Why go Faster

In my blog post yesterday, I wrote about the keys to speed and how some organizations are able to operate faster than others. You can read the post here.

Today, I want to talk about why it is important to increase the speed of your organization.

Here are the benefits of increasing your enterprise velocity, which will in turn help you create a competitive advantage:

  • You get new products and services to market faster
  • You increase the productivity of your employees and allow them to work on more value-added activities (or improve their life balance by leaving the office earlier or not working weekends)
  • You acquire new customers faster
  • You realize additional revenue sooner by creating loyal customers and brand ambassadors more rapidly
  • You attract dynamic and strong talent
  • You are able to tweak or change business models faster than the competition
  • You resolve customer service issues quickly
  • You have stronger relationships with suppliers and business partners
  • You reduce costs
  • You make decisions faster
  • You reduce lead times and delivery times

All of these benefits have a direct or indirect positive impact on your company's profits, so why wouldn't you try to increase the speed at which you operate?

The Keys to Speed

Have you ever wondered why some organizations are able to operate faster than others without sacrificing the quality of their offerings? Well if you have, here are some insights as to why:

  • They focus on quality. They ask "How can we get our offerings to market faster without sacrificing quality?" Too many companies only focus on speed, and not quality (see RIM and the initial release of the Playbook tablet for an example of focusing on speed and not quality).
  • They don't panic. Speed isn't always being about the first to market. Ford invented the motor car, yet how many automakers companies are now more successful than they are?
  • They expect bumps in the road and are ready for them. Just like driving a car, there will be potholes, traffic, accidents, pedestrians and construction that you need to navigate through. Prepare a plan (a route) to get you where you need to be.
  • They are never satisfied with the status quo. These organizations are constantly pursuing ways to do things faster and better.
  • They take risks. You will never know how fast you can operate until you push your own organizational limits. With risks come rewards.
  • They know when to slow down. Sometimes the business environment requires organizations to slow down and choose a new direction or at least assess where they are. The best companies know when to do that and how to change course quickly.

Now you have no excuse when it comes to speeding up the way you operate. Don't forget to buckle your seatbelt.

The Boss and business

Last night I went to see Bruce Springsteen in concert. He played for over three and a half hours without a break. What an amazing feat. Despite his age, he never seems to tire.

More interestingly though, was the number of people who were seeing Springsteen in concert for the first time. Although he has been playing concerts for more than 30 years, he still attracts new fans and writes new music. Here some of the Boss's keys to success that can apply to your business:

  • He stays current and in front of people by continuing to play live shows
  • He continues to release new albums and music to try and engage new audiences
  • He does things that most others don't do-he plays concerts for over three hours with no intermission. He creates a memorable experience for those in attendance and a buzz for those that weren't
  • He is still great at what he does and provides a high level of quality
  • He is accessible. Last night he walked around the stage at every opportunity, slapping high fives, sitting down next to fans, talking to the crowd and taking and reading the signs that people made
  • He engages his fan base (his customers). He even brought a 10 year-old girl on stage last night to sing with him. He interacts with the crowd and creates an engaging and intimate experience

I bet you never thought you could learn business lessons from Springsteen, but you can.

Are customer retention and customer engagement the same thing?

The short answer is no. Customer engagement may lead to retention, but they are not the same thing.

Customer engagement is what you are doing to involve your customers in your business. However, the objective of engagement is not just to retain the customer, it is much broader. Engagement can be used to improve products and services, increase brand awareness, grow the business through creating customers who are brand ambassadors or even accelerate the sales cycle, whereas retention focuses on keeping customers loyal in their use of your products and services.

It is an important distinction to make when developing strategies around customer stratification and engagement. Consider the desired outcome of the strategy before developing it. Are you looking to grow your business with one particular customer or in the overall marketplace?

Do you make something tangible?

Apple just became the highest valued company in the history of the stockmarket and Facebook shares are at almost half their IPO price. Does this prove that companies that make tangible products are always going to be more successful than those that don't? I'm always nervous about a company that is constantly described as one that has yet to figure out where their revenues will come from (as Facebook has). It is easy to say that with almost 1 billion users, there must be a way to make money but there is a huge difference between that statement and actual revenues.

What if Facebook became subscription-based for a fee? Now that's a way to make money from 1 billion users. It would weed out a lot of the crap and possibly make Facebook a useful form of sociall media.

Thinking Big, Part 2

Back in April, I posted something about thinking big and what that means. I wanted to add a few items to my initial list:

  • Looking from the outside in and focusing on customer outcomes and value
  • Always providing something of value
  • Inventing new stuff and being aggressive about getting it in front of people that can buy it
  • Engaging in thought leadership which is about improving others

What other things can you think about that help you think big?

To achieve operational excellence, do the opposite of Air Canada

I know that Air Canada receives a lot of criticism for the way they treat customers and if I was running the show, I would want to know what my customers really think. If they want to achieve operational excellence, there are some things that they need to reverse. Here are some things that they do that are opposite from what an operationally excellent company does:

  • They don't communicate openly with customers. How many times have you been in an airport, or even at the gate, and you know that the plane is delayed, but no one is giving you any information? I was once at the gate for a 6:30pm flight, it was already 6:45pm, and the gate agent was still trying to convince me the flight was going to leave on time.
  • They don't leave on time. Air Canada planes leave on time ONLY 54.8% of the time. That's right, 54.8%. If you don't believe me, click here to view the details on Air Canada's website. They are 16th out of the 16 airlines being compared. If you were only right half the time in your business, would you have any customers left?
  • They don't manage perception. As I suggested in the opening paragraph, Air Canada receives a lot of criticism, but they don't seem to do much about changing it. If I ran a company where planes were never on time, the staff were unpleasant, the rules were unreasonably strict and the customers were charged for every possible expense (including baggage, peanuts, pillows, blankets and headphones), I would do everything in my power to change the way customers perceived my company.
  • They have unhappy staff. Dealing with the stress of travelling is bad enough, but then having to deal with a sour check-in or gate agent makes it worse. This is a service-oriented business and people should be hired with that in mind.
  • They work slowly. I'm not sure why it takes so long to check people in as this is a process that has been performed millions of times. Yet it seems like with every customer, it is being done for the first time.

So, if you want to achieve operational excellence, just do the opposite of what Air Canada does and you will be just fine.

Taking Comfort in Small Groups

I was recently on a small plane (19 seats) on a quick trip to Providence, Rhode Island. The co-pilot, who was also the flight attendant, gave us the usual speech about safety and seatbelts and so on. Once he finished, one of the passengers yelled out (jokingly, of course), "When does the bar open?" In that moment it occured to me how much more comfortable people are in small groups. On a plane of 250 passengers, no one would have shouted out a comment like that. But in a more intimate setting, people feel more comfortable about being themselves.

Think about how this applies to your customers or your business partners or your suppliers. Are you getting candid information from them? If not, maybe you are not providing the right environment for them. Most people don't like to speak up in front of a large group for fear of saying something improperly. Remove that fear, provide an evironment where people are comfortable and you will see how much more valuable the discussion becomes for all involved.