In which Jill laments companies with a culture of internal focus, but heralds a bright shining light in the form of a few visionary individuals.
Weâ€™ve all heard of companies who are more internally focused than externally focused. Itâ€™s been one of the barriers to successful customer-focused initiatives, the fact that people canâ€™t get out of their own way and support change for the customerâ€™s sake. As Don Peppers and Martha Rogers say in their latest book, Return on Customer, without customers we donâ€™t have a business. More companiesâ€™ behaviors should reflect this philosophy.
The phenomenon of internal focus is usually painted with the broad brush of politics. Iâ€™ve been thinking a lot about this lately and Iâ€™ve decided that thereâ€™s a â€śgestaltâ€ť behind such cultures. What I mean is, when it comes to internally-focused organizations, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Simply put, an internally-focused company is comprised of internally focused people. You might even know some of them. I do. They concentrate on managing perception rather than on their job responsibilities. They spend more time on relationship building than they do on delivery. Theyâ€™re all about domain ownership (aka: whatâ€™s mine, whatâ€™s not).
Just when I start sounding jaded about this stuffâ€”I know when this happens because I start talking about Maslowâ€™s hierarchy of need until someone smacks me upside the head with sociology textbookâ€”something interesting happens. I have a conversation with a well-meaning executive that knocks me sideways and gives me new hope for corporate America.
For instance, last Monday I was meeting with a Vice President of Strategy for an entertainment company in L.A. His companyâ€™s IT department had asked me to come in and introduce the topic of data-as-an asset. They wanted me to cover why data quality and integration can be mapped back to customer-focused strategy. I did 90-minute presentation to the V.P. and his team. Mindful of their attention span and busy schedulesâ€”these were, after all, business peopleâ€”I didnâ€™t focus on customer data management processes and technologies, but on the opportunity cost of not doing customer data management.
The post-meeting Q and A was over lunch across the street from the studio. The strategy exec was engaged and frank. He said:
"Iâ€™ll be the first to admit I donâ€™t get this stuff. I donâ€™t really want to get it. But if itâ€™s the right thing to do for the firm, Iâ€™ll put up my budget. I mean, I believe youâ€¦I just canâ€™t wrap my brain around what this will take. But get me a list of benefits. Tell me what we canâ€™t do as a company until we get this right. Give me a roadmap. And if you can do those things, Iâ€™ll fund it."
I mean, I liked the guy before he said this stuff, but now Iâ€™d move his fridge for him. For an executive whose time is normally consumed meeting with large consulting firms who donâ€™t name names (McKinsey), he was willing sit down with a data integration and BI services firm (Baseline) and discuss the business risks of not having good data (counterproductive interactions with suppliers, contradictory communications to retailing partners, sub-optimal marketing campaigns, just to name a few).
At the end of lunch, heâ€™d committed to bankrolling an initial data quality effort andâ€”God bless himâ€”justifying the expense to his colleagues in upper management.
Who knows? He could end up falling on his sword. But I doubt he will. Because someone who commits to improving corporate data in a sustained an ongoing way has probably already built some political muscle and doesnâ€™t feel the need to constantly flex it via perception management and spin. Instead, he can think about whatâ€™s best for his firm.
Posted July 14, 2006 2:45 PM
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