Swiss army knife adaptiability

How six principles of organisational adaptiveness can provide CX resilience


What are the six fundamentals of organisational and human adaptiveness and how can they help customer experience strategies keep pace with change?

13th Jul 2020

When the pandemic started, many companies struggled. Almost overnight their employees and customer interactions were rendered obsolete, and everyone scrambled to adapt.

In subsequent months, we've seen some companies change quickly and effectively, while others have taken more time to develop new, streamlined experiences for their workflows and customer interactions. In supermarkets and grocery stores especially, we see a wide discrepancy between businesses - some have designed experiences that are safe, simplified, efficient and even convenient to consumers in unexpected ways, while others appear more reluctant or slow to respond to the urgent needs of their employees and customers.

So what is it that enables some businesses to respond more effectively than others?

Simply put, they are more prepared, with leadership and employees accustomed to continuous change. Organisations need to work to maintain this fast-paced adaptiveness, however, and it is not always easy, especially in our hyper-fast, always-evolving society. The key is to build a human-centered culture that focuses on relationships with customers and employees. In return, those relationships increase in effectiveness and value.

Here are a few principles that enable companies to be more adaptable.

Six principles of organisational adaptiveness and resilience

1. Minimalisation

For customers, having a lot of variety can be marvelous - until it becomes overwhelming. In 2016, researchers at Stanford University discovered more about how our decision-making works with additional dependences and triggers. They concluded that more options are good once we have committed to the purchase. However, if we are browsing for a product before we have decided to buy, then more options can actually make the process more difficult.

Thus, the value of options changes drastically when we are unsure what to do next. When we are not fully committed to our next action, we value fewer options, not more.

Minimalism can be achieved by following a strict process of simplification. Supermarkets could avoid unwieldy portfolios by eliminating low-margin SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units) with no clear strategic role, for example. If a company designs a technology product or service, it could start by developing the app first. If it’s a website, it could start with the mobile experience view. This forces you to develop in a simple and simplified way. 

Variety can be good — when measured and well-calculated. However, eliminating superfluous features or options can help your real assets (customers, employees and partners) achieve their goals more quickly. By adding choices you add difficulty. When you minimise by responding human needs and the purpose of the solution, you generate adoption and add value.

2. Simplification - to a point

Many companies are simplifying their businesses to increase efficiency and effectiveness and to decrease unnecessary costs - but there is also a limit.

I often advise organisations to enable 'smart complexity' - this allows for complexities to remain when necessary or if serving a key reason.

The only action you need to take with these forms of complexity is to clarify their motivation to all stakeholders.

Communication is crucial always. If humans cannot understand the logic behind an annoying rule, procedure or process, they tend to feel almost the exact opposite feelings: antagonism, frustration and dissatisfaction. That is a big difference in terms of customer and employee experience!

Customers, employees, stakeholders and partners who understand the purpose of complexities feel more protected, empowered and engaged.

In 99% of cases a simplified model will be a compromise between simplicity, complexity and convenience across interactions, transactions and services. Simplification, simplicity and convenience are the result of a great work done oftentimes in the back office, often unseen and thus underappreciated but very deeply felt and impactful.

Reflect for a moment on the process to receive FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine. How many tests need to be conducted and approved during the three phases of trials? But clear procedures, thoughtful processes and clear metrics to define success and failure are more than acceptable - they are necessary to keep us alive.

3. View lack of adoption as an incurred cost

Unfortunately, investing in new enterprise technology does not necessarily lead to adoption. It doesn’t matter if the solution is cloud-based, on-premise or multidisciplinary: it takes time for users to learn. Even when everyone uses a tool, the degree of its utilisation varies. Some product capabilities that would be useful, can remain unused, thereby preventing the ideal "adoption" outcome. This is money left on the table and is by itself an undesirable incurred cost. Both the seller and the buyer lose value, so both their interests should be aligned in addressing adoption. 

Firstly, the supplier should be trying to understand solutions are not being adopted. They should be taking active steps to improve, enhance, train and ensure optimal adoption. Their customer success team should be extracting usage reports to gauge outcomes for their customers. If you have requests, they should be listening. Even more importantly, they should be solving adoption issues with simplified, intuitive design and a great experience. After all, for the supplier, adoption means renewals, loyalty, satisfaction, recommendations and Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) growth. 

Secondly, the business itself also needs to take an active role in optimising adoption. Make requests. Take advantage of training, on boarding and continuous training programmes. Extract and analyse data on what modules are being utilised, so that you can make wise requests and decisions. The relationship between the seller and customers should be collaborative.

It should now be clear that we are entering new territory with regard to simple interactions, not only between you and your customers, but also other stakeholders. These could represent large shifts in thinking and culture for employees. Thus, executing change on a large scale also requires an adaptive culture: are your people curious, flexible and collaborative? Do they take and lead initiatives? These characteristics help to generate adoption and to ensure, from the supplier’s standpoint, that people will do everything to help their customers or partners.

4. Human adoption

When humans are good at responding, and they focus on humans, they become good at creating products and services that their humans love. Human adoption is the same core capability, whether your business is adjusting to new solutions, realities or requirements and leads naturally to the creation of adaptive products and services.

This always starts by possessing the right leadership team and fostering the right culture. The team will spread, train and evangelise your customer-centric approach. They will spur execution of the strategy while developing tools and ongoing training programmes. Onboarding programmes are not enough - ongoing training will work, when they are aligned with the right people and the right questions.

But leadership is not enough - adaptiveness also depends on the talent of your organisation.

5. Adaptive people

Digital solutions require talent to get things done and to develop the right kind of experience that instigates adoption. The more prepared and highly-skilled your talent is, the easier it will be for them to adopt technology and generate adoption in the products/solutions they create for your customers and partners.

Change is a constant in organsations. The next version of your services and products will have different features and capabilities. Your employees will need to adapt to these, as well as technology acquired by your organisation. Thus, continuous trainings will be necessary, as will people with adaptive personalities, high curiosity about customer problems and the ability to solve them efficiently. 

6. Culture change from the top-down and the bottom-up

To deliver customer-centric solutions, you need to do more than create a mission statement. You need your people to live for customer success. Consider the relationship you have with suppliers, and use their perspectives to ensure you understand your own customers.

Now it is your turn to communicate, train and listen to all the stakeholders on this customer journey. For instance, honest feedback and frustrations are priceless gifts to your talent and business. They can be used to work toward delivering on the brand promise, to enhance the power of your company, to prove you stand true to your words.

The perfect product or service may not exist - but we can still aim high. However, what really matters in any relationship is quality, customer value, delivery, engagement and keeping your promises. 

Continuous learning attracts more talent and reduces frustration with technology. It creates happier, more satisfied, engaged and retained employees. The same employees, who in turn serve customers better, bring in new ideas and help your customers, partners and the entire organisation to grow - no matter what changes and challenges are presenting themselves. 

This piece adapted from a post that originally appeared on Ricardo's blog


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By coachanu
18th Jul 2020 20:01
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