Which dominates your time & focus: Internal needs or obsession with 'front line' factors?

By: Bill Van Eron Thursday March 9, 2017 0 comments Tags: Bill Van Eron

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By Bill Van Eron

External Value Inspired Business Actions

Headwaters Marketing & Innovation

Work time allocations seem to vary in interpretation from busywork, to have to do and hope to do definitions. It can be defined by insight or blind spots, process, or milestones. So, when change hits a system that lacks a current value foundation, it can be very disruptive.

Evolution is a healthier word than change as it infers a foundation of value exists to serve as a vital compass through change. Honest pursuit of a conscious open culture, value, insight, inclusion, enablement, and innovation proves to endure. Change infers an “Oh crap, we have to start all over” reaction, which flags that something major was amiss. Conversely, leaders with the right foundation and value creation mindset would see the basis of change as offering major opportunities their company is optimized to capitalize on.

As you understand how your own business and market ecosystems shape value, trust, make decisions, resist, or embrace a company as being genuine, you are well on your way to shaping the new stability in business that will impact today and your future.

This blog may help you to begin that journey with a healthier outlook.

Why is this still so underserved today? This internal perceptionexample pertains to most of us that work in a headquarters or office that sales professionals may refer to as the factory. I read a book on customer facing marketing, which mapped nicely with my own values, so I left my comfort zone doing highly regarded marketing communications in the factory where product development and marketing happened, as still true today. The first thing I heard as I joined the sales force in Florida was we were all seen as “factory pukes.” What did we know? I welcomed hearing that as a creative professional knowing the most meaningful creativity follows insight to conflict and value. Embracing life in the sales force, I soon understood the real values, needs and actions that more richly defined customers, our sales force persona, resellers, and stakeholders. I then began to see how creativity could make those exchanges more meaningful, especially where we dared to break out of corporate status quo limits to apply actions that define what real help entailed.

As I dared to climb this external value ladder, those on the high rungs of the HP conventional ladder flew out to see how we were shattering all revenue records. While they were somewhat shocked, the bigger opportunity was to learn and apply these methods companywide. But that was not their mindset then...or now. Instead, I did it under their radar. As I look back, I truly respected my teams, customers, and resellers as people versus workers. A high ratio of outside-in thinking and creativity yielding billions in revenues quickly earned company-wide recognition as HP’s highest performing customer champion while my bosses got huge undeserved raises. I encourage you to do this by caring and seeing the system that defines high value and connect them to your brand, just make sure when you step up as a champion and take risks, that you also share the rewards that follow.

Leap forward to today and the huge attention to analytics, digital and the customer experience. Are they rising to the top as high impact? Kind of...maybe. But are they the foundation of sustained success? No. Why, because we are still factory pukes until we figure out ways to apply better insight, empathy, strategy, decisions, & actions that create higher value versus business usual and short-sighted expectations.

In-sanity: working in the dark while markets are drawn to the light of companies that invest wholeheartedly to understand them as well as their employees and have an insurgent mission to bind them all together. There’s no cheating that as both employees and customers see through anything less. While digital tools and social media can create a path to open “factories,” many fail to use them properly and still operate as closed cultures failing to see, act on it and open their business to a healthy balance of outside in objectivity, insight, experience, and value. That remains my belief and still our distinct advantage.

If you want to be viable moving forward as an organization or conscious employee desiring to earn regard for the right reasons, the first thing you must do is embrace a champion's mindset and welcome challenges, new thinking, and value wherever it can be found as a need, and as feasible, part of your brand. If you fall into that group that exudes great confidence in a new strategy or idea, yet act defensive when an objective review is offered (if it even is), this can help. If you would feel shocked others can see your business and ideas through eyes that take them further, or see vital signs you may miss, or actions and strategies that can be more authentic, what appears to be limiting or enabling you, emerging opportunities, better ways to process insight to strategy and decisions to sustain a leadership position...you’re a prime candidate for that help.

The March issue of Inc. Magazine ran an article and test revealing if you have a Founders Mentality, inferred as essential to driving conscious growth and value. They also ran a great story about the disrupters” within organizations, which fit my previous blog on the need to recognize and support champions inside and outside your company.

Back on point, what do we mean by Front Line Obsession and why is it so crucial?

Inc. defines Front Line as “a focus on your “entire” business, the customer experience, and making the customers voice essential in all decisions. This is all good, but so fifteen years ago, as much has happened to reveal additional insights that can put you at the lead of a race to win markets, internal and stakeholder regard, versus just catching up to what was known over a decade ago.

We define the Front Line as your business and market ecosystems and where they interact, connect, and shape extraordinary versus incremental value perceptions.

  1. Shift the voice of the customer to their complete influence ecosystem. It is crucial to exist in that system -- not as an intrusion -- but rather as a value and pathway to earned regard. That’s the new marketing.

  2. We see the quality of that engagement as where your strategy thrives or dies. If you are not earning a strong market response, you may want to question your value.

  3. See stakeholders, channel partners, alliance partners, unions, and employees as linked to one value system all should feel inclusive to shaping shared regard where feasible. Imagine customer champions.

  4. We see innovation happens at a far higher rate as internal teams and external market forces share a pulse.

  5. Long admired, Industry insiders -- while still a value -- have far less to do with innovation and major  improvement leaps than conscious outside in thinkers who can see you beyond the coatings you wear and help you to see the gaps between where you can be at your best and where you are. I personally observe how the timing gap between corporate readiness and market readiness has only widened versus how we see and have applied insights to what markets see as a spot on, timely value.

  6. Even Deloitte recently showed most CMO’s are failing at around 80-86% as they focus on ad campaigns and messaging versus credibility, relevance and earned value.

  7. We see the Front Line as Strategic Foresight about an emerging value and being there to deliver it first.

  8. We see the Front Line as introducing new, evolved, proven (a rare but vital mix) solutions that challenge the status quo, conservative beliefs, while earning trust and extraordinary results.

      9. We see the Front Line as a collection of world class thinkers, doers, and enablers whose work celebrates the best of what you can be and gives it insight, form, process,            vision passion and a path to sustain.
    10. Does one start with athletes or laggards? Of note, the CEO of Microsoft is applying one of our methods
value creation as key to a bold enabling vision. Our value                 creation colleague was just awarded the designation as one of the top 12 global advisors based on his work.

I value Gartner, Gallup, Inc., and others per their best role in interpreting what is happening and why.

There seems to be a gap between that reporting and figuring out a dynamic how that I contend requires a different skillset and depth of experience across functions and industries to originate meaningful answers.

Some very helpful questions Inc. asked in their article included:

      1. What percentage of their time does your leadership team spend on the front line or with customers?
           a. Less than 15%. b. 15-25%. c. 25-35%. d. More than 35%.
Best companies spend more than 40%.

  1. What percentage of management meetings are devoted to external topics versus internal?
    b. Fewer than 40%. b. 40-50%. c. 51-60%. d. More than 60%.
    The best invest 60%+ in external.

  2. Is attracting the brightest talent in your industry a priority?
    a. Yes, an absolute priority. b. Strong focus, but should be more. c. No.
    The best realize this is crucial.

Questions, not asked, but that reveal more include:

      1. How critical does your organization commit to earning regard, credibility, and relevance?
          a. Yes, we earn internal and external regard first. b. We do an OK job but could be better. c. Not well.

  1. How enabled are Front Line employees to understand and shape a higher customer value?
    a. Yes, as critical to our innovation and customer experience. b. They stay on script. c. No alignment.

  2. How conscious is your organization about seeing and securing opportunities in an agile manner?
    a. We do that as a key sustained advantage. b. We are slow to decide and miss a lot.
    c. What’s conscious?

Challenging your assumptions is a sign of strength, eternal curiosity and commitment to shape value, trust and support an open culture. I encourage you to do this organizationally and personally as both will enjoy the journey. Otherwise, you are just going through the motions and exposing yourself as a rock in a stream slowing your own business and career flow from realizing the full life force it can be.

Bill Van Eron

About the Author: Bill Van Eron

Bill Van Eron, Founder and Integrated Thinking Champion of Headwaters Marketing & Innovation (www.hw2o.com /970-221-0751) has had the good fortune to evolve core possibility, critical and system thinking skills that enable people, leaders, and organizations to see more of what matters and act on it in ways that grow trust, inclusion, innovation, credibility and value. Business, organizations, entire economies are finding they must see the whole and focus on the qualities of functional, enabled, inspired humanity and that means challenging any status quo limiting factors. As a serious creative change agent, I often wished I had more people to talk with that get it rather than having to be totally on my own. The good news is that as more companies see the criticality champions play and seek to groom them, enable, and reward them, these champions will not be alone.