Challenging the Normal

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

A new business is laser focused on earning and keeping customers. The promise-makers and promise-keepers in the business are well aligned in their appreciation of customers because survival depends on getting the next order.

As the business grows, it seeks to capitalize on what has enabled its success, so procedures are standardized and structure is added to manage those procedures, with the objectives of sustaining efficiency and managing risk. With good intention, lots of internal, readily accessible data is generated by this structure to help navigate the progress of the business.

As the business grows, the customer-focus priority, which first guided it and fostered its distinctiveness, can fade, being overwhelmed by the available, abundant, and often compelling internal data that begins to define what’s normal. The volume of ‘normal’ purchases from larger customers demands more attention. Internal product analyses explore how to increase sales of the more profitable product B versus the more popular, ‘normal’ product A, often without considering the less accessible customer intel that explains why this is happening.

Over time, the drift towards normal causes the customer value created by the business to become more average. Competitive differentiation shrinks, as does awareness about market changes that will soon cause customers to need different products or services that produce more value for their customers.

The drift towards normal can only be countered by a persistent effort to preserve a customer focus, to encourage curiosity, and to cultivate agility and innovation, which usually occurs at the cost of some current efficiency and acceptance of a bit more risk.

How are you managing the drift towards normal?

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