Latest Musings on Customer Experience, Digital Transformation, and Agile

It’s been a while – quite a while since the last conversation.  During this period I have experienced that which I have experienced and in the process some aspects of human existence inside organisational worlds have revealed themselves to me. Today, I wish to share a few of the experiences and revelations.

Some Matters Call Louder and Make Bigger Demands

This has been the year that I have found myself involved in digital transformation visions and initiatives aimed at designing and delivering compelling  omnichanel customer experiences. So my work has taken me across Europe. That has meant a lot of travel: taxis, airports, planes, more taxis….. Towards the end of September that travel became too much for my back. If I sat down I could not get up unaided.  What did I do?  Did I do as my advisers advised?  Did I stop this way of existence?  Did I take it easy?  Did I take time off work to let my back heal?

No. I continued working. The exception that I made because I had to make it was to cut down on the travelling. To do as much as possible working from home. When that did not work and I found myself forced to work from home, I worked from home. To even do that I had to take medicines. Medicines to ease the pain and make it possible for me to work – usually and mostly by standing up for hours at a time. And when the work was over (for that day) I took medicines to relax certain muscles by putting me to sleep.

Apart from the work of working and honouring my commitments to clients and colleagues, I cut everything else out. That cutting out included spending time with the family. It also included cutting out any and all matters that go into thinking about and sharing the conversations that constitute The Customer & Leadership Blog.

Why is it that I cut everything out except work – the very thing that my advisors told me to cut out?  Why did I put the emphasis on today (work that needed to be done) and not tomorrow (restoration to full health)?  The honest answer is simply that the matters of today (work) made a stronger call-demand-pull on me than the matters of tomorrow. Why? Because dealing with matters of today (the work that needed to be done on initiatives that I was deeply involved in) generated the income that funds my lifestyle – and that of those who depend on me.

What does this have to do with digital transformation efforts focussed on enabling client-centricity (single customer view, pull as well as push) and great omnichannel experiences?  A good question.  Here is the answer. These efforts are focussed on creating a future – for some a desirable and compelling future. Yet these efforts are starved of attention and critical resources. Why?  Because the day-to-day operational demands of the business – to keep it working and generating the necessary revenues and profits – make stronger calls/demands on the folks in the business. As such they suck and deeply enmesh the very folks that are needed to create the future. So the digital transformation journey turns out, for many organisations, to be that much ‘harder’, longer, and troublesome than the visionaries and architects imagine.

There Is A Big Difference Between Beginning / Doing CX-Digital Transformation and Truly Doing CX-Digital Transformation!

How can I best convey that which I wish to convey here? Perhaps it is best for me to share the following passage with you:

My solo three months hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had many beginnings. there was the first flip decision to do it, followed by the second, more serious decision to actually do it, and then the long third beginning, composed of weeks of shopping and packing and preparing to do it. There was the quitting my job …. finalizing my divorce… selling everything I owned…… There was the driving across the country… and a few days later, catching a flight to Los Angeles and ride to the town of Mojave and another ride to …….

At which point, at long last, there was the actually doing it, quickly followed by the grim realisation of what it meant to do it, followed by the decision to quit doing it because doing it was absurd and pointless and ridiculously difficult and far more than I expected doing it would be and I was profoundly prepared to do it.

And then there was the real live truly doing it.

The staying and doing it, in spite of everything, In spite of the bears and the rattlesnakes and the scat of mountain lions…; the blisters and scabs and scrapes and lacerations. The exhaustions and the deprivation; the cold and the heat; the monotony and the pain; the thirst and the hunger…..

Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Agile: The Latest Corporate Delusion?

What kind of people have we become? People who want it easy, painless, fast and if possible entertaining.  Further, we are people who are woeful at thinking. Really thinking – looking beyond the surface to see the genealogy of ideas, principles, methods, and practices to enrich our understanding of what it is we are talking about, dealing with.  I am clear that this is clearly the case with Agile.

How can I put this bluntly?  When I was a teenager, played tennis, enjoyed tennis, wanted to become better at tennis, and idolized Bjorn Borg I rushed out and bought a Donnay tennis racket.  That racket did not turn me into a championship winning tennis player.  Want another example? Certain matters are they way they are – they require time, effort, involve pain, making sacrifices…… and adding agile those matters does not magically get rid of this time, effort, pain, sacrifice…. Take pregnancy and the nine month process of giving birth (hopefully) to a health baby.  Add Agile to pregnancy to make it Agile Pregnancy. What difference does this make in the real world of those who become pregnant?

Based on my experience I say that adding Agile to your CX or Digital Transformation will not deal with the matters I have raised in the first two points: the primacy (pull) of the existing business and day-to-day operations; and the matters raised-shared by Cheryl Strayed.  What it will do is to delude you into taking on matters that you may not be well positioned-disposed to take on. And fail to deal realistically with the real hurdles in a pragmatic manner.

I thank you for your listening. If you missed these conversations then I say please know that I missed ‘giving birth to them’ and sharing them with you.  As the French say “A la prochaine” – until the next time…

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

2 thoughts on “Latest Musings on Customer Experience, Digital Transformation, and Agile”

  1. Now you got me started 😉
    Disclosure: I am an Agile coach, which makes me pretty biassed towards the idea…
    One of the saddest things in the Agile evolution we’re experiencing is that organizations expect Agile to be some sort of a magic pill, a silver bullet to solve their problems.
    The truth is usually so remote!
    It may take a pregnancy time – 9 months – only to discover the harsh truth. For example, that the real progress of a project has an expected end time of two years delay over the original, delusional, program.
    Agile, if anything, highlights problems more than anything else. Before we only see the tip of the iceberg, and then, gradually, we lower the water level.
    It also “starts me up” when Agile becomes the problem itself. Where, in fact, what we find all too often is the lack of vision, dysfunctional teams, poor teamwork skills, over optimism biasses, and widespread mediocracy. These are examples for problems. Problems that organizationally skillfully, and often unconsciously, excel in hiding away.
    And when such problems are hidden, of course people will get hurt. In low motivation, delays, poor quality and other behaviors, all contributing to long working hours, frequent rework, unhealthy tension just to name a few.
    The first time I stumbled upon this quote was when I was looking for Matsushita’s CEO quote on management and Taylorism. Agility and Taylorism are mutual opposites, and any attempt to continue behaving as a Taylorist while adapting Agility is likely to fail. Like, with injured people, sometimes.
    Long remark, and a load off my chest. I hope I made no offense. If I did, none was intended.
    I honestly believe that the Agile movement is a beautiful thing. Also that the future organizations will be Agile – whether called that name or not.
    But there is also a lot of abuse of the term, and many victims along the way.

    Mate, I hope that you feel much better, and that you take care of yourself.
    You can change a car every 3 years, but you only have one body.
    You can also change jobs, either frequently or rarely. But the cost of changing a family is by far higher.
    So take your doctor’s advise, if only for a short while. Being Agile is not worth losing your body and livelihood at any scale.

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  2. Maz,

    A lovely (though painful) analogy

    I am currently running an Operational Excellence programme for an insurance company.

    It is bound to fail. Not because the principles aren’t sound or the approach is flawed, but because the executives want a quick fix.

    Our focus on the here and now is incredibly painful

    James

    Liked by 1 person

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