I started an Instagram channel a while ago. I wanted to start generating an audience for my forthcoming course on Efficiency Through Motivation. I didn’t want to just post inspirational quotes; there are plenty of those channels already. What I wanted to do was to help people explore business architecture and strategy through asking questions of where they are at the moment. I’m using the images as the initial thought-provoker then writing related commentary, often in the form of prompting questions. Go have a look at EfficiencyThroughMotivation, does it work for you?
Actually, better than tell, how about you let me know what you think of the idea? Or even what stage of business you’re at at the moment, what are your struggles and how do you think you’ll be resolving them? You can reach me at Contact Us.
Practitioners of Customer Development, Lean Startup and Enterprise Architecture can all learn from each other. But they shouldn’t enforce their views on each other as there are some incompatibilities. Let’s see how enterprise architecture in startups can exist.
The Startup culture and methods have largely been defined by Steve Blank who wrote The Startup Owners Handbook and later, by Eric Ries who wrote Lean Startup. Both of these consider how newly-created companies can grow quickly and in the right direction for their founders and customers. Many authors and speakers followed, but for this article, we’ll mainly focus on these two.
The terms innovation and invention are thrown around with abandon. This is rife in the startup domain where the innovation is often relating to a business model and in ageing corporations where innovation is being used to revitalise the organisation. But when is it innovation? Or could we actually be thinking of invention, improvement or creation instead? Continue reading “When is it Innovation?”
You have many opportunities in life and business to change your mind. Each of us has many opportunities, but we don’t always take those opportunities. We may be conforming to social constraints and expectations or don’t want to risk appearing inconsistent by changing too often. Let’s look at a non-serious example and extract nuggets we can apply in a business context.
1) The Background
I’m in a situation right now where I’m having to re-evaluate my aims. Fortunately it’s not a serious situation and there are a few parallels to my professional life. I play guitar and I own a few guitar amplifiers. Each guitar and amp has its own tonal identity and quirks. I pick the right tools for the job; playing in a 60s Motown/soul band requires different guitars and amplifiers than playing in an 80s hair metal cover band.
At a gig at the beginning of Summer this year, I played using a very nice amplifier and it sounded awesome with the band. I really enjoyed how it sounded and I probably played better because I was comfortable that it did the right job.
2) The Hypothesis
I thought that I could use the same amplifier with a few changes in my set-up (i.e. a different effects pedal or two) and I would again have an awesome sounding rig, but this one would be suited to the 80s hair metal cover band I’m currently playing in.
Yesterday, I presented at #Leanconf 2013 in Manchester. It was the first Lean Conference covering Lean Startup in Europe. There was a great energy to the 2-day event with a variety of planned and unplanned talks plus lots of opportunity to network without the usual tradeshow conference feeling of being stalked by sales managers.
I don’t think I’ve seen a community spirit like that in a long time; every attendees helped someone else no matter how far along their own ideas were.
In the spirit of the energy that I encountered at the conference, I’ve placed the slides on slideshare. If you download the presentation, you can read the notes which will help you make more sense of the slides. Hopefully the video will be online as well soon. When it is available, I’ll update and post a link to it. The slides are at bottom of this article.
Background to the Programme
The programme I discussed in the presentation was a 2+year programme with a large city council in England. The programme was internal to the portfolio that handled Adult Social Care. It had a £1m+ budget with a team ranging from programme manager, business analysts, data analysts and communications officer, plus a governance structure and other associated stakeholders.
The aim was to make Adult Social Care more efficient, by removing waste, focussing on flow and reorganising around the value to the customer. All typical lean concepts. We did this with a mixed method that I’d developed specifically for this client. The method merged elements of Lean with Lean Startup with DSDM and Theory of Constraints, all under a typical local authority governance framework using Prince 2.
The scale of change was to alter the way of working of 200-300 social workers/care managers, their team managers, their business support plus associated teams. Most were involved in the change and took the opportunity to steer the change in ways that would benefit their service users. Additionally partner teams (e.g. those responsible for 1000+ support workers within the council, NHS staff, payments and contact centre staff) were brought into the process and contributed to the changes where possible.
Customer Development in Social Care
Due to the time available for the talk, I didn’t discuss Customer Development. I’d like to address that here. Firstly, my customers and those of the programme, were the workers on the frontline of social care. However, we also had a duty to their customers, i.e. the service users of the city and, wider still, the overall population of the city.
We used common Lean and Six Sigma techniques (e.g. Kaizenblitz, Voice of the Customer, Gemba plus interviews, workshops, etc) for understanding the wishes and activities of the frontline workers. The default position was always to go and visit the workers where they worked including a visit out to service users where possible and where permitted. There was no “ivory tower” mentality and as little desk-based research as possible.
I did want to get to the wishes of the end user, i.e. getting the answers to what mattered to the service users. We were able to do this through a service user forum and similar activities. Just to clarify, the forum is actually a real meeting, not an online forum. However the typical customer-development approach of “get out of the building” isn’t necessarily a good idea in this case. The reason is that any change has to be ethically sound; it can’t introduce discrimination nor can experiments (or MVPs from Lean Startup) that make the situation worse for those on that trial path.
The ethical dilemma is exacerbated further when you consider the concept of equitability in that any change has to be able to be applied to the entire population of service users if appropriate to them. So if you make a change to services in October, you’d better think about how you’re retrospectively going to apply those changes to service users referred back in April onwards. That could be as simple as a rule stating that they’d change at the next review point or it could be a specific project to apply it now.
A good example of the fundamental ethical issue can be found in the simple concept of asking customers “what can we do to improve?”
I love that question; it encapsulates the whole point of speaking to customers about what they want without biasing them towards a particular solution. It usually turns any negatives about current experiences into positive actions for change.
However, frontline staff wouldn’t want to ask that question of their service users in all circumstances, e.g. those with a current likelihood of being violent, those recently bereaved or in any situation where the service user or social worker is likely to come to harm. That means that the results from a survey of such a basic question would already be biased.
Similar nuances were found in almost every typical method for achieving customer development, whether phone surveys, online questionnaires, paper-questionnaires, focus-groups, questions tagged onto the end of a visit, etc.
Now, as mentioned in the slides, greenfield opportunities such as those found in newly-commissioned projects whether within local authorities or within NHS CCGs (Client Commissioning Groups) are ripe for Lean Startup and may benefit from a more thorough application of Customer Development.
What Messages Can you Take Away from the Presentation?
That you can successfully apply Lean Startup in the public sector
That if you can do it in local authority (which is about the worst-case scenario for successful implementations), then it should be implementable in other large, existing organisations, whether private or public.
That you may not benefit from applying all of Lean Startup; the corollary is true in that you can benefit from using some elements of Lean Startup. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
That the behaviour of staff (inherited from the culture of the organisation) will likely be your biggest obstacle.
I’ve previously discussed the inclusion of a dormant state and a return loop when reflecting on the fact that the Customer Journey Never Ends.
You can include a further extension of the customer journey maps by showing proximity or emotional state.
Focus on the Emotional State
Typical customer journey maps (or diagrams) depict activities and results, maybe important events as well. These commonly use the terminology of the organisation rather the customer. By shifting that focus onto how engaged the customer feels at each stage, we see the journey from a different perspective; that of the customer.
Companies often use a sales funnel to monitor their sales process. Analysing the performance against the states in the sales funnels allows a company to redesign its sales process or to develop additional collateral. Some of the funnels focus on emotional state mixed with likelihood of buying. The customer journey map that displays emotional states can fit very well with the states defined in sales funnels. For example, the tables at the end of the superb Lean Entrepreneur book take the reader through the different levels of engagement that a customer experiences as they progress through the sales funnel:
Extend the States
These funnel states would need to be extended to include less positive states commonly found as customers move away from your organisation, e.g.:
There may be more states, but that will depend on your customers and what you understand about them.
How Can You Do This?
Compile a complete list of emotional states for your customers
Filter this list to create a simple, single list that reflects the combined understanding from marketing, sales and service/retention departments
Develop the customer journey maps
Take the list of states and apply them as an overlay to your existing customer journey maps or
Take the list of states and create a new customer journey map
My preference would be to start afresh as thinking based on the emotional state is likely to produce a different picture of the journey than the model based on activities and results.
You may have noticed that I didn’t include asking the customer for their emotional state. I nearly always advocate gaining input from customers in the most appropriate manner. I only omitted it above for the fact that it’s often a step too far for a lot of organisations. However, if your organisation has the means to engage with customers at the right level, then collate the emotional content from your customers and use that to build your customer journey map.
I’m reminded of the phrase “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. Similarly, as soon as an organisation starts a relationship with a customer, they’re stuck with that relationship. Many organisations design customer journeys but think from their own perspective rather than that of the customer. That’s a mistake but one that can be simply rectified.
An exchange between customer and company lasts longer than the original transaction. For instance, if a customer buys a product, has a fault, then has to return it. That’s one set of interactions all about the one transaction. The fact that it can last longer is nothing new, what has changed is the proximity of the customer and company. Now, the customer can submit a complaint online, they can spread the word via social media or they can ask for assistance on an online forum. This makes the customer and company a lot closer than before. The implication is that even if the customer has stopped buying from you and now buys elsewhere, their opinion will count forever.
Even though the customer has finished their exchange with your organisation, they are a still a person with memories and experiences. When they next come to buy, will they use your company or another?
Additional Customer Journey States
A further implication is in how we can design customer journeys to be more comprehensive and reflective of what actually happens. A depiction of the overall customer journey should include a state where the relationship is dormant and a loop for repeat custom (whether repeat of the original purchase or of a new product). The journey could be extended further still to show some of the customers leaving your company, probably from that dormant state and buying from a competitor. Some of these will return, some not, but all of their opinions will count.
Hopefully these two ideas will help you handle the fact that the customer journey never ends, at least from the customer’s perspective.
I’m often talking business strategy and how it can apply to any business no matter how new or how small. Strategy should be applied to every business but it’s a shame that the closest many business owners get to it is a business plan for a bank loan. This is even worse when they may have need a lesser amount or even avoided the loan completely had they planned differently.
What I’ll Cover about Business Strategy
I can think of a few TV series where one of the characters set up a restaurant or a cupcake business. There’s something about that concept that must correlate with our desires. I see many new cake businesses, I know several people who have all separately and independently started into cake-making businesses. So based on that comes the new series of articles.
I’m going to review the current state of business strategy thinking and apply it to a hypothetical cupcake-making business. It’s a free series of articles and the majority of the lessons should be applicable to other industries. I’ve chosen cupcake-making because of its popularity and the ease of understanding.
Whether we want the job or not, it’s easy to put ourselves in the position of cupcake business owner. In its simplest form, we all know that you have to buy baking products, mix them according to a recipe, put them in an oven, remove them when cooked and sell the cakes. Over the series of articles, we’ll see how that simple concept could translate into a cupcake-making business.
What You’ll Learn about Business Strategy
How business strategy can be applied to small businesses, especially new and start-up small businesses.
What tools you can use to evaluate and validate your business ideas
What tools can help you to steer your business in a different direction
Some insight into how this can be applied to larger organisations and companies
Most importantly, you’ll be in a position to learn:
How to think analytically about your business idea and be more informed about the decisions you’ll make
Do you have a strategic idea that you’d like to see considered in this series, let me know. Either sign-up to the newsletter and ask there or contact me.