There’s usually no customer centricity department (though, in some interesting cases, there is – email me if you want to talk about that), so like most innovation strategies, customer centricity is distributed cross-functionally. That means you have to focus on creating high-leverage changes to existing process and structure, within and across departments – as few changes as needed to get the job done, so, high-leverage changes only. Here are some examples of high-leverage changes:
Decision making: The decentralized nature of innovation strategies means it’s hard to know who’s in charge, and who arbitrates and makes a decision in the event of a friendly disagreement. One idea to get ahead of this – bear with me, it’s a classic for a reason – is the Customer Centricity SteerCo (steering committee). If you’re the CEO, chair it. If you’re not, request the authority to speak for the CEO on a specific set of issues on which you and the CEO are aligned. Be clear that the group’s purpose is to create strategy and review progress over time, making quick decisions along the way to optimize.
Incentives: This is too often an afterthought and thus too often gets pushed off to next year. As early on as possible, talk to functional leaders in IT, Data Science, Marketing, Merchandising and/or other relevant groups to understand how goals and incentives work in their organizations. Offer ideas and ask questions about how those things could change in ways that create clarity and excitement, and incur costs in line with results. You’re likely to encounter all kinds of entrenched and totally different practices across teams, so consider partnering with someone from your People / HR / Compensation function to help you create coordination and consistency as you go. This part of the job isn’t done until the heads of each affected function are excited to talk to their teams about the transformation.
Group effectiveness: You’re going to have people interacting across teams in new ways, so err on the side of over-investment in facilitating cross-functional interactions, even setting aside your own or a designee’s time for this purpose. It’s never been more important that IT and Analytics are marching in the same direction, or that Product, Finance and Marketing teams are set up to ideate and co-create new offers to drive acquisition and loyalty based on an improving understanding of the customer. If cross-departmental meetings don’t have an impartial facilitator, they’ll go as dictated by politics and personality.
If you spend too much time engineering and re-engineering any of these structural considerations, you’ve probably got a support and buy-in problem, and it’s probably worth it to pause and ask what’s blocking further cultural support before optimizing structure.