With today’s availability of countless sophisticated tools, software and management systems, customized training programs, and strategic planning applications, it can be easy to forget the reason we have all of these tools and systems in the first place: the customer.
One of the hallmarks of change transformation is implementation of new tools and systems. Droves of companies and organizations are increasingly embracing comprehensive management systems to improve operational efficiency, performance analysis tools, organization alignment optimization and more. All come with a measure of bells and whistles that address specific problem areas and provide solutions for optimizing performance in everything from people management, data compilation and interpretation, and transaction processing to office automation, executive decision-making, information technology, and every conceivable aspect of an organization’s operation.
The impetus in the design and creation of these systems is—or should be—the customer: how best to meet customers’ and stakeholders’ needs and enhance their experience. Yet amid the attention focused on learning the details and capabilities of a new program, customers and stakeholders sometimes fade from the radar screen in favor of the program itself, what it needs and all it can do. “It’s all about the customer” becomes “It’s about the new program.”
Staying on Track
Many of these programs are attractive to managers for their promise and potential, yet can be time- and labor-intensive to install and implement. The training and implementation of some systems can take several months, even years. As a result, teams often get sidetracked into learning how best to operate and apply programs, train users, and integrate new techniques into their operations.
The primary challenge for project managers leading such teams in a change transformation is to maintain the original intent behind the improvement effort or program. This should be aligned with the organization’s goal of understanding customers’ and stakeholders’ requirements at a fundamental level—to fully grasp the work they are endeavoring to do, and offer solutions to the problems they are trying to solve. Any service performed by a new process, system, or organization design should adhere to that fundamental tenet.
That understanding, gained through interviews, observations, focus groups, surveys, and other interactions with customers, ideally remains present throughout the process of implementing any new organizational program or system.
Keeping Customer Satisfaction in the Conversation
Various work systems such as Workday (an HR information system) or Salesforce (a Customer Relationship Management system)—two popular systems being widely implemented in organizations today—can be extremely beneficial. Numerous organizations have improved their performance, efficiency, and organization alignment using these and other tools.
However, for employees daily ensconced in integrating these systems into the organizational processes and structures of the business, the focus too often turns toward the system. Over time, the focus begins to drift from the core principle of fulfilling customer and stakeholder needs to getting the system implemented.
During change transformation efforts, it can be easy to lose focus on the customer. Language should be chosen carefully to reflect this. It may be tempting among implementation team members to abbreviate the change transformation’s mission statement as, “We’re installing Workday” or “We are doing a Salesforce rollout” (these systems are being cited strictly for the sake of illustration). But the broader, customer-centric concept should be regularly reinforced to the effect, “We’re adopting Salesforce to enhance the effectiveness of our sales people’s ability to understand and anticipate customer needs,” or “We’re implementing Workday to simplify the manager’s role as a people leader so our employees can better service customer needs.”
It’s up to project managers and team leaders to steadily navigate the discourse around the needs of customers and stakeholders during the implementation phase of any large change transformation effort.
From the Beginning
Setting the right tone begins on or even before Day One of a change transformation. Implementation team meetings should start with clear and precise language about what the new system will do for customers and stakeholders and how it will serve their needs. That clarity around customer satisfaction may then be reiterated, incidentally and during team and strategic meetings, throughout the transformation journey.
Whether it’s a new management system, a fresh software package, an update of office furniture, or a new organization design, the endpoint of improving organizational performance should always be focused on satisfying the customer. Any divergence from that inviolable business perspective is a step in the wrong direction.