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Archive for August, 2010

Who is your customer?

Firstly, let’s define the term ‘customer’. Over the years I’ve seen many weird and wonderful definitions, all in an attempt to get staff at all levels to implement organisational strategies. In one organisation everyone was told that their customer was every internal person they dealt with – if they did not deal directly with the organisation’s customers. How ridiculous! Defining a customer is relatively easy – it is someone with the authority, means and intention to buy goods or services from you. ‘Potential’ customers haven’t yet defined their intention to do so.

This simple definition means there are only two customers (and for business owners and CEs of Government departments, only one) that you need to satisfy. If you keep these customers happy your business and career is sure to flourish.

Firstly, keep happy the person who buys your services – yes, your immediate boss! Whoever is directly responsible for your remuneration should be your number one customer. Plain and simple. Unless you are unlucky enough to have landed a bully-boss (and if so, I suggest you get out of there quick) satisfying your personal customer ie boss, will take you a long way. If you are the boss, then make sure you are expecting the right things from your team so that your business can grow.

The other customers you must help satisfy are the organisation’s customers – the people who buy the organisation’s good or services. Even if you don’t deal directly with the organisational customer, somehow what you do is impacting the customers, otherwise you shouldn’t be there. Every person should regularly review how well they are doing that within their sphere of expertise. And if your organisation is to grow and thrive, you (and everyone else) must also take a strategic view of who potential customers might be, and attract them to your organisation.

At this point it’s important to note that sometimes the customer is not the person who deals most with your organisation. Obvious examples are government services, local bodies and services for children. In these cases, it’s critical to identify how the customer gets information that influences whether they continue to buy. For example, if you work at a distance from your boss, you need to know how s/he is assessing your performance. Equally, if your customers do not directly experience your product or service, you must know how they are judging your performance, and ensure that their feedback will be excellent.

If you can get the balance right between satisfying organisational customers and your personal customer ie boss, you can have a thriving career and thriving organisation. Your ability to identify how your role can better serve the organisational customer, and attract potential customers, is likely to get you noticed as someone able to think strategically about customer service. Or if you are the business owner, build your competitive advantage.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Are you strategic enough?

Most professionals and operational experts have been rewarded throughout their study and experience on the job for their critical analysis skills and the ability to assess risk and offer expert advice.  The more competent the person, the more likely it is they can quickly judge ideas from an implementation perspective.  However, these very skills that have lead to a certain level within their career can begin to fail them as they seek more strategic roles.  Their expert risk analysis and sometimes detailed questions frustrate some others, who can perceive them as negative and too low level.  And yet, some manage to have technical competence and also be deemed strategic thinkers by others.  In over a decade of responsibility for developing future leaders in corporate settings, I began to identify the characteristics that lead senior managers to predict certain people as having the ability to move into strategic roles.  I call this attribute Strategical Savvy.

Strategical Savvy differs from Political Savvy, in that Political Savvy is the ability to connect with the ‘right’ people in an organisation, get involved with high profile projects and events, and be able to say and do the right things to make a positive impression.  Strategical Savvy is more specifically about hearing an idea or suggestion and responding in a way that others can recognise as strategic rather than operational.

To develop Strategical Savvy, you must:

  • Have some knowledge of the trends in business generally and in your industry in particular
  • ask questions that explore how the idea presented might align with key strategies and how they might impact across the whole organisation and its various parts
  • understand how an idea could be implemented in a particular role or task
  • have the personal discipline to refrain from voicing any initial view of the idea too soon
  • respond in a way that indicates that you have heard and understood the strategic implications before considering the specific impacts.

Handling strategic conversations effectively can avoid you being perceived as ‘not strategic’, even when disagreeing with the idea or exploring negative consequences.

 Strategical Savvy can be learnt, just like any other behavioural competency.  Even highly detailed experts can learn to relate to strategic ideas and concepts in ways that allow them to contribute from their area of expertise and still present themselves to others as positive and strategic.

Are You A Strategic Thinker?

Have ever been told you are not a strategic thinker? Is strategic thinking a competency required for your next career step? Are you wanting to align your team’s activities to organisational goals? Are you wanting long-term business or career success? Then it’s probably in your interests to understand how to have, what I call, ‘strategical savvy’.

Although there are a range of models for use in strategic planning, being strategically savvy is more about strategic thinking and conversations. A difficulty with strategic thinking is a lack of consensus of what it actually is. There does seem to be general agreement amongst researchers that:
· Strategic thinking is more important than ever in our increasingly interdependent and global world
· Strategic thinking improves operational decisions and planning
· Strategic thinking involves creative thinking
· Strategic thinking involves systems thinking
· Most people are not strategic thinkers, even if their position title indicates they are, or they think they are.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that strategic thinking in a planning context involves creating a vision and developing a plan to get to the vision. While this may be relevant for high level executives and strategic planners it is not highly useful for professionals and operational managers within organisations. They need a different model because they are rarely responsible for developing the vision or strategic plan, but are often required to contribute to it, comment on initiatives and policies being developed by others, implement strategy they have not been involved in creating or devise policies or processes that have strategic fit. Most of these involve some level of interaction or relationship with strategic thinkers and planners.

When strategic issues are being discussed it easy for operational or professional experts to quickly judge ideas from an implementation perspective. Often these people can quickly and accurately judge operational impacts of strategic ideas but their questions and comments frustrate the strategists who can perceive them as negative and too low level. ‘Strategical savvy’ is about asking the right questions at the right time in order to understand where strategic ideas are coming from and to indicate to others that you have heard and understood the strategic implications before considering the operational impacts. Handling these conversations effectively can avoid others perceiving you as ‘not strategic’.

Just as strategic thinking can be learnt, so can ‘strategical savvy’. Even highly detailed and operational experts can learn to relate to strategic ideas and concepts in ways that allow them to contribute from their area of expertise and still present themselves to others as positive and strategic.

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