In my previous post, I talked about the 6 traits of adaptive organizations. Now, let's dive into the traits in more detail and see if you can see your own team or organization in the details.
Today we'll focus on Trait #1 in the House of Resiliency: Strategies focused on Customer Outcomes
Adaptive organizations always keep customer success front and center in all decisions about products and services. Of course, customers may change their minds about what constitutes success, but adaptive organizations have processes in place that allow them to be flexible, validating assumptions by implementing ongoing feedback loops.
If you're on an agile team or work for an agile organization, the notion of customer feedback loops isn't new to you. It's one of the 12 agile principles: "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software." It's also a key part of the Agile Manifesto: "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation." The #1 principle of the recently released BizOps Manifesto is "Our highest priority is to wow customers and satisfy investors and stakeholders through continuous discovery and delivery of value-driven solutions."
But what does "customer first" really look like in an adaptive organization?
First of all, putting the customer first doesn't mean the customer is always right. In fact, relying solely on what customers say they want will likely keep your organization spinning around in circles.
By now, we're all familiar with Steve Jobs' dictum that "Some people say, give the customers what they want, but that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd ask customers what they wanted, they would've told me a faster horse.' People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page."
So how can an adaptive organization keep the customer's wants front and center? It takes a simple shift in how you address the question.
Let's take a look at Steve Jobs' dictum again. If your customers are asking for a faster horse, is that because they still WANT to use the same mode of transportation, or are they really asking to get from Point A to Point B more quickly?
Focusing on the OUTCOME (faster time to a destination) opens you up to a variety of options. Sure, faster horses are still one option, but what other modes of transportation can you create, and how can these new modes later be perfected to include a more comfortable ride, cleaner knickers when you arrive, and other innovations? When you focus on the outcome, you open up ways for your organization to creatively meet customer wants and needs.
The House of Resiliency, which is built from the 6 Traits of an Adaptive Organization, defines an adaptive organization as one that understands that "The customer may change their mind, but you have the processes in place to be flexible to validate assumptions with ongoing feedback loops."
Sounds great, right? But what does that really look like?
First, it's an organizational mindset. While "customer first" sounds great (and adorns the hallways of plenty of corporate headquarters), let's be honest: Never-ending feature requests, constant changes of opinion, and complaints about your work can sometimes get to be too much. Often, while an organization might request customer input, if the organization's mindset isn't aligned to the reality that things are going to change, any input that doesn't align with the established direction dies in the inbox, never making its way to the teams that can do anything about it. The end result? An ongoing loop of "building the wrong things quickly" (if you're an agile team).
An organizational mindset of "customer success is our priority" changes the approach. Your goal is no longer "doing what the customer wants," but rather "making the customer successful (aka happy)." This shift allows you to see patterns in requested features, rather than viewing them individually. Seeing patterns allows your team to think creatively and dream up features that achieve the outcome, even though they may not be the exact features the customer requested.
When organizations establish this trait at the level of Resilient in the House of Resiliency, they are well on their way to becoming an adaptive organization.
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