The Naked King!
You know the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen. I am talking about a short fable about the miserable situation of a smug, oppressive king who lived in ancient times, in faraway lands, who did not respect the opinions of the people.
Giant companies that were successful in the previous century but could not renew themselves in the new century we are in and have closed their ears to the need for change have similar points with this story. So, what should be done in order not to fall into the situation of the king in the fairy tale?
I think we should start with the following question; “Why does the company exist?” In the past 50-60 years, both companies and employees have roughly answered this question as “making money”, “making a profit”, “making money for their shareholders”, “producing a product”. So, is the main purpose of a company just to produce something? Or to make money? Of course, making money is very important, I am not saying the opposite, but making money should not be the sole goal, it should be a result. So let’s ask, what does the product/service we have developed do?
The famous management scientist Peter Drucker has a good answer to these questions; “The purpose of a business is to create, serve and retain customers”. Maybe today it is possible to update this saying as “creating a dream and creating followers going after the dream”, but I think creating a “customer focus” is still a much more effective upper purpose than “making money”. Considering that the main target of the shooter is the customer need in the service-based economy of today’s world, it is possible to say that the main target of the organizations today should be the customer focus at the minimum.
So, what do companies that really focus on the customer do differently? As Steve Denning also mentioned in his speeches, when we look at the common characteristics of companies that have made this transition, that is, companies that have been able to renew themselves according to the needs of the new century and focus on the customer, we see the following common points:
- Satisfying its users/customers is the main common goal of all company employees.
- Top management takes responsibility for ensuring the enthusiasm to please their users throughout the organization.
- The company strives to be the best in the world at what it does.
- Company employees see clearly and precisely the impact and contribution of their actions on their users.
- The company has continuous and sufficient information about who the users are, their opportunities and constraints, their whims and fears, their needs and expectations.
- Company employees are authorized to make their own decisions and act (without waiting for approval).
In my opinion, the summary of all these items is as follows; Organize your company structure around the customer and their needs, let the entire company (each one of your employees) be customer-obsessed. I liken this situation to autonomous cars. How does an autonomous car move forward? In fact, there are two basic elements that enable the autonomous car to move forward;
- The ability of the car to move forward/stop/change direction: what we call the (competent) team-based restructuring of the organization around customer needs, that is, the dynamic Agile network organizational structure.
- The data receives through its sensors that help the car in which direction it can go: just as data drives the car, we must be able to enable data (where customer obsession comes in) to guide teams built around customer needs for success in the new century.
In order to create the customer focus, that is, to minimize the distance between the customer and the employee, now the king is the data that tells us about the customer. In other words, we can say that understanding the customer and focusing on data in this direction took the place of the king who says “I know.” and says “Whatever I produce, you buy and use.” in our fairy tale. However, when we look at the traditional structure, decisions are made at the top, so why? The reason for this is actually simple because only those above can see all the data, others not. Then, instead of trying to move all the data up, we can say that making all the data visible to teams that have a real-time connection to the market can actually produce more accurate and faster results. Exactly as in the autonomous car example.
The aim of agile is to provide a superior experience for both company employees and customers. In order to create a superior experience and make a difference for both your employees and your customers, you must redesign your organization in line with this goal. However, you must go to your users, constantly listen to their concerns and wishes. Understanding the customer should be the main task of everyone in the company!
As Peter Drucker said, your future lies in the opinions and ideas of your users. You can’t say I know, I produce and they buy (anymore). If you ignore the user’s troubles and wishes and just live around your own ideas, you may end up like the naked king. One day, a child, maybe a start-up company, will appear and say the king is naked and take all your greatness away from you. For this not to happen; take off your crown and go down to the street, be in the street with all your strength and keep your ears open.