Everyone has a voice. In the business world, however, voices are not always heard. It depends on how well leaders listen to both their employees and their customers.
It’s a scalability challenge. As technology and innovation proceeds at a rapid pace, collecting and analyzing the opinions of these stakeholders feels like an arduous and overwhelming task. Information overload is the business strategy challenge of the 21st century. We have entered the era where data has become integrated into the process of listening and how leaders construct business strategies. It’s important where we listen and how we listen. This article covers some important aspects all business leaders should take into consideration during many decision-making processes while forming business level strategy.
Listen to the Doers
A question:assuming a company’s people are the critical path to successful outcomes, then how come we don’t ask for their input more often? Think about it. Why would you initiate a new corporate policy without first gathering input from your own people?
Look at it this way:Who knows the intersection of customers and company capabilities:journalists and analysts or your people? The principles of “management by walking around” are rooted in the realization that managers and executives can gather a lot of insight into their company’s health by directly talking to those working around them. Many corporations, however, have grown and expanded to the point where this sort of management is no longer practical.
Human data is important because it allows companies to take opinions and “hunches” and translate them into unbiased analysis—segueing the company into a position to make informed business decisions. 9Lenses had the opportunity to help a company quickly gather human data to better understand the corporation’s health when Moreover Technologies’ CEO ran a Business 360 app on his company. Within a year, they tackled the 10-12 key issues and went from several areas below benchmark, to crushing industry benchmarks in culture, process, systems, and strategy.
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Listening to the Customers
The success of future business level strategies will be determined by who listens and reacts and who doesn’t. Blockbuster neglected this strategy by not responding quickly enough to its competition or customers. Even after Blockbuster was acquired by Dish Network in 2011, the company still announced it would shut down all of its privately-owned stores in 2013. Why? Because Blockbuster’s business model didn’t adjust to the customer demand for customization like its competitors did.
On the other hand, Redbox was able to reach this market demand by leveraging analytics. For example, Redbox boasts the flexibility for customers to return a DVD to any kiosk anywhere they’d like. Placement of kiosks, however, is a tricky balance, since cannibalization is always a risk. Because of this, Redbox is intentional in the placement of new kiosks, through recording the movements of the DVDs from pick-up to drop-off. This business strategy occurs through carefully listening to the data from its customers and making adjustments based on those needs.
Data is only as strong as its interpretation. Without proper analysis, any form of data becomes a wall of numbers and unqualified statistics. This makes an unsubstantial contribution to any business decision. But in an era where data is part of everyday life, many companies trip over themselves. The conundrum of information overload and management comes from simply not knowing how to listen to the data as well as simply not knowing where to start.
This is why we go back to the principle of understanding the stakeholders—both inside and outside the company. Internally, a company’s employees often know not only where to start but also how to follow through and who will be able to contribute to the process. This process of understanding the company’s own human data strengthens the team structure as well as the company as a whole.
When you approach your business level strategy, be sure to let the data speak. This means you must listen, and not force your opinion onto the data. Sometimes, leaders need to accept that sometimes what they want to believe does not align with reality. Could human data within the company or from its customers have predicted Blockbuster’s need to break out? It could and probably did, but leaders did not like the data. One cannot let data drive a strategy unless one… lets the data drive the strategy.
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