One of the first things I do when talking with organizations from nonprofits to the Fortune 500 are which parts of their organizations are most valuable, and which things about their products are services are most valuable to the people with whom they interact. Value to the organization is made up of three things:
1) How much does it connect with brand and identity, in terms of why their customers do business with them?
2) Does the block of work have a connection to a major metric / a key performance indicator?
3) Is there any value in improving the performance of the work?
While those questions, and their answers have proven to be very durable over the years, there is a new challenge for organizations around the world. The answers are changing. Fast.
As organizations look for ways to cut costs, protect the revenue streams they still have, and even grow the so-called recession-proof areas of their business (with maintenance contracts, the small niche high quality markets that have inelastic demand, and so on), the things that they value are shifting, partly because of the need to cut costs (where an annual conference that has gone on for years is now being questioned, first whether it can be done with fewer people, then whether it can simply be done over the phone, and then whether it is truly discretionary, and yesterday’s discretionary is today’s “are you serious?”. That’s the comparatively easy part.
The harder part is staying in tune with what your customer values, because their ideas of required and discretionary, are moving as well. There are two basic elements to staying on top of this:
1) Be specific about which customers you value the most (I have written about that before)
2) Figure out how their values are shifting right now
This isn’t easy, but it’s really important right now.
I usually have some examples of organizations in my blogs, but right now, things are moving so fast, I don’t have a great example of an organization that is being really smart about cost cutting while tracking the changing values of their customers, but as soon as I find some, I will let you know.