Monthly Archives: March 2009

March Madness – How to Win through Customer Intimacy

 |  Leadership

“March Madness” used to refer just to college basketball in the US. Given our current economic realities the term takes on a whole new meaning.  In the current environment, the three messages we keep repeating are:

·   Double-check your alignment. Is everyone in your organization clear about, “Who are we? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What’s my role?” Make sure everyone’s on the same page. It speeds things up and reduces missteps.

·   Avoid “Recession Regression.” Trying times call for cool heads and clear decision-making. Now is not the time to give in to negative emotions and bad habits. That just makes things worse. Breathe deeply. Think carefully. Act boldly.

·   Execute! Execute! Execute! Operational excellence pays off big time in a situation like this. Stay focused and keep it moving forward.

Regarding execution, it makes sense to redouble our efforts to build and deepen customer intimacy. The cycle is shorter and cost much less than replacing a key customer lost because of poor execution or a lack of focus. Here are some reminders (a Top Ten list of Customer Intimacy, if you will) to help us all come out ahead during March Madness:

  1. Inquiry before advocacy. (The customer’s agenda is the one that matters. Find out what it is and help to achieve it.)
  2. Add value to your product or service with thought leadership.
  3. Focus communications. Less is more. Don’t add to the chatter.
  4. Go where your customers are. Meet them in their channel.
  5. Don’t get sucked into the problem du jour. What is the conversation that matters? How can we deepen the relationship and contribute more value?
  6. Be bold. Challenge their assumptions. They want to cut costs or reduce spending? Fine. Are you a good cost or a bad cost? Make your case.
  7. Help them put their challenges into context. Grow your awareness of their market and be their thinking partner.
  8. Everything can change between meetings. Expect it and be ready. Be highly adaptable. Think contingencies and alternatives.
  9. See the system. Who can influence your customer? Who might replace your customer? It pays to know.
  10. Listen more; talk less. (Okay, this is a rewording of #1. But it bears repeating.)

Attend, Imagine, Move

 |  Consulting, Leadership

Our watchwords at Ecstasis are “Attend, Imagine, Move.” These words challenge us to begin and sustain a process of inquiry that is vital for real change to occur.

If our tendency is download and to race quickly from here >> to here, then pausing to dialogue with self or others is a first step toward becoming more reflective, less impulsive, and more aligned with both our individual purpose and organizational expectations. By utilizing the A I M Model (as we call it) we develop and strengthen our capacity to enable positive transformation (the most important work of leaders) and to lead rather than react to change.

The A I M process moves an individual, a team, an organization through a ‘U” shaped process of reflection, dialogue, and action. In Theory U (Scharmer, 2007), Otto describes the five aspects of the ‘U’ movement as extensions of what happens in all learning processes: Seeing, Sensing, Presencing, Crystallizing, and Realizing. Spurred on by Brian Arthur’s perspective on Theory U, we’ve condensed Otto’s five steps into three.

Step One of the A I M Model – Attend – is an experience of Seeing and Sensing. We observe where we want to go and where we are. The process encourages us to be consciously phenomenological, inviting inquiry and suspension of pre-conceived notions. Step Two – Imagine – is an experience of Presencing, and again, the process invites intentional curiosity, the chief characteristic of the phenomenological mindset. With Step Three – Move – we experience Crystallizing and Realizing; the process enables us to act swiftly and with confidence that we have explored the situation as deeply as possible and chosen a course of action that arose from a powerful meeting in the “in-between” of our deepest selves and our individual and collective experience of the here and now and what may be.
The A I M Model follows the U in the respect it is a learning process. However, it is also a way of focusing and directing action. The action undertaken as one emerges from the ‘U’ is the result of a process of inquiry, reflection, and dialogue. The A I M Model supports the shift from impulsivity or analysis paralysis to deep thinking, generative dialogue, and purposeful action.