No managers were hurt in the making of this strategy

A number of years ago my team crafted a proposal to re-organize our company around the customer.

It was apparent that more and more consumers were using multiple touch-points to engage with our brands. Our analytics team had calculated that 50% of our customer base had made a purchase from both our physical and e-commerce channels during the past year. Researching online before shopping in our stores was increasing dramatically. And one of our key competitors had embraced “channel-agnosticity”, was investing heavily in cross-channel integration and starting to grab market share.

We, on the other hand, were locked in silos. We had entirely distinct and decentralized organizations for our online and brick & mortar operations. Separate channel inventory could not be accessed on behalf of the customer. Metrics and incentives were channel specific. Despite “knowing” that a high percentage of our best customers received direct marketing campaigns from both of our separately managed channels, virtually no effort was made to coordinate these consumer communications. In fact, our opt-out rates were greatest among our highest spending customers. To us, the call to action was clear.

So we pitched our CEO on a plan to address these issues. It was a dramatic shift to be sure, with a fair amount of complexity and numerous assumptions about how we would ultimately justify the investment.

Yet, what my boss focused on was how several key executives would be impacted and how they would react if we were to embrace the proposed customer-centric transformation.

“John is going to be angry. Sally would have a lot fewer people reporting to her. How can we move Paul over here, Linda (his boss) will be upset. I promised Tim a CEO title.” And so on.

Needless to say, none of the most critical recommendations were implemented. Eventually, under a new CEO–and mounting evidence of how the company was falling behind–most of the proposed changes were made. By that time I–and every single one of the personalities at issue–had left the company. And market share had continued to erode.

I don’t mean to be callous about the individual concerns and needs of folks working in companies. But the reality is that consumer needs have evolved radically and traditional approaches simply don’t work. The evolution (or revolution) in your strategy is certain to shatter the status quo and be painful for some (or all) of your managers and executives.

Yes, it’s inevitably going to hurt some of your people. But not going through the pain is ultimately certain to hurt your customers–and your results.

It’s a stark choice. But the choice seems clear.





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