fbpx
Category

Strategy

How to improve the car buyer’s journey using customer feedback

By | Strategy

Dramatic shifts in consumer behaviour over recent years have left some sales executives unsure about how to adapt their traditional sales skills to the new, technologically empowered customer.

Armed with product information, professional reviews, word-of-mouth opinions, cost comparisons and whatever intel appears on page one of a Google search, the thoroughly modern customer has rewritten your sales script before you even open your mouth. That’s just one challenge.

How am I doing?

Customer service is not as simple as it used to be. You need to offer up a customer experience thank you, and that means more than a firm handshake and a friendly smile.  Understanding customer interests, priorities and what sort of experience they expect you to deliver is not a brainstorm around the conference table with the sales and marketing teams. You need to ask for feedback directly from the source. And you need to understand what they want and need at every touchpoint on the journey from consideration to purchase.

Listening to customer conversations online and monitoring your social media feeds is one way to stay in touch with what customers are feeling and thinking, but a strategic survey is a straighter path to practical, actionable insights.

An example – The car buyer’s journey

Buying a car is one of the most anxiety-provoking financial decisions many people will ever make. In fact, research on behalf of UK insurance comparison site Confused.com put numbers to the stress levels, reporting that “… more than a third (37%) of UK drivers claim buying a car to be more than or just as stressful as being stuck in a lift, interviewing for a job (44%), moving to a new house (42%) or planning a wedding (37%)”. It’s a safe bet that those sentiments are pretty nearly universal. Is that the kind of customer experience any business wants to create?

Opportunities for valuable customer feedback

It’s extreme customer journeying, to be sure, but let’s look at the various touchpoints in the car buying process where soliciting, understanding and acting on feedback could mean the difference between customer satisfaction and customer meltdown.

  • Consideration. Few people buy a new vehicle on a whim. It’s generally a decision driven by need (family is outgrowing the sedan) or circumstance (new job, big increase, upscaling the ride). Finding out why people are walking in the door can reveal trends over a time period, guide marketing and help refine your sales approach.
  • Research. This is where technology has shifted the power dynamic from seller to buyer. Anyone with a penchant for research can find out pretty much anything they want or need to know about vehicle makes and models, service requirements, performance reputation, and a hundred other details, before they step foot in the showroom.
     
    So what is a customer looking for from a dealer at the research stage? Probably transparency. Marketing needs to be generous with facts, specs, hard product details. Sales people need to be prepared to have much more sophisticated conversations with buyers who are better informed than ever before. And the only way to find out if you’re ticking the boxes is to ask your customers about their experience.
  • First serious contact with retailers. Here, it gets real. The test drive, the options, availability and delivery dates. It’s a delicate phase in the evolving customer relationship and it really would be a shame to blow it by delaying appointments or not returning phone calls promptly or generally playing hard to get – even if you don’t intend to. What processes do you need to improve? How can your sales team be more accommodating? Are you working with an outdated playbook? Ask the people on the receiving end of the experience.
  • Consideration. Here is the mental consolidation period of weighing up models, features, costs, funding options. You can imagine that there’s a fine line between being open and available for aiding the decision process and being a high-pressure irritation. Get some insight on exactly what kind of support customers would find most helpful at this stage. You might be surprised.
  • Doubts and objections. Customers will vacillate. Some more than others. It would help to know and understand your typical customer’s most pressing doubts and be prepared to intelligently counter objections. Get all the insights you can on the crux of concerns at this phase.
  • More contact and conversation. Here’s the finale, when choices are confirmed, negotiations are concluded, financing is locked in and on paper, the deal is put to bed. But the dance isn’t over yet. It’s important to keep in touch and follow up on final delivery details. What’s the most appropriate method of communication at this stage? How do you best convey professional efficiency and human warmth?
  • Handover. It’s a high moment for buyer and seller. Make it farewell, but not goodbye. There are ways of keeping the little flame of customer connection burning so you’re their first choice when it’s time for the next purchase. Plus, after sales service is both a necessity and an opportunity to keep the good vibes alive.

Keep listening

Technology has changed a lot about the way in which we buy and sell and conduct the whole transactional exercise, but the fundamental human dynamics of the experience are fairly –  well – fundamental.

The late, great retail iconoclast Harry Selfridge said it over 100 years ago, “People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.” In other words, ask, listen, act.

Use feedback to understand what customers really want, improve your products and services, monitor and measure satisfaction and develop a two-way dialogue that builds trust and loyal relationships.

Smart business leaders never stop listening. eValue provides the tools, feedback provides the data and analysis provides the insights that lead to better business decisions.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more about how an eValue strategic survey can help you ask, listen and understand what your customers want.

What is a strategy map and how does it work?

By | Strategy

While many business leaders have well-defined organisational strategies, implementing and executing them is a challenge that few have mastered. Why is that? 

Management fantasy or iterative exercise?

Some strategies are perhaps overly optimistic ‘management fantasies’ as described by Sir Lawrence Freedman in his seminal work, Strategy: A History, “…far exceeding organizational capabilities, with goals defined as if the future could be predicted.” Strategy, Freedman tells us, is not about reaching a prior objective, it ‘starts with an existing state of affairs and only gains meaning by an awareness of how, for better or worse, it could be different.’ 

Strategy is an iterative exercise, “best understood modestly, as moving to the ‘next stage’ rather than to a definitive and permanent conclusion. The next stage may not necessarily be a better place, but could still be a better place than the company might be in with a less effective strategy, or no strategy at all.”  

Clear, concise communication

Viewing strategy as an iterative exercise makes a strong case for opening clear lines of communication throughout the organisation, to effectively calibrate responses to dynamic, often disruptive market forces. The eValue survey platform is an effective tool for gathering on the ground feedback that will accurately reflect the state of your business. 

A strategy map becomes useful, or even essential, in communicating your strategic direction to everyone in the organisation.  A single high-level, visual that’s easy to interpret gives people a clear understanding of strategic direction and their role in reaching the next strategic goal. It also provides a sense of purpose that engages and inspires people to give their best.  

Mapping your strategy

A map, as you know, is simply a visual representation of a landscape that aids you in getting from point A to point B. A strategy map is somewhat the same. It shows all the component parts of a strategy and how individual roles, jobs and tasks contribute to reaching those objectives on a single page. 

Composing a strategy map is a simple, 5-step process.

 

Step 1

Outline your strategic requirements. These might be:

  • Increase and retain revenue
  • Develop marketing initiatives
  • Select and train the right talent
  • Deploy effective technology
  • Deliver innovative client solutions

Then, write down your high-level strategic goals.These could be across the entire organisation or by department or even goals for specific initiatives or key projects and could be something like this:

  • Increase revenue
  • Improve productivity
  • Improve culture
  • Create excellent products
  • Improve customer relationships

 

Step 2

List the various perspectives from which you can view your business. These will vary from one organisation to another.

The example we use here is a typical eValue strategy map showing four perspectives in causal order, based on Kaplan and Norton’s Balanced Scorecard. You can list as many perspectives as you want. 

Strategy map showing four perspectives in causal order.

 

Step 3

Take your list of requirements, group them into categories and place them in a list adjacent to the relevant perspectives.

List your requirements, group them into categories & place them in a list adjacent to the relevant perspectives on your strategy map.

 

Step 4

Unpack each category into the more detailed tactical tasks, systems, resources or internal business processes.

Unpack each category in your strategy map into the more detailed tactical tasks, systems, resources or internal business processes.

For example, the training category under learning and growth can have individual tactics such as, ‘appropriate training courses, materials, mentorship.”

The strategy map normally includes the inter-relationships between the different categories to show how they affect each other. This allows you to plan improvements accordingly. 

As you see here, talent and training have an impact on the level of innovation. Brand, customer relations and value delivery are dependent on your marketing efforts and innovation.

 

Step 5

The final step is to measure how well each of the categories and their supporting tasks are performing. In the eValue strategic survey, categories and supporting measures are colour-coded based on survey responses. Red is urgent, amber indicates that some action is necessary, and so on. 

Measure how well each of the categories and their supporting tasks are performing on your strategy map.

A strategy map comes to life

And there you have it. A useful, at-a-glance reference illustrating strategic direction and each individual’s role in moving the organisation one step closer to meeting objectives. No more functioning in isolation. With the aid of a strategy map everyone in the organisation can clearly see what needs to be done, by whom and how they contribute to the bigger strategic picture. 

Want to talk about developing a strategy map for your organisation? Get in touch with the eValue team. And if you’d like to see a video of the strategy mapping process, visit our YouTube channel.

Mapping your strategy with eValue. Part 1

Mapping your strategy with eValue. Part 2

Find out how to build channel loyalty using feedback

By | Channel, Strategy

Ask any channel sales manager what their favourite quality is in a person (any person!), and they are almost guaranteed to answer ‘loyalty’. Building channel loyalty in 2020 is a tall order for a number of reasons, and as the marketplace becomes more crowded the order is only growing taller. So, what is a forward-thinking business to do if they wish to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their channel partners? The answer lies in one deceptively simple word: feedback

Why is a strong relationship with your sales and distribution channel so important?

In the modern-day economic climate, sales channels have become an indispensable support system for indirect-sales businesses and companies that want to drive market growth by gaining access to new customers. However, the extended reach and cross-selling opportunities provided by channel partner relationships are subject to a variety of complexities that need to be understood and managed from the word go. 

After all, when a significant portion of your company’s revenue is driven by your indirect sales channels, it only makes sense to ensure that those relationships are carefully tended and nurtured. As is the case in interpersonal relationships in other parts of our lives, it’s always more effective to consider what you can do to make a relationship more successful, rather than what your partner should do. 

The benefits of loyal channel partners

In an ideal world, every channel partner you have will become a staunch advocate for your brand, both in business dealings and their personal lives, because they can tell that you value them. When everything goes according to plan, a channel will grow from superficial engagement, to conceptual and emotional engagement as time goes on. That is, they will graduate from a state of hearing about your brand, to believing in your brand, and ultimately living your brand to the point where they actively promote it. Then, they close the feedback loop by giving you insight into how to improve your product or services, thereby becoming a key part of your overall customer satisfaction solution. Of course, this can be easier said than done. 

Challenges in building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships

Forming and maintaining fruitful channel relationships that satisfy the needs of all partners involved are challenging for a number of reasons. Collaborators are often pulled in many different directions in terms of business priorities and fluctuating market conditions. Not to mention the fact that a single sales force can represent  multiple, often competing, brands. Add conflicting margin expectations and pricing practices, a lack of information sharing, insufficient clarity on roles and responsibilities, and the pressure of increased revenue demands on top of that, and it’s easy to see why channel sales managers have their work cut out for them. 

Of course, there is also the impact of the digital age on traditional selling strategies – ease of access to service and product reviews and information has changed the sales funnel significantly in both B2B and B2C markets. Suffice it to say, things are pretty complex out there. In the end, it boils down to whether your channel partners believe in you and your brand, and if you can count on them to be advocates for your product or service when you’re not there. It’s as simple, and vastly complex, as that.  

The power of direct communication by means of a strategic survey 

Which brings us to the solution you have been looking for: a strategic survey. When it comes to using feedback to build channel loyalty, it pays to go straight to the source.  After all, the people who know what they need to help you sell your product or service are the folks doing the actual selling. They are out there at grass roots, drumming up business, and perfectly positioned to share the challenges that may be hampering your collective success in doing so. With the effective use of a channel survey you could: 

  • Align your strategic and tactical goals. Surveys can help you determine what your partners’ strategic and tactical goals are beyond the maximisation of sales and profits. Once you know that, you can find touch points that will allow you to build a higher level of trust and collaborate on business activities that stand to benefit the entire channel. 
  • Help your partners identify with you. With the help of surveys, you can determine what your channel partners require to connect and associate with your brand in their marketplace. 
  • Find ways to provide the information your partners need. While gathering data to put to your own use, a survey could also simultaneously serve to provide data to help your channel partners to improve their overall business, not just your part of it. 
  • Help make your partners more successful. The saying goes that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and this is most certainly true when it comes to channel loyalty. A survey can help you to determine if your channel partner requires assistance with general sales training, social media use, certain technology upgrades, etc. If you can assist them in becoming more successful in small (or big) ways, they will have more time and resources to devote to the marketing of your services or goods. 
  • And so much more!

So there you have it – a concise look at using feedback to build channel loyalty in 2020 and beyond. If you would like to find out more about using a strategic survey as a channel management tool get in touch with the eValue team. Let’s talk about how a strategic survey, linked directly with your business objectives can help you make better decisions and take faster, smarter strategic action. 

What makes sales channel relationships work?

By | Strategy

Sales channel structures are inherently fraught with potential conflict. There’s a simple answer to making partner relationships work.

Sales channels are the lifeblood of indirect sales businesses and a boon to companies looking for access to new customers and aggressive market growth. In a survey conducted by CSO Insights, 63.5% of companies said channel partners contributed to their annual revenue. The World Trade Organisation estimates that 70% of the global economy operates through channel businesses. And yet, channel sales can be a sharply double-edged sword.

Ideally a win / win structure for suppliers, through extended reach, and for vendor partners, through cross-selling to existing customers, channel sales relationships are inherently fraught with complexities such as conflicting margin expectations and pricing practices, lack of information sharing and inadequate clarity on roles and responsibilities. And these traditional challenges have been recently exacerbated by heightened revenue demands, shifting buyer patterns and evolving sales management roles. Yet, like many of life’s most complex problems, the solution can be disarmingly simple.

Channel opportunities and challenges

Managing a direct sales team is a fairly straightforward brief – your products, your people, your hands-on responsibility to engage, coach, develop, support and lead your team to high performance. (Want some tips on being the best? Here’s an interesting infographic from Salesforce.)

Managing an indirect sales force, which can include agents, resellers, brokers, dealers or distributors, is another matter altogether. Writing in Forbes, contributor Ian Altman cuts to the chase of channel sales, “…you are making a conscious decision to have someone else take responsibility for selling your product or service.” The upside, no labour cost. The downside, lost margin. And his position on channel sales people is equally direct, “They will never be as passionate about selling your stuff as you are.”  Is that truth or dare? You decide.

The reality of channel sales management

The reality for channel sales managers is arms-length influence on partner sales practices and performance, but there is abundant opportunity to build productive partner relationships and drive revenue by applying more general management expertise. Writing in Harvard Business Review, Ryan Brier, MD, Channel Management Practice at Frontier Strategy Group comments, “Based on our research, the best channel managers tend to have more in common with great general managers than with great sales managers.”  He emphasises three most critical areas of similarity:

  • Strategic planning skills. In addition to thinking about competitive positioning in a specific territory, channel managers must have the strategic planning expertise to coach and collaborate with distribution partners to develop their competitive strategies.
  • Financial acumen. Sales managers are primarily concerned with direct customer issues such as contract profitability and payment terms, hitting revenue targets and currency fluctuations. Channel managers have a broader scope of financial responsibilities that include, among other things, demand forecasts, cash and inventory management, and monitoring the overall financial strength of distribution partners.
  • Coaching and enablement. The over-arching role of effective channel managers is to help distribution partners sell and service their product. This involves a thorough understanding of how the partner’s business works and how they can assist in developing customer solutions, meeting compliance requirements and smoothing logistics.  

Building channel relationships

It goes without saying that channel relationships are strategic and need to be managed with respect, care and consideration, bearing in mind the objective of creating mutual long-term benefit. The ideal, of course, is the perfect synchronicity of a co-destiny relationship. Atypical, to be sure, but a goal worth pursuing.  

More common, but nevertheless challenging, are solid sales partner relationships built on many of the same core elements as any other successful relationship in life: trust, commitment, two-way communication, transparency, and because disagreements happen, a mutually agreed process for resolving conflict.

In practical terms, here are the 5 basics of effective channel partner relationships:

  • Invest time in co-selling. The best managers in any business have first-hand experience working on the ground. Time spent out of the office and in the trenches helping distributors sell your products or services is a big relationship booster. Ask questions, advise on problems, go out for coffee and a chat about sport. Be human. Yes, time is money. Consider this an investment in the future of your channel partner relationships.
  • Promote together. Joint presence at trade shows or other promotional events shows commitment to the vendor relationship and lets you play an active role in lead generation. Plus, since no one sells your product like you do, partner reps get a close-up look at the nuances of your sales conversations.
  • Get active on social. Encourage and assist partners in developing a social media presence. Invite them to join professional groups and forums where they can join relevant conversations, answer questions, offer comments and generally network with colleagues and prospective customers alike. 
  • Create a best practices community. In the spirit of transparency and sharing, start an invitation-only online group for vendors, partners and customers to discuss best practices, share success stories, ask questions and get first-hand product information from multiple perspectives. This could evolve into a global source for 24-hour advice on industry best practices.
  • Co-invest in sales talent.  It’s the odd channel partner who wouldn’t like to have more salespeople pounding the pavement, but that’s an additional cost. So why not do a win / win deal and co-invest in sales reps dedicated to your brand? You pick up a certain percentage of the cost to company and set the terms of commission and incentives. It’s a mutual investment for mutual gain.

Ask, listen, act

Perhaps the single most critical success factor in any relationship is effective communication. The active listening and observing, the give and take of conversation, the silent message of a glance or a touch, are all woven into the fabric of a relationship over time. And within that repertoire, the single most important mechanic is listening. 

Active listening, giving complete and undivided attention to the speaker, is a specific communication skill that’s recognised as a powerful agent for individual change. And for channel managers, it’s a powerful source for developing solid sales relationships through a deeper understanding of partner concerns and challenges.  

Surveys are a channel management staple used across industries to gather feedback on issues ranging from partner engagement and satisfaction, to dealer needs, sales obstacles and operational efficiency.

Remember that survey data is only as useful as the integrity of survey design, the accuracy of analysis and the actual implementation of insights. So choose your survey partner with care.

By asking the right questions, listening closely to the answers, and acting on feedback, you’re on target to build long-lasting channel partner relationships that work.

Do you need to work on your channel sales partner relationships? Contact us to find out how we can help. 

Survey trends 2020

By | Strategy

We bring insight into emergent trends in survey measurement and management

The start of a new year usually signals heightened focus on strategy and strategic planning. Surveys are an important instrument in the strategy toolbox, serving both to inform direction and to steer decision-making. In this article, we look at 2020’s survey trends and what they represent for organisational surveys.

META-TREND: Better capitalism

2019 was a year characterised by severe disruption and change. As the climate crisis deepens, and the world’s wealth gap widens, public and private sectors alike are looking for ways to make capitalism more accessible and accountable.

In their Fjord Trends 2020 report, authors, Mark Curtis and Martha Cotton describe this accountability in simple terms:

“This trend is about embracing a much more comprehensive range of success metrics, and about re-examining the long-held belief that the bottom line is important above all else. This is why companies must work differently, responsibly and imaginatively.”

TREND 01: Surveys get real

In its latest Global Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte speaks of the rise of the social enterprise and calls for organisations to ‘reinvent with a human focus’. Expect to see surveys that seek to gather insight into organisational purpose as business leaders begin to ask all-important questions of their stakeholders, such as, ‘Where do we want to go together?’; ‘What kind of impact do we want to make in the world?’; ‘What do we really stand for?’ and ultimately, ‘Beyond profit, why do we exist?’

If your organisation is transforming – and let’s face it, which company isn’t, given the ever-accelerating rate of technological change – questions relating to purpose and the fundamental rewiring of corporate DNA are sure to feature prominently in your next engagement survey. A new world order is coming – and purpose-led questions are the ones that need answering urgently. 

META-TREND: Diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are not new. What is new is the prioritisation of D&I as a business strategy. With global business leaders like Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella not simply endorsing the strategy, but making it a “core priority”, business looks set to be vastly different in the near future. Nadella had this to say:

“In 2019, I feel something markedly is different around this topic of diversity and inclusion but more importantly around the action around diversity and inclusion. Five years from now, maybe even less … the workplace in tech is going to be very transformed, very different, and it’s going to be much better for all of us.” 

TREND 02: Mega diversity

As organisations look to diversity as a source of sustainable business advantage, organisational surveys are likely to explore the topic in more granularity.

The advancement of previously disadvantaged people, women and LGBTQI+ people will remain important metrics of diversity surveys in 2020, but increasingly other, lesser-known metrics, such as cognitive diversity and learning diversity will pop up too.

Also, as organisations strive to make their inclusion efforts more effective, survey content is likely to feature more assessment-based information-gathering statements, such as, ‘This organisation creates an environment that is conducive for the free and open expression of ideas, opinions and beliefs.’ 

META-TREND: Burnout at work

In 2019, the World Health Organisation officially identified burnout as a diagnosable medical disease. As more and more employees present with symptoms of burnout – exhaustion, disengagement, reduced productivity and efficacy – employers are being called to account for whether or not the condition is systemic within their organisations.

Blind, an app that anonymously connects professionals to discuss workplace issues, ran a survey in 2018 and found that almost 60% of tech employees who responded, were burnt out.

TREND 03: Measuring burnout

Organisations are likely to respond to the burnout phenomenon with wellness surveys that incorporate statements specifically about burnout, as well as statements that will help wellness officers to identify areas where intervention, and help, is required.

Online management, leadership and personal effectiveness skills builder, MindTools shares a 15-point, self-test burnout survey. Key statements for respondents to answer against a Likert scale from this survey include:

  • I have negative thoughts about my job;
  • I feel that organisational politics or bureaucracy frustrate my ability to do a good job; and
  • I feel that there is more work to do than I practically have the ability to do.

META-TREND: People over data

According to Deloitte, 71% of companies see people analytics as a high priority in their organisation. Yet, few companies can claim to have a deep understanding of the specific dimensions of engagement that drive high performance within their organisations. In its latest data management trends report, Dataversity states that by 2020, more than 40% of data-based tasks will be automated. There can be no doubt that passive monitoring of employees through machine learning and AI will help organisations to see what matters most to their people. But nothing beats a survey for empowering people to speak their minds and express their opinions.

TREND 04: Finger on the pulse

2020 will continue to see the pulse survey proliferate as a fast and effective method of gathering insights. Typically sent out on a weekly basis, a pulse survey’s one-to-five questions can be pre-set at the start of a quarter or year, or it can be used more tactically, with questions arising spontaneously out of current organisational issues and events.

Either way, the pulse survey has earned its place as the essential complement to the annual staff engagement survey.

As you build out your strategy for 2020, keep these survey trends in mind. And don’t hold back from reaching into your strategy toolbox for a survey – it’s a great trend-spotting tool in and of itself.

Don’t have a survey tool in your arsenal?  Contact us – we can help.

Communicating your strategy effectively

By | Strategy

Putting a strategy map to work

 

Visualising the way forward

Critical research shows that one of the reasons why business strategies stumble and fall short, is a lack of shared vision throughout the organisation.

In most organisations, senior management is tasked with the development of strategy. On completion, the new strategy then cascades down to middle managers for implementation.

But for this process to be successful, senior managers must be equipped to articulate the strategy clearly and succinctly. And they must have the ability to communicate the strategy effectively, making it relevant and inclusive. For, ultimately, it is senior management’s responsibility to turn strategy into action.

Only, studies show that, irrespective of industry or sector, lower-level employees have little to no knowledge of their organisation’s goals, and even less idea of how of their functional roles contribute to the organisation’s strategy.

One way to solve this problem is to use a strategy map. A strategy map is a visual communication tool that enables people to understand organisational strategy, and how to translate it into individual, actionable activities. At its simplest, a strategy map is a diagrammatic representation of the organisation’s strategy that acts as a framework to document strategic goals, as well as the high-level requirements to achieve those goals.

Without a strategy map, an organisation’s KPIs will be limited to operations, rather strategic communications.

 

The eValue Strategy Map

eValue is a performance management survey and scorecard. Unlike most traditional surveys, every question is linked back to your organisation’s specific strategic objectives and business goals. Whether you are driving specific strategies or even measuring the implementation of your overall organisational strategy or specific initiatives, eValue provides instant feedback in real time, enabling accelerated action planning and improvements.

The eValue strategy map is created around questions, such as, “what are we trying to achieve?” and “what are the resources, systems and activities that will make this happen?” In essence, a strategy map raises the level of dialogue from discussions around operations to strategy and strategy implementation, helping to systematically design measures that align with an organisation’s goals.

So, whether you are looking at the organisation as a whole, or constituent elements, such as organisational culture and engagement, or external factors, like customer and channel satisfaction, the advantages of mapping business strategy are multiple.

 

The benefits of mapping your strategy

  • It captures strategy into a single, succinct framework
  • It helps to facilitate discussion around relevant OKRs
  • It helps to identify key focus areas

Using the eValue strategy map helps monitor progress in a dynamic environment, enabling new information to be fed into the framework achieving higher efficacy and better results.

Turning people data into actionable insights

By | Strategy

Closing the strategy and people performance gap

It all starts with insights

An interview with Ron Schiff, founder and CEO of strategy survey platform, eValue to discuss how to help organisations drive culture, engagement and results.

 

You describe eValue as a tool that links strategy and people. Can you expand on this?

Ron: I often cite a Fortune 100 headline that claims that more than 90% of organisations don’t track their key performance indicators. Also, that only 10% of organisational strategies are ever successfully executed. Kaplan and Norton, of the Balanced Scorecard, maintain that relevant and prompt feedback is vital in the execution of strategy.

However, one of the biggest challenges facing business is the overwhelming amount of data to process when identifying and shortlisting priority areas for improvement.

What is needed, really, is an information-gathering tool that links its content with the organisation’s objectives and goals, providing a systemic view of what is working, and which areas require improvement.

Only a small percentage of traditional surveys leverage an organisation towards fulfilling strategic priorities because they tend to focus, either on things like job satisfaction or work-life balance and other respondent-centric elements, or they don’t link what is assessed in the survey to explicit business objectives.

Best-in-class organisations are now insisting that their surveys have a strategic focus in linking employee experiences and engagement levels, with business performance.

As a strategic survey, eValue pre-aligns metrics to business goals. And it does this by highlighting the priority issues, as well as the back-burners. A famous military general once said, “Don’t tell me about the hills and trees on the battlefield – rather tell me which ones are important”.

 

Would you say that the depth and granularity of the data provided by an eValue survey helps eliminate the unconscious, cognitive bias that characterises C-suite decision-making?

Ron: I read once that in project management, prevailing wisdom prescribes the addition of workers to a project that is seen to be lagging. However, in practice, this tactic may slow down development. This example – of cognitive management bias – was commented on by Stephen Hawking who said, “the greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.”

So, while high-level feedback, such as the Net Promoter Score, may serve its purpose as a primary indicator of progress and loyalty, it falls short in answering the “Why” question behind the statistics. Questions like, “why are sales down?”, “why is there a distribution bottleneck?” etc.

eValue provides the “why” behind the “what” and adopts a more granular approach in understanding the perception of products, services, lines of business, systems and resources – much like the Balanced Scorecard – all linked back to specific strategic business goals.

As an example of what I mean by the “why” behind the “what”, I remember the “Aha” moment when a client in the motor industry identified a strategic priority that had emerged from the quantitative survey feedback and supporting qualitative text comments provided by eValue. Up until that point, this client had simply not seen the problem – his one-sided perspective had made him overlook it.

However, biases are often too strong to be overcome through feedback alone. Management needs to learn how to suspend its preconceived ideas, concepts and theories, and actually listen to its people.

 

eValue’s brand positioning – helping business leaders to make better decisions – stems from the latest findings in behaviour science. Can you tell us more?

Ron: I find this emerging discipline fascinating. Since the culture of an organisation reflects the aggregate mindset of its people, I believe that sustainable change really takes root when individuals change their thinking patterns, beliefs and behaviours – not only about their jobs, but about themselves.

However, one of the greatest challenges seems to be the transformation of group behaviour and attitudes. We know how challenging it can be to change a structure or process. But when it comes to changing behaviour, we encounter the most complicated thing in the world – human beings. There is nothing more complex, capable and creative, but also potentially conflicted than our own species.

Neuroscience tells that what we experience (the culture, the people, the environment) affects our emotions, which in turn impacts what we feel. And what we feel influences our thinking and, ultimately, our behaviour.

So, because most of what leads to our behaviour happens in our guts, hearts and brains, the more we understand and apply behaviour-related processes that can rewire our organisational brains, the better.

It all begins with personal awareness and an eValue survey can stimulate group awareness of an organisation’s strategic objectives and key operating requirements.

Is strategy still relevant?

By | Strategy

Why strategy matters. More than ever.

 

Towards purposeful differentiation

The traditional approach to strategy involves three, simple steps: analyse, plan, execute. Great for a world without instant access to people, data and markets. In other words, a pre-digital world. But with the rise of AI, automation, machine learning, mobile internet, blockchain and cloud computing, not only is the traditional approach to strategy irrelevant, it’s absurd.

Anyone in business can see that strategy is evolving; that it is becoming more flexible, adaptable and iterative. In a world where technology is outpacing customary strategic planning cycles, there is a growing realisation that medium- to long-term planning is pointless. Risky, even. And with this realisation comes a new-found understanding; of what strategy is, and is not.

Strategy is not planning. Nor is it goal-setting. Or tactic-tracking.

It is the purposeful direction of people.

‘Purposeful direction’ implies choice; the choice to go one way and not another. And that’s precisely what strategy comes down to: choosing to take a position towards purposeful differentiation.

In a McKinsey interview with Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, Nadella speaks about the company’s purpose in terms that are unmistakably human:

“One of the key things, I feel, is that just like individuals, companies have an identity. I even talk about it as a soul. It’s that collective purpose that a company represents. In Microsoft, we talk about our mission as being empowering every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Every one of those words, for me, telegraphs that soul.”

Nadella is describing Microsoft’s purpose; the position it has chosen in response to its role in the world. And it is not distinct from its strategy.

As CEO, Nadella’s job is not to arrange plans or devise tactics, it is simply to direct purpose. And no one understands this better than Nadella himself.

Strategy is more relevant and more important than ever because, as the pace of change accelerates, organisations are struggling to make the right choices. For many companies, the challenge isn’t even about making the right choices, it’s the inability to make any choices at all. Very quickly, the problem becomes systemic: No decisions, no strategy, no purpose.

But why are organisations failing to make smarter, better decisions?

One reason, is overly-managed and stifled organisations. Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini’s grounding research into corporate bureaucracy reveals that “the average first-level employee in a large organisation is buried under eight or more layers of management”.

Another barrier to effective decision-making is exclusivity. Most organisations – small, medium and large – restrict decision-making to the realm of upper management. Often, at this level, decision-making becomes defunct; either because top-tier individuals are more concerned about self-protection and maintaining the status quo, or because cross-functional decision-making is hindered by silos and silo thinking. Either way, nothing kills purpose and passion faster than bureaucracy and entropy.

But there’s an out. And it’s disarmingly simple: Organisations don’t change for the better – people do.

So, gather your people. Don’t leave anyone out. Invite people to participate in shaping the company’s strategy. Chances are, something new and wonderful will emerge: A strategy for a singularly powerful and shared purpose.