How often does your company make a concerted effort to connect those doing the work, with those consuming the work-product? If the answer is “never” you are missing a valuable way to (a) connect with your customers and (b) improve your product.
I recommend reading a recent HBR article which focuses on cooks and diners. In the article, the researchers “set up four scenarios in a real cafeteria for two weeks. In the first, diners and cooks couldn’t view one another; in the second, the diners could see the cooks; in the third, the cooks could see the diners; and in the fourth, both the diners and the cooks were visible to one another. The researchers timed the preparation and conducted surveys about the service and food. The results showed that “when the cooks could see their patrons, the food quality got higher ratings.”
I have facilitated a similar process in the Enterprise software arena. The whole idea of this level of transparency can be frightening at first. You may be concerned with your engineers’ propensity to speak quite bluntly. And you may worry that such frankness could damage the relationship between your customers and your company.
We conducted customer symposiums to create a constructive venue for productive dialogue where the goals were to ensure that (1) customers left the event more capable than when they arrived and (2) the software was more valuable once they learned how to use it to greater effect.
To do this, we involved the experts who created the software in explaining how the software worked and in fielding customer questions. In a way, we exposed cooks to diners. The results of this increased transparency were similar to those described in the article:
- Customers understood the factors we considered when we decided to architect our solutions in specific ways – what seemed like arbitrary decisions earned respect
- Software engineers understood customer needs from first-hand discussions – what seemed like strange and unnecessary requests became appreciated goals
- By knowing the customer, the product improved and met more of the customers’ needs
The pivot point is that by embracing transparency and connecting the back-office to our customers we gave each a stake in the other’s success. Both were more aligned to each other’s objectives and constraints and both became one team attacking the same issues.
How can your company deliberately increase transparency to improve connectedness, loyalty, and product efficacy?