Category Archives: Market Responsiveness Index

Has Cisco got its strategic alignment right?

creating alignment in a roller-coaster economyCisco’s roller coaster 2012 was due in part to the Eurozone crisis that took a heavy toll on network spending and a subdued US market. It seems set for a better 2013 due to restructuring initiatives, undertaken during 2012, and more favorable prospects in its U.S. market.

Analysts at Forbes report that Cisco has scaled back its ambitions to diversify into 30 new businesses and instead is focusing on those areas that add value to its core routing and switching businesses. As a result, it has restructured its operations and cut jobs in areas that are not its core focus, making the organization leaner and more efficient. It helps Cisco to benefit more from the long-term growth trends of data demand and cloud computing. The analysts report that Cisco’s

“fundamentals remain solid due to the ongoing transition from wired to wireless networks, the burgeoning usage of data on both mobile and wired networks as well as a strong demand for cloud-computing routing solutions on the enterprise side.”

Cisco has also announced the acquisition of Meraki, a smaller networking firm that provides cloud-based services to small and mid-sized companies. This acquisition gives Cisco a big opportunity to tap into the fast growing mid-market segment as well as use Meraki’s product line to create a compelling cloud-based platform for bigger customers down the road. With businesses increasingly looking to move to the cloud and networks becoming more software and cloud-focused, Cisco’s move will help it address changing trends and compete better with fast-growing rivals such as Aruba Networks. Alcatel Lucent’s recent foray into core routers also poses a risk for Cisco.

The omens are good for Cisco, but the combined effects of restructuring, refocusing, acquisitions and more aggressive competitors place substantial strain on the resilience of its culture.

While senior management might be clear on strategy and focus, does strategic alignment exist across the reduced workforce and the recently acquired Meraki?

Has the company retained its innovative customer-centric culture? Is the company measuring and benchmarking its customer-centricity to identify any potential weaknesses and associated risks to growth and profitability?

For Cisco to gain the momentum that analysts expect it will need to ensure its strategic re-alignment is embedded in all parts of the business. This means that all employees and contractors need to understand what the strategic focus is and how it translates into their everyday work. They then need to consistently act to support it and the goals of the business by providing superior value to customers.

There is no room for complacency at Cisco. We have seen the havoc that has been wrought on Hewlett-Packard’s culture and its subsequent business performance through acquisitions and frequent refocusing in recent years.

Do you have strategic alignment embedded in your business?

Has your business undergone restructuring and refocusing in the last 2 years?

Do people in all functions and groups know your vision and strategy and exactly how they are supporting it in their everyday work?

The only real way to find out is to measure and benchmark your level of strategic alignment.

What is Hewlett-Packard missing in creating its future? Only the most important ingredient!

the missing piece - customer culture

Almost all organizations develop annual plans and budgets. Many have strategic plans that are designed to chart their way through the next 3 to 5 years. A few use scenario planning to identify possible future environments and plot strategies and contingencies to deal with different scenarios as they occur.

In Chaotics, authors Philip Kotler and John Caslione demonstrate that it’s a simple and profoundly important fact that the practice of management needs retooling. They go on to provide business leaders with a system for navigating the turbulent times we are facing.

The tool that most companies have missed in working to create their futures is the adaptive, future oriented, customer-centric culture that enables them to prosper in an environment of continuous change and turbulence.

Hewlett-Packard is one of many examples of missed opportunities and lack of attention to cultural fit – both in terms of the absorption of their acquisitions such as its latest debacle with Autonomy and through losing its customer-centric culture led by a succession of CEOs that lost focus on what has made HP great – its people and their relationships with customers (supported by quality products).

HP cannot re-create its former greatness unless it revisits the fundamentals of developing an adaptive, future-oriented customer culture. To do this it must start by measuring its current level of customer-centricity in all its businesses – in all functions and in all groups. This will tell it where its strengths and weaknesses lie and what it needs to do to create the culture it needs for the future. These measurement benchmarks will tell HP which parts of the business are most at risk to current and future turbulence and what it must do to mitigate those risks. They will also tell HP what they can expect in trends in business results (revenue, profit, customer retention, new product success) in different parts of their business.

If HP does not use the right diagnostic tools to measure and benchmark its level of customer culture which includes its adaptability and future orientation it will be missing its most important element for creating its future. It will be making decisions in part blindfolded and it will be relying on luck, rather than well founded judgment to secure its future.

Does your business have a culture that can secure its future? Do you systematically measure it in a way that ties relevant cultural attributes to future business performance?

7 ways to make a customer culture stick

how to make customer culture stick

Research and experience show there are 4 stages to getting and keeping a customer culture: Initiation, Implementation, Embedding and Reinforcement. In my last two posts I outlined the actions to take at the initiation and implementation stages. In this post I focus on the 7 actions to take during the embedding stage.

The focus of this stage is on institutionalizing the customer culture through supporting systems, on-going training, increased employee empowerment and accountability of all individuals and teams for delivering an improved customer experience.

1. Formalization of customer culture through symbols, rituals and artifacts

This often includes organization structure changes, more open office designs, images of customers taking precedence over images of products, customer invitations to corporate meetings and cross-function teams evaluating new market opportunities.

2. Development of customer focus behaviors at leader and individual levels

Key performance indicators measuring the level of customer focus are formalized for performance reviews and designing personal development programs.

3. Delegation of decisions from the Customer Engagement Council (made up of senior and influential leaders) to all organization members

The power to make decisions on behalf of the company shifts to all employees within an agreed framework. This new empowerment and accountability is sometimes hard to accept by long-standing employees. Some companies have used a “buddy” approach to help less experienced staff gain new skills and confidence.

4. Measurement of customer culture

Culture change is not a “bolt-on”; it is a “built-in” process. Effectively done, it can’t be “unbolted”. Measurement covering the breadth and depth of the organization is necessary to determine to what extent customer culture has been built in.

5. Measurement of customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy against targets

Ongoing measurement is part of customer culture embedding and provides a frequent benchmark of customer engagement performance. It guides how the organization needs to adapt to changing market trends and customer needs.

6. Formal alignment of rewards and recognition with customer metrics

Remuneration systems and promotion is formally tied to customer culture behaviors and customer engagement performance.

7. On-going training program

This is valuable for two groups:

  • new and recent hires
  • pockets and groups within the organization found to be lacking a customer mindset and relevant skills

Documented case studies of successes and learnings are often used to demonstrate successful customer engagement experiences.

My next post will outline the actions required to reinforce the customer culture and avoid the complacency and arrogance that frequently occurs with sustained success.

How to be a “game changer” in your business

We just recently released a new case study on the CMO of Franke, Charles F Lawarence. It tells the story of the impact a “Market Responsiveness Index” survey can have on your company and career.

Charles described the experience best himself:

“This MRI tool was a game changer for Franke and me personally.”

The tool allowed Charles to quickly gain insight into the organization he was leading. It highlighted areas of organizational  strength and weakness as it relates to customers and alignment around the Franke brand and customer experience.

More importantly, it provided a rallying point for change and action planning.

You can download and read more about Charles and the Franke story here.