Who is Your Customer?

Who is Your Customer?
Posted by   | May 19th, 2015 | No Comments

In our work we’ve found that the answer to this question is a common point of divergence. The “customer” definition gets convoluted because it refers to many diverse groups. There are suppliers and buyers, internal and external customers, distributors, influencers and users who all may be referred to as customers.  Multiple definitions create confusion. Confusion slows growth, creativity and productivity.



Recently I spoke with a mom who shared that while the playground at the new Maggie Daley Park is beautiful it was not designed with parents or children in mind. She took her four year old there to enjoy the slides, swings and super fun playground gear.


Unfortunately the design of the equipment puts children out of their parent’s sight. When Isla got scared of going down the slide, a kind older child was able to help her out of the tower and down the stairs to the comfort of her mother’s arms. Can you imagine a playground design where parents are unable to see and even reach their child? This is an example of a designer who created a beautiful space without keeping the customer in mind.


Who is the customer? Was it the city who purchased the spiffy set of equipment? Was it the residents who live in the neighborhood? Was it the children who play in the playground? Each answer leads to a different outcome.


When deciding who the customer is, the focus should always be on the people using the product. They are the ones for whom value is being created and the reason why the market and the product exists. In this case the parents (who decide whether or not to take their children to the park) were not considered the customer. While the children have a fun playset, the design prevents their parents from reaching them in case of distress. Apparently the city didn’t consider parents and children as their customer.


Imagine an organization where employees all have a different definition of the customer. This leads to confusion and lack of internal focus which ultimately inhibits the organizations ability to create value and grow. To profit from your customer, you must know who they are. If customer confusion reigns, invest the time in creating clarity.

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    The Good Life

    The Good Life
    Posted by   | May 12th, 2015 | No Comments

    How do you define success? If you do not have clarity about what success is then all roads lead there. Without clarity you may never arrive or worse yet, arrive at a destination (or outcome) you never intended.


    Whether you are defining a task, creating a project scope statement or thinking about your life, it’s critical to make the time to define success.


    As you create a definition of success consider:


    What does “good enough” look like? Perfection is an impossible goal. When you are clear on “good enough” then take time to celebrate when you’ve reached it!


    What is finished? We were working with a project team who was unable to define what “finished” meant. It created tremendous frustration for everyone being impacted by the project. To move on to what’s next it’s helpful to have closure. Unclear definitions of finished mean that you’ll never really be done.


    Does it matter when? Is there a specific time frame that’s critical? Some goals are fabulous if they’re completed. Other goals are interdependent or have time boundaries. Be clear on timing.


    What will be different (mindset, behavior or skills?) Make sure your definition is complete and includes the components that really matter. We’ve observed many incomplete definitions that lead to less than satisfactory outcomes because they didn’t include these other dimensions.


    If anything is important enough to give your time to, it’s important to make the time to define success. What outcome will make the investment of your time worthwhile?


    We believe that the good life is different for everyone. What does success mean to you? Or as Clayton Christensen wrote about,How Will You Measure Your Life?

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      Are You Innovative?

      Are You Innovative?
      Posted by   | May 5th, 2015 | No Comments


      According to research, leaders of the most innovative companies don’t delegate creative work. They do it themselves.

      Did you know that you can increase your innovative aptitude? Studies haves shown that your ability to generate innovative ideas is not merely a function of the mind, but also a function of behaviors. If you change your behavior you will change your innovation impact.

      Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen studied the habits of 25 innovative entrepreneurs and surveyed more than 3,000 executives and 500 individuals who had started innovative companies or invented new products. They identified the five learnable skills of disruptive innovators; Associating, Questioning, Observing, Networking and Experimenting.

      According to Jeff and Hal, “Innovators ask provocative questions that challenge the status quo.  They observe the world like anthropologists to detect new ways of doing things.  They network with people who don’t look or think like them to gain radically different perspectives.  They experiment relentlessly to test new ideas and try out new experiences.  Finally, these behaviors trigger new associations which let them connect the unconnected, thereby producing disruptive ideas.

      To see Hal share more about this in his own words watch this VIDEO


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        Innovation Insights

        Innovation Insights
        Posted by   | April 28th, 2015 | No Comments

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        Are you inundated with information on innovation? The problem is that organizations are often paying lip service to innovation but their culture, processes and structures are stifling potential innovation and producing no results.


        Leaders must break away from traditional ways of thinking and create cultures where the status quo is challenged. Rather than create innovation departments, innovation roles or innovation centers, leaders need to ensure their organizational culture embraces innovation so that it flourishes and delivers results.


        Some thoughts on breaking away from traditional ways of thinking:


        • Pull a George – remember The Opposite episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tells George that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite must be right.” George proceeds to do everything opposite of what he normally would do. While this shouldn’t be adopted as a life philosophy, new insights and ideas may emerge when you take a position opposite to what you normally would. Conformity can kill innovation. So when everyone agrees on something, take an opposite perspective and see how this vantage point gives you some different insights that can lead to innovation.
        • Permission to Fail (in order to learn from failures and adjust accordingly) – to thrive, innovation requires people to have permission to be curious, crazy and courageous in coming up with unique ideas. It requires permission to fail in the pursuit a unique and useful idea that is serving a business purpose. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon said in a Geek Wire interview, “I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work. And, I am never concerned about that…. We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.”
        • Embrace Discomfort – this is really tough. Human beings crave certainty and comfort. Be intentional about asking difficult questions, exploring seemingly unrelated topics and even physically being in different space. This demonstrates that it’s okay not to be “buttoned up” at all times. Show that as a leader, you are okay trying new things or not having all the answers. Discomfort and uncertainty can create new insights that the comfort of status quo would never reveal.


        In Peter Drucker‘s HBR article, The Discipline of Innovation hedefines innovation as “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.” He says it’s the work of knowing rather than doing. Check out his article for seven sources of innovation.

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          Selling and Change

          Selling and Change
          Posted by   | April 21st, 2015 | No Comments

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          Here are insights from Dan Pink’s keynote presentation at Change Management 2015.


          When you are facilitating others to change, you must “sell them” on the new process, system, idea (mindset) or behaviors. Change is about persuasion which essential is selling.


          The ABC’s of successful selling:

          • Attunement – tune in to others and get out of your own head. When you are persuading someone else you need to understand his or her point of view. Dan’s research shows that when people feel powerful they are much worse at seeing things from another person’s perspective. Humility is the key here. When you lessen your power and “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” you do a better job of responding to concerns and anticipating problems.
          • Buoyancy – this is about resilience. There is a lot of rejection that will take place when leading change. An expected part of change is resistance. It’s not good or bad, it just is. So how you handle this inevitable part of selling (or change) is a very important skill.
          •  Clarity – you must be clear about how the change will solve a problem. Dan talked about how there is less value in problem solving than in problem finding. If you think about it, anyone can find a solution on the internet. We need to improve our ability to create clarity about problems versus being a fantastic problem solvers. Solving the wrong problem is a common corporate malady. We call this solving symptoms rather than finding the root cause and solving the real problem.


          Another interesting insight from Dan’s presentation was about the ideal salesperson. We are led to believe that outgoing extroverts make the best sales people. Research from Wharton’s Adam Grant finds that the link between extroversion and actual performance has no correlation. The most effective sales people are in the middle of the scale between extroversion and introversion. They’re what he calls “ambiverts.”


          One final insight is that the most effective messages don’t try to convert people or convince them. Effective messages or pitches bring others into a conversation as a co-creator. How can you involve your change targets in a conversation about the change?


          For additional insights from Dan, check out his website, the 15 minute summary or read To Sell is Human.

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            Make Your Own Weather *

            Make Your Own Weather *
            Posted by   | April 7th, 2015 | No Comments

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            While it makes sense to check the weather so you know whether to grab your sunglasses or umbrella when you walk out the door, it is not useful to allow the weather to dictate your day.

            Autonomy is the state of functioning independently without extraneous influence. This is one of three motivating components that Dan Pink talks about in his book, Drive.

            The interesting thing about autonomy is that it has a lot to do with personal choice and perception. You have a choice in the way that you respond to anything that happens. While you can’t change the facts you can change the way you perceive things.



            Tips for changing your weather forecast:

            Decide - when you get up in the morning, decide that you are going to have a great day. When life tries to convince you otherwise, find the blessing in the bad news.

            Change your vantage point – when you are always looking into the horizon, you will never arrive at your destination. Take a moment and celebrate what’s been accomplished. Rejoice in what is rather than what isn’t.

            You decide how to experience your life. So make your own mental weather. We wish you a balmy seventy plus degree day with a warm breeze and abundant sunshine.

            * inspired by a conversation today with one of our favorite CEO’s

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              Value Outcomes

              Value Outcomes
              Posted by   | March 31st, 2015 | No Comments


              The purpose of organizational values is NOT to decorate the walls or to create new trinkets to hand out to employees. Clear and well-understood values create a framework that enhances personal and organizational performance by encouraging positive organizational behaviors.

              The value of values is multifold. First, they improve consistency in decision making. Second, they provide boundaries and set expectations about behavior and what is or is not acceptable. Finally, values serve as guideposts along the journey, reminding people how to behave as they move forward to the future.

              Three Steps to Values

              1. Define  – keep it simple and identify the behaviors you want from the members in your organization. Your values should encourage members to interact with people and approach tasks ways that produce positive outcomes for themselves and the organization.
              2. Align  – stated values (what you say) must match operating values (what you do.) We’ve observed many organizations that are out of alignment and do not receive the benefits from the values they invested time in defining.
              3. Reinforce  – stories and examples are essential to proactively reinforce the meaning of values. If an employee acts in a manner contrary to the intent of the value, the behavior must be addressed. Overlooking violations, even small infractions, begins to blur the true definition of the value and diminishes the value of values. Recognize and reward behaviors that support the values of the organization. You get more of what you celebrate, so intentionally reinforce the demonstration of values.


              High performing organizations (and people) know what they believe and incorporate it into everything they do. Everyone, from top to bottom understands and acts according to these core values. 


              If you do not have well defined, operational values we encourage you to make the time to define them. If you have values in place, do an annual assessment to determine whether they are producing the outcomes you intended.

              Contact Scott or Donna if you are interested in comparing your ideal culture to your current culture. You will see where your values gaps are and get strategies to address the gaps.


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                Make it Right

                Make it Right
                Posted by   | March 24th, 2015 | No Comments

                The Story:


                On the way to a meeting yesterday, the tire pressure light appeared on the dashboard. The meeting was immediately followed by a visit to Just Tires. They took a look at the tire and found the cause, there was a nail embedded in the tread of the tire. They quoted a price and I settled in for a wait. Fifteen minutes later a crest fallen employee came out and told me that the tire had been irreparably damaged while removing it from the rim.


                My tire was damaged and there was nothing they could do but replace it with a new one. A replacement required one of their technicians to drive to a tire supplier 40 minutes away.  I asked about the safety of one new tire and three worn tires. They decided to make it right and provide two new tires.


                The manager was apologetic about the four hour wait. He charged me nothing, apologized profusely and gave me a three year warranty on my two brand new tires.


                Thank you Just Tires, that was making it right.


                The Lesson:


                Everyone makes mistakes. It’s taking responsibility and making it right, that makes a difference.

                • Taking responsibility means that “the buck stops here.”
                • Taking responsibility means, no excuses and no explanations.
                • Taking responsibility means making it right.


                When you make a mistake:


                ACKNOWLEDGE – you start by recognizing that you made a mistake. This doesn’t mean YOU are a bad person. You are not a failed human being. Life happens but when mistakes are made, it’s critical to recognize them.


                APOLOGIZE – Too many times, people make a mistake and believe that “I’m sorry” is sufficient. While it’s not sufficient, it’s important to acknowledge the mistake to anyone impacted.


                Make AMMENDS – quite simple, this is about fixing the mistake. You make it right when you make amends.

                Everyone is human. When the tire technician came to tell me what happened, he acknowledged what happened and apologized. Then Just Tires made it right by making amends and providing two new tires.

                When you make a mistake, make it right; acknowledge, apologize and make amends.

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                  Getting Lucky

                  Getting Lucky
                  Posted by   | March 17th, 2015 | No Comments

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                  Have you heard the quote, “luck is where preparation meets opportunity?” This is a fantastic perspective to understand how to increase your luck. We want you to get lucky, so increase your preparation in order to be ready for the opportunities that are coming your way.


                  This perspective was reinforced in a chapter toward the end of Great by Choice called “Return on Luck.” There were a lot of different variables studied by Collins and his team as they investigated the phenomenon of luck.  They concluded that luck does not account for success.


                  Both successful and less than successful organizations have similar amounts of luck.  The research showed that it is how you take advantage of good luck and are prepared for bad luck that accounts for great success.


                  The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman presents four principles that are foundational to getting lucky.


                  1. See it. When you believe you are lucky, you create, notice and act upon opportunities.


                  2. Pay Attention. Use your internal guidance system of intuition and gut feelings.


                  3.  Expect it. Never let go of the belief that you are lucky as you persevere in achieving your goals.


                  4. Believe it. This could also be the silver lining principle. While some people would consider something “bad luck,” a lucky person figures out how to make it good luck. A lucky person knows that everything will work out for the best.


                  If you believe you are lucky or believe you are unlucky, you are right. You get to choose! We hope you decide to be lucky.

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                    A Person of Interest

                    A Person of Interest
                    Posted by   | March 11th, 2015 | No Comments

                    Networking Doesn’t Work…but connecting does.

                    The tradition of networking at events usually involves asking the other person “what do you do?” and exchanging business cards. Then of course you follow up with a connection on LinkedIn. The definition of success for these types of events is the number of meaningful connections not the number of people you collect cards from.

                    We suggest you focus on connecting instead of card collecting.

                    Connecting with others is invaluable if you think about the benefits of having wide connections (lots of people in your network) versus narrow connections (few people in your network.) Wide connections can help you open doors to new opportunities or new relationships. It’s who you know not just what you know or what you can do that will enable you to be successful in business.

                    Tips for Connecting:

                    Be a Person of Interest. People like to spend time with other people who are fun, friendly, interesting and potentially valuable to their career. You become a person of interest by being authentically who you are, being well read and having thoughtful positions on a variety of topics.

                    Add Value. You have tremendous value to share. You must believe this yourself before other people will believe you. As our mentor says, the first sale is to yourself. Through meaningful connections you can help others succeed. Lead with the value you offer and others will be magnetically attracted to you.

                    Focus (be intentional.) If you believe in the power of connecting then you understand that there are some people who are more appropriate to be connected to than others. Prepare in advance by thinking about who you want to meet and focus on getting connected with them rather than making accidental connections at an event or through colleagues.

                    Ask Great Questions. Recently a friend shared the most fabulous redirect question to use during the traditional networking event. When someone asks what you do, say “I’d be happy to answer that but I have a really important question I’d like to ask first.” Proceed to ask, “what is the most challenging thing you’ve experienced this past _____ (week, day, month, you decide the time frame.)” Once they’ve answered then follow up with, “what did you do about that.” This changes the nature of the conversation and allows you to get to a deeper conversation.

                    Networking is a great concept but it needs to be put into action as connecting with purpose. There are benefits to having meaningful connections in your life and when you are a person of interest, you add value in every conversation, you are intentional and you ask great questions…you will build wide connections that open doors in your life and your career.



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