help us – the trim tab.

There is such a great account of his trim tab metaphor here on BrainPickings: Buckminster Fuller’s Brilliant Metaphor for the Greatest Key to Transformation and Growth.

In essence, the trim tab is part of a large ship’s navigation and contained within the rudder. It is like a little rudder that is easy to shift but this effects the big rudder, the one harder to move, and this one moves the ship.

It speaks to the power of individual action and the effect of habit on transforming our lives. You can see how this translates to the businesses we work in every day and how to overcome the feeling that we are powerless.

There are so many more and here below are just a few of my favourites.

Stainslaw Jerzy Lec who was a Polish poet said “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” Actually, this metaphor is a great compliment to Fuller’s in my view.

At first it may not seem to be the case because it speaks to herd thinking, mob rule and the danger of conformity and going along with the crowd which have lead to some of the worlds worst atrocities.

Yet I love it because it points to accountability and the need for you to avoid the above and make sure you can stand alone, against the winds of change sometimes.

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Mother Teresa said that and I love it too because it says look to yourself for inspiration and just do it.

At Google X, the company’s “moonshot factory,” they supposedly use the mantra of MonkeyFirst.

“The idea is that if you want to get a monkey to recite Shakespeare on a pedestal, you start by training the monkey, not building the pedestal, because training the monkey is the hard part. Anyone can build a pedestal.”

“The problem is that most people start with the pedestal, because it’s what they know and by building it, they can show early progress against a timeline. Unfortunately, building a pedestal gets you nowhere. Unless you can actually train the monkey, working on the pedestal is wasted effort.”

The analogy with my line of work is striking. I deal with how organisations adopt technology and often it is the first port of call for most but technology alone is not enough. One has to look at the outcomes, the motivations and inspiration, the people, etc.

And finally…

“Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one”. Stella Adler said that which is why I am so inspired by art and design and so I doodle which brings me to a recent one 😁

What are your favourites and how do they work for you?

Customer Success

Role of purpose and intent in customer success

How do you begin to assess how successful you are likely to be with your customers ahead of the customer success journey?

Taking this approach, perhaps you can even determine if you should embark on the journey or not.

A good place to start is probably the end point. Stephen R Covey, author of the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, nails it in his second habit:

Begin with the end in mind.

How difficult or easy customer success is likely to be and therefore how your strategy and plan needs to reflect this has a lot to do with these two factors: intent and purpose.

I often use them as a prioritisation criteria. Once you determine a customers intent and purpose with your technology, you could decide on what level of support to provide them, or if they even get it.

They’re not the only two factors by any means but I often start with them. Here is the matrix I use.

purpose intent matrix

I do this in the context of key stakeholders or stakeholder groups.

For instance you’d expect that the person or team that made the main decision on your product will have a clear intent and purpose.

But what about other key stakeholders, sometimes more important ones? They may not view it at all in the same way.

What is purpose?

You have a clearly defined vision and definition of outcomes you mean to achieve with the product.

What is intent?

You actually mean to put the technology to use in a specific way. You’d be surprised but sometimes, especially with technology suites or bundled functionality, the intent is not there in totality. Sometimes where a person/s had no involvement in the decision, they have no intent to use it. Or at least the intent has not been given the chance to form.

Absence of any one of these will require different tactics but thats for another post.

Other factors

As mentioned there are other factors to consider before embarking on or in prioritising your success journey with customers. For example, I had a brief conversation with Shawn Riedel who replied to a post on LinkedIn when I shared the matrix. I’ve captured the relevant bit below:

Shawn Riedel
Stephen I think these make a lot of sense to add to other decision matrices [emphasis added]:
People: X – Desire Y – Skills
Process: X – Impact to Revenue Y – Modularity of Process
Modularity of Process actually tells us how ingrained the process is and if it can be lifted or changed with minimal impact.
Technology: X – Effort Y – Complexity Optimal Outcome actually ends up in the lower left corner for this one. Least complex, least effort will result in a better outcome.
Me
Totally think these could work. Next step would possibly be to create a multi-dimensional matrix. Point being to aid prioritisation and decision making

What do you think? Does the approach make sense and what factors would you use?

Customer Success

The customer’s success is crucial to yours and begins with mindset

I’m surprised more organisations haven’t cottoned on.

Focusing on making customers successful with the use of your products or services.

Understanding that this success drives your success. Understanding the drivers of success and amplifying these.

You’d think organisations would have armies focused on this.

They talk about it enough. Think of product demo’s you have seen. Or comparison ads. How a product works for best results or beats another.

Subscription economy companies with their customer success teams get it. They understand: drive successful use > create value and great experiences > win loyal customers.

Other organisations are waking up.

This site set up to support the new eBook / trend report I’m writing has much more on the subject.

On Mindset

I recently wrote that The Future of Customer Success is not Human.

It emphasised the role of automation, AI and bots.

I did specify though that humans’ still have a role. I said it would outweigh that of technology in impact terms.

The recent debacle with Bodega shows that the human touch still counts. It drives connectedness and well being. It’s a prerequisite for business success.

Humanity operates in the mind. The heart has a strong role but thats for another post.

And for the foreseeable future, humans are still masters over machines. To what purpose we apply technology and what we create of value through it is still in our hands.

What mindset we bring to the game determines how we enact our purpose. I’m riffing on all this as part of the introductory chapter in my new eBook.

Herein lies the rub. Often we neglect to think about this even when it is in our grasp.

What most determines success is often least addressed. It’s easier to spend time twiddling knobs, tweaking features and functions.

Human affairs are messy.

Yet what we get out depends on what we put in.

What we put in, in turn, is dependent on our thinking. Our thinking determines how we act. This becomes ingrained in habits and the culture of the company.

Here is the flow:

  1. Mindset and purpose influence employee action
  2. Action creates habits and builds experience (supported by process, technology, etc.
  3. Experience drives customer satisfaction and loyalty

So a pretty important area of business to address you would think.

Where to start?

The top is a good place. Digital transformation success is often dependent on leadership. Leaders mindset’s influence organisational behaviours and cultures.

Having a growth mindset is in fashion. The CEO of Microsoft emphasises growth mindset versus fixed mindset.

It’s a great starting point when it comes to customer success too. Not least because customer success manager’s are also growth hackers.

Customer centricity is a worthwhile business goal and a state of mind. It has to involve the whole organisation and often starts with leaders. At least it’s entrenched or enforced by them.

So lots to think about but mindset is nothing without action. I thought these steps might help:

  1. Have a simple and measurable approach/method. One for creating, reviewing and iterating on purpose, behaviour, culture and outcomes. Customer experience maps are a great way to align all these things toward a common goal.

  2. Take time to infuse this into all parts of the organisation and operations. And it will take time. Great purpose is not realised overnight. Team games, ping pong tables, slides and bean bags are optional extras.

  3. Inspire and appeal to common human yearning. I love what Phil Knight from Nike has said in his new book. I have co-opted it to be a customer success manifesto below. This was not enshrined in a plaque for a wall. But you can tell it was and still is a living, breathing directive for the company.

  4. Empower, measure and transfer. Rinse and repeat. I would start small. Start with a success team focused on this area. Get them to do it right then transfer the success, mindsets, behaviours. Go big. McKinsey capture this approach well: How a digital factory can transform company culture.

csm manifesto

These steps, indeed the entire list, are very simplistic. You’ll find much written about this area. How to create or reinvent a great culture and make behaviour change stick.

I love this great case study on Aetna over at HBR: Cultural Change That Sticks.

This post was only a way to think out loud and explore the topic for my first chapter.

Thanks for reading. Did I miss anything or get anything wrong? Please let me know in a comment.