When someone works hard on themselves, they build a life worth living. Employees receive a customized Monopoly board look-alike on their first day. Yet Lindsey considers the investment in each individual well worth the price.
Culture for a digital age
The completed boards hang proudly in employee offices like trophies, but the true reward is seeing how individual employees grow through their shared experiences. The Leadership Challenge provides employees and their families an opportunity to take a service trip to Mexico to build houses for the under resourced and homeless. Rather than a company-mandated service day, Lindsey offers his employees up to four days of time off per year dedicated to serving an organization of their choice. Employees started sharing stories of how they used their time off and connecting with one another in new ways.
Eventually, Lindsey decided to continue the positive momentum by launching a contest.
The instructions were simple: within a given timeframe, participants were asked to form employee teams of five to 10 people and select a nonprofit organization of their choice to serve. Teams were then encouraged to submit a short, 2-minute video highlighting their service project to be eligible for prize money for their charities. The top teams at a large global financial-services player and an IT-services company have been reevaluating all of their businesses with a five- to ten-year time horizon, determining which ones they will need to exit, where they need to invest, and where they can stay the course.
The financial markets are double-edged swords when it comes to bold moves. Companies like GE have nonetheless plunged ahead with long-term, digitally oriented strategies.
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Although companies have long declared their intention to get close to their customers, the digital age is forcing them to actually do it, as well as providing them with better means to do so. Accustomed to best-in-class user experiences both on- and off-line with companies such as Amazon and Apple, customers increasingly expect companies to respond swiftly to inquiries, to customize products and services seamlessly, and to provide easy access to the information customers need, when they need it.
The good news is that getting closer to your customers can help reduce the risk of experimentation as customers help cocreate products through open innovation and support fast-paced change. This is already taking place in products from Legos to aircraft engines.
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The process not only helps derisk product development, it tightens the relationship between companies and their customers, often providing valuable proprietary data and insights about how customers think about and use the products or services being created. Underlying the new customer-centricity are diverse tools and data. Connecting the right data to the right decisions can help build a common understanding of customer needs into an organizational culture, fostering a virtuous cycle that reinforces customer-centricity.
But even those were tied to the customer desire to receive merchandise faster. At its best, customer-centricity extends far beyond marketing and product design to become a unifying cultural element that drives all core decisions across all areas of the business. Customer-centric cultures anticipate emerging patterns in the behavior of customers and tailor relevant interactions with them by dynamically integrating structured data, such as demographics and purchase history, with unstructured data, such as social media and voice analytics. The insurance company Progressive illustrates the unifying role played by strong customer focus.
Snapshot helps attract the good drivers who are the most profitable customers, since those individuals are the ones most likely to be attracted by the offer of better discounts based on driving behavior. This new technology is one that Progressive can monetize into a business unit to serve other insurers as well. But silos are more than just lines and boxes. The narrow, parochial mentality of workers who hesitate to share information or collaborate across functions and departments can be corrosive to organizational culture.
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The possibilities created by combining data science, design, and human science underscore the importance both of working cross-functionally and of driving customer-centricity into the everyday operations of the business. Many organizations have yet to unlock that potential. The executives we surveyed appeared to agree, ranking siloed thinking and behavior number one among obstacles to a healthy digital culture.
How can you tell if your own organization is too siloed? Discussions with CEOs who have led old-line companies through successful digital transformations indicate two primary symptoms: inadequate information, and insufficient accountability or coordination on enterprise-wide initiatives. Digital information breakdowns echo the familiar story of the blind men and the elephant.
When employees lack insight into the broader context in which a business competes, they are less likely to recognize the threat of disruption or digital opportunity when they see it and to know when the rest of the organization should be alerted. They can only interpret what they encounter through the lens of their own narrow area of endeavor.
The corollary to this is that every part of the organization reaches different conclusions about their digital priorities, based on incomplete or simply different information. This contributes to breaks in strategic and operating consistency that consumers are fast to spot.
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So the first imperative for companies looking to break out of a siloed mentality is to inspire within employees a common sense of the overall direction and purpose of the company. Data and thoughtful management rotation often play a role.
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Data-driven transparency. Data can help solve the blind-men-and-the-elephant problem. Among other things, this required close examination of how the company collected, analyzed, and distributed data across silos. The team discovered, for example, that some customers were cancelling their memberships because of the deluge of marketing outreaches they were receiving from the company. To address this, the team combined customer databases and propensity models across silos to create visibility and centralized access rights with regard to who could reach out to members and when.
Among other achievements, this team:. Management rotation. Companies can counter this by institutionalizing mechanisms to help support cross-functional collaboration through flexibly deployed teams. That was the case at ING, which, because it identifies more as a technology company than a financial-services company, has turned to tech firms for inspiration, not banks. Spotify, in particular, has provided a much-talked-about model of multidisciplinary teams, or squads, made up of a mix of employees from diverse functions, including marketers, engineers, product developers, and commercial specialists.
All are united by a shared view of the customer and a common definition of success. These squads roll up into bigger groups called tribes, which focus on end-to-end business outcomes, forcing a broader picture on all team members. While this model works best in IT functions, it is slowly making its way into other areas of the business.
Key elements of the model such as end-to-end outcome ownership are also being mapped into more traditional teams to try to bring at least pieces of this mind-set into more traditional companies.
go site Start by finding mechanisms, whether digital, structural, or process, that help build a shared understanding of business priorities and why they matter. Change happens fast and from unpredictable places, and the more context you give your employees, the better they will be able to make the right decisions when it does. To achieve this, organizations must remove the barriers that keep people from collaborating, and build new mechanisms for cutting through or eliminating altogether the red tape and bureaucracy that many incumbents have built up over time. Cultural changes within corporate institutions will always be slower and more complex than the technological changes that necessitate them.
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