Why do almost all change initiatives fail to deliver?
I have been involved in all kinds of organisational change initiatives whose ultimate purpose was to power performance. These change initiatives have come in many flavours: strategy, people, process, and technology. They have encompassed the front office, or the back office, or both. These change initiatives included: BPR, Kaizen, shared services, quality, ERP-CRM-Ecommerce technology, customer service excellence, strategy…
What is it that is I found common pretty much across all of these change initiatives:
- They were mostly initiated by people gripped by a fad of that time;
- Each of these initiatives was going to deliver substantial, even breakthrough, improvements in performance; and
- Almost all of them failed to deliver on the promise.
I see the pattern being repeated with Customer initiatives that are focussed on improving the customer experience and thus engendering loyalty and advocacy. Why? Because what is being changed is the content and not the context. Working on the content whilst leaving the context intact is liking rearranging the music, the dining hall, the food & wine, say on the Titanic. Great stuff and ultimately it is merely a distraction from the inevitable. The inevitable (destiny) is always shaped/determined by the context.
Differentiating between the context and the content
Let’s start with the dictionary definitions of context:
- Background, environment, framework, setting, or situation surrounding an event or occurrence.
- Words and sentences that occur before or after a word or sentence and imbue it with a particular meaning.
- Circumstances under which a document was created, including its function, purpose, use, time, the creator, and the recipient.
- The things that are held or included in something.
- A state of satisfaction: “the greater part of the century was a time of content”.
Are you struggling with distinguishing between context and content and why this distinction is of profound significance? Let me help out. Let’s use the analogy of computer software. The context can be likened to the operating system. The content to the software programmes that you are using say Word, Excel, Outlook.
Or think of work and home. The context of work is radically different to the context of home. Or the context of a wedding is radically different to the context of a funeral. Do you see how the content – people, talk, behaviour – whilst the same is/can be radically different in the differing contexts. You talk at work, you talk at home, yet the way you talk and what you talk about is likely to be very different between work and home.
Shifts in context are the access to transformation and breakthrough results – for customers, for the organisation
Let me say this bluntly, most of the work that is taking place in the customer space in the name of customer focus, customer experience, customer-centricity, customer obsession is wasted money and effort. It is merely the equivalent of arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Or if you prefer behaving like Blockbuster or HMV – both of which have gone into administration and are busy closing or selling their stores.
I say that excellence in the customer domain, and the business benefit this excellence generates, is only available to a particular set of organisations. Which organisations? The organisations whose leaders exercise courage. What kind of courage? The courage to shift the context. Allow me to give you some dimensions along which you can shift the context that powers your business:
If you want to get a better grip of context and how it applies to the customer experience then read this post.
Great examples of shifts of context: from Amazon to Zane’s Cycles
Kuhn called this contextual shifts “paradigm shifts”. Every paradigm shapes/limits that which shows up including human relations and performance. Some paradigms create more space and generate more energy to empower high performance. If you want to transform your customer experience then pay attention to the context. Context comes first, content second. Only the fool, or one who has time-money to burn, focuses only on the content.