To understand audience centricity, it’s helpful to review recent evolutions in organizational design. Business leadership has evolved significantly, and almost dramatically, in the past half century, fueled by changes in the broader economy. Responding to changes in societal values and customer needs, businesses have changed their internal organizational models. Though, not always for the better.
Product centric vs customer centric
Product centricity is not quite as simple-minded as it now seems. Many customer-centric advocates demonstrate the virtues of their approach by contrasting it with outdated, product-focused models. They argue that to shape a business around its customer segments is the new enlightenment.
For certain, business has learned that putting people ahead of products will often lead to better outcomes. However, Steve Jobs didn’t spend his days and nights sifting through market research and conducting focus groups. He spent his time creating exceptional products, products that people loved.
Great products and services are the offspring of ingenuity and conviction. Extraordinary products and services invoke the kind of passion that employees want to be part of, and customers want to benefit from. That kind of passion is powerful and should be embraced, not quarantined off from the rest of the organization.
Two sides of the same coin
Those who claim that organizations need to be more customer-centric are correct. And, those who claim that organizations need to rally around products are correct, too. Then why are these methodologies treated as mutually exclusive? Why are they compared and contrasted? When customers were neglected by myopic product managers, perhaps the apparent solution was to shift things around.
Shifting them around has created a lot of confusion for employees, and managers, too. Each new organizational design is intended to increase efficiency by increasing role clarity. For employees, however, the confusion only has a new name, a new structure. The tidal pull between customer and product is left resolved. Employees need to be experts on both, at the same time. So, employees on the customer team are no less challenged than their predecessors on the product team. Only the names have changed.
Let’s return and look at the root problem. When myopic product managers undervalued customers, they were actually destroying trust. That same trust relationship with customers is just as important with employees. As Peter Drucker explains below, the real change that occurred is a mindset shift in what we value as a society.
A lesson on organizational trust from Peter Drucker
Organizations are no longer built on force but on trust. The existence of trust between people does not necessarily mean that they like one another. It means that they understand one another. Taking responsibility for relationships is therefore an absolute necessity. It is a duty. Whether one is a member of the organization, a consultant to it, a supplier, or a distributor, one owes that responsibility to all one’s coworkers: those whose work one depends on as well as those who depend on one’s own work.Read Drucker’s full article, Managing Oneself, at www.hbr.org.
Building trust with an audience-centric mindset
Audience Centricity says that responsibility for trust within the organization and with its customers is an absolute necessity. Both audiences are critical.
With each successive corporate failure after Enron’s 2001 collapse, customers and the public-at-large have become overwhelmingly distrustful of business. In addition, our economy’s fundamental drivers have shifted from mass consumerism and the quest for ownership to the desire for experience. Instead of owning a car, they want to rent one for the weekend.
Experience isn’t product-centric, it’s people-centric. While many businesses have embraced the concept of customer centricity, they’ve forgotten that positive customer relationships are not established in the board room. Employees at all levels of an organization define a company’s relationship with its customers. These everyday workers are the voice and face of a company. Companies cannot be customer centric without being employee centric and supporting a thriving relationship between the two.
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