I wrote yesterday about the wonderful work of Gallup in documenting the global problem of the disengaged workforce. The extent of the problem varies from country to country, but it is present everywhere. The results of the survey are summarized in a short document on the Gallup website entitled, “Employee Engagement: What’s Your Engagement Ratio?” The document is truly insightful when it comes to documenting the scale of the problem and the need to do something about it.
The document is less helpful when it gets to precisely what should be done about it. It lists the “The 12 Elements of Great Managing” as follows:
- I know what is expected of me at work.
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
- At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
- My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.
- At work, my opinions seem to count.
- The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
- My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
- I have a best friend at work.
- In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
- This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
Given the title of this post, I am not offering a prize to anyone who can spot what’s wrong with this list.
A mind-boggling omission
Once again, there is a shocking, mind-boggling omission: the customer or client (or stakeholder) is totally absent from the picture.
It’s not that the Gallup organization as a whole doesn’t know that the customer is important: they have a wonderful section on their website entitled “Customer engagement” and explain:
“What strategy does your organization use to engage its customers? And how do you know whether your efforts are paying off? World-class organizations unleash their potential for growth by optimizing their customer relationships. Organizations that have optimized engagement have outperformed their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth. Their customers buy more, spend more, return more often, and stay longer.”
However when it comes to compiling a list of the twelve most important elements of “great managing”, the customer is nowhere to be seen. It’s not that the things included in the elements of “great managing” aren’t important. They are. The problem is that the most important element—the customer—is not there.
When push comes to shove, the customer is missing in action.
A pervasive mental model of management
It’s exactly the same problem that I noted last week with the popular blog post, “12 Things Good Bosses Believe”, which totally omits any explicit reference to the customer. It’s not that the author doesn’t know that the customer is important. He has written about it eloquently in his recent post, “The Power of Observing and Talking To Real Humans”.
In an intellectual sense, the Gallup organization knows that the customer is important.
I am not picking on the Gallup organization for this particular piece, which could easily be corrected.
Rather I am pointing to a pervasive mental model of management that results in the customer getting the short end of the stick in the real world of business. The mental model is defective because it omits what should be the central preoccupation of a manager: the customer It’s like having a guide to running a power plant that fails to mention electricity.
The reality is that the omission of the customer in these documents is not an accident. In fact, it reflects a mental model of “management without the customer” that is still the norm in the Fortune 500. Business schools continue to teach it. Consultants are paid large amounts of money to embed it into organizational systems and procedures. Management books continue to recommend it. And websites like these hold it up as an example for firms to follow. As a result, the Fortune 500 continue on their steep performance decline. The health sector continues on its course to bankrupt the country. The education sector increasingly fails to educate our children for the future.
A ferocious desire to delight the customer
In the age of customer capitalism, the goal of the firm, and everyone in the firm, particularly the managers, has to be that of delighting customers (or in the case of the public sector, stakeholders). The key to an enduring future is to have a customer who is willing to buy goods and services both today and tomorrow. It’s not about a transaction; it’s about forging a relationship. For this to happen, the customer must be more than passively satisfied. The customer must be delighted. To accomplish this, both managers and workers must have a ferocious desire to delight the customer.
A whole set of books that describe this way of managing is now available. It includes The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison, Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati, or The New Capitalist Manifesto by Umair Haque, and Leadership in a Wiki World by Rod Collins.
My own book, The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century offers a comprehensive account of the principle and practices of customer capitalism.
To learn more: May 12-13 in Washington DC
If you would like to get together with others who are intent on mastering what’s involved in creating a workplace which continuous innovation and customer delight are truly at the center, please join me, Rod Collins (author of Leadership in a Wiki World, Seth Kahan (author of Getting Change Right) and others for two days on May 12-13 in Washington DC. Cool, innovative and serious fun.
Don’t delay: the early bird discount ends March 31. More details here.