You can lead a horse to insights but you can’t make it execute
Continuing our popular series on how to deliver or execute on insights, I’m delighted to welcome back guest blogger Annette Franz.
From her experience as a CX leader, advisor & blogger, she knows the critical need for customer insight & understanding to guide CX. You may recall that Annette has shared with us previously on Voice of Customer programmes & how to become a data-led business.
So, I’m pleased to read that she has turned her attention to the challenge of getting people to act on insights.
A useful revisiting of the “lead a horse to water” analogy, with lessons for both CX and Customer Insight leaders. Over to Annette to explain more, from her own experience of the influencing needed for execution.
Is your CX transformation work stuck at good intentions?
One of the biggest showstoppers in customer experience transformations today is execution – actually, it’s the lack thereof. You’ve got a ton of data, insights, and intentions, but the action is the key. It’s not happening. Customers can feel it.
No brainer, you say? Not so fast. If it was a no brainer, would I call it one of the biggest showstoppers today? I think not. You know it’s a problem!
Execution is critical. I talk about the proverbial “lead a horse to water and make him/her drink” conundrum regularly with clients.
For starters, at the root of – and the catalyst for – this needed and necessary action and execution is customer understanding. Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity and the foundation for the transformation work that lies ahead. But if you don’t do anything with what you’ve learned, it’s all quite pointless. You’re wasting everyone’s time.
So I question how companies even get this far, and I fear the answer is a focus on the metrics. Or siloed good intentions.
Awareness and understanding are only 50% of the solution. The other 50% is using what you know to make improvements, aka execute.
So, what’s holding you back?
Why can’t you act on the findings?
Think about this quote from General Eric Shinseki: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
Yikes! We already see this happening with plenty of brands and industries. Don’t get Blockbuster’d. You’ve got the data and the insights in front of you. Don’t become irrelevant! Use them! Innovate. Disrupt. Fight to stay relevant.
OK, let’s get practical for a few minutes. What’s it going to take to go from insights to action – and better yet, insights to advantage?
Here’s the solution: it’s going to take a mindset shift. From one of inaction to one of action. You’ve got to think differently! Again, what’s got you/your company stuck? Why? How can this change?
Do you want to be an agent of change or an agent of complaint?
Do you want to be a change leader and executor or do you want to just sit on your hands and hope for change, hope for the best?
So, that’s the answer?
Well, let’s think about this for a minute. I can give you all of the steps that you’ll need to execute (and I will do that in just a moment), but I suspect you already know some or many of these things. So, I can just keep writing and preaching, and you can just keep reading. And doing nothing.
Or, you can shift your mindset (and the organization’s mindset) to one that’s action-oriented – and go and do it. You have to want to do it. (Maybe it’s not “you” per se, but the one in your company that makes the decision and assigns the resources to move from intentions to execution.)
What do they say about happiness? It comes from within. Well, so does the desire to do anything. You’ve got to decide and execute. And just do it.
What’s that going to take? Some folks need more convincing than just a rah-rah “change your thinking.” Typically the following help to shift the mindset to one of “let’s do this” – and actually execute. Know that you may get pushed outside your comfort zone.
Which of these will help you?
- I’ve got to see and hear the evidence. Why should I do this? What’s the pain point for me? For the business? What’s the ‘burning platform‘? What happens if I don’t change or don’t fix the pain point? I need to know the business case for the change. Tell me a compelling change story. Convince me.
- Any information about the needed change has to speak my language and motivate me. What do I need to see in the data that moves me?
- What’s the CX vision? It will guide my thinking, and it will guide the change process. But I need to know it and understand it. Supplement that with the change vision.
- You’ve got to earn my trust. Is this just another flavour of the month change initiative? Or are we in this for the long haul? Show me. Prove it to me.
- You’ve got to involve me. You pulled together the data and the insights; don’t just force this work on me. I need to feel like I’m part of the decision and part of the solution. This will help me own it and want to do it. When I know why I’m involved, I’ll be more likely to step up, commit, and help ensure we execute properly. Force it on me, and I’ll push back.
- Talk to me. Listen to me. Let me ask questions. Help me understand. Keep the lines of communication open.
- Give me something to measure myself by. I want to do the best work possible; if I have metrics that I can track, I’ll be able to own it.
- Empower me. You want me to do the work. Give me the information I need to do it, and just set me free. Assure me that I’ll get to work with the teams that need to make things happen, and don’t micromanage. You gave me metrics; I’m tracking toward those.
- Nudge me, but give me the freedom of choice. I’m fine if you hold out some carrots to point me in the right direction and get me to drink, but allow me to still choose the best course of action. Again, metrics.
More than a mindset change is needed
A mindset shift isn’t a bad thing; don’t let anyone tell you that it is. Sometimes, it’s a necessity. But as you can see, mindset shifts are all about information and understanding: You can’t be kept in the dark. Tell me, and I’ll understand. I can get on board if I’m in the know.
Now, that begs the question about those who are in the know: why don’t they execute? First, they have to be the right people to execute. Then, I suppose that if they are and haven’t, that would require a behaviour shift, from inaction to action. Even that shift must happen in the mind. It comes from within.
Now what? If you’re in the know and on board with making the change, it’s time to get to work. Here are some things to get you going – and keep you moving forward:
- Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. Identify a problem and move on to the next step.
- Don’t feel like you need to boil the ocean
- Pick one thing. Focus on one thing and see that through, for starters.
- Know what needs to be fixed. Conduct a root cause analysis to ensure you change the right thing, that you fix the root of the problem.
- Design the new experience. Design new processes to support the new experience.
- Develop a project plan for each change initiative. What are the steps and the milestones to achieve the goal?
- Conduct a premortem. Identify risks and obstacles. Sometimes these are the things that deter people from executing. Find out what these things are. And then devise a plan for how to get ahead of these things.
- Identify your objectives and success metrics.
- Make sure they are linked to the desired outcomes – for the business and for the customer.
- Develop your lead measures. What will you be doing in the coming week? How will you ensure that you do these things?
- Assign ownership. Who owns each step of the plan?
- Accountability. Who and how will you hold the owners accountable to achieve these things every week? And what are the repercussions for not achieving them?
- Pilot and test the changes. Test and fail fast.
- Implement the fix or the change. Roll it out to employees and to customers.
- Recognize and reward milestones and successes.
- Measure and monitor.
Strategy meets execution
Holistically, you’ve got to ensure the following big-picture items are in place as part of your customer experience strategy. Organizational change doesn’t happen by one person; it takes a village. Consider these 3 building blocks:
- A governance structure that includes an executive committee that provides approval and oversight, as well as drives accountability;
- Activation of your base, also part of your governance structure, because the work must be dispersed across the organization; and
- A change management process that outlines the basics that must be in place to go from current state to future state.
Be a change leader
Create the CX vision (and then the strategy to implement it).
Communicate the vision. And get folks on board to execute it. Not everyone will be a change leader, but there are roles for others, such as subject matter experts, storytellers, customer champions, etc. Showcase those who are on board. Talk about the pockets of change success that are happening around your organization. Get people excited and motivated to be a part of the future of your business.
Of course, there’s one more shift that has to happen, and it’s a big one: execution is a culture shift. If it’s not part of your culture today, it needs to be. If you work for a company where ideas remain ideas, data remains data, etc., then your culture is not one of execution. Do any of your core values scream – or at least hint at – “get shit done!?” If not, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate.
The first step after you lead the horse to water is to answer this question: why won’t the horse drink? So answer this: “What’s got you stuck? Why can’t you execute?”
Is it fear? Is it complacency? What is it? There is no remedy or solution to move you to act until you can identify the reason you’re not acting or executing. After that, I think the things I’ve outlined here will help the majority of you get onto the right path.
I just saw this Stephen Covey quote in an article I was reading: “Everything starts with the individual because all meaningful change comes from the inside-out. Systemic organizational change can’t happen without changes in individual behaviour.”
“Genius is in the idea. Impact, however, comes from action.” Simon Sinek
What will you do with that challenge?
Thanks again to Annette, both for that challenge & for all her practical tips to get unstuck and get things moving. The only other tip I would add to that wealth of wisdom is the power of effective Data Visualisation. Well-designed visualisations can engage and motivate far better than a long Powerpoint talk.
So, take a moment now to identify and commit to some actions you can take. As Annette makes clear, this is not a challenge that can stay at theoretical knowledge. What first step can you take this week to move closer to a business that executes on insights & sees the benefits?