When you’re a customer, you can tell if a company you’re doing business with is focused. Even if you’re not watching for clues, you’ll know because you can feel it. When you interact with a focused business, you walk away feeling like your needs were met. Your questions or concerns were answered. You found a solution to a challenge you’re facing. You feel valued and respected as a customer. You have a sense of satisfaction or even delight at the overall experience. You know in the back of your mind that you won’t hesitate to do business with the company in the future.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, almost every customer can tell when a business lacks focus. You get mixed messages at every interaction. You feel a sense of disorganization, and you don’t feel any effort to connect with you as the customer. You may feel like there’s a bait-and-switch between what you expect and what you’re actually getting. You have little incentive to be a repeat customer unless it’s a brand that offers no alternatives – and then you feel trapped. It’s almost like going to the DMV.
What’s going on inside companies that are focused? How are they different from those that lack focus or that seem scattered and disorganized at every level?
The Focused Organization
Recently we published an article on the Characteristics of Aligned Brands. Companies that practice Internal-External Brand Alignment work diligently to align every effort of the organization behind delivery of the customer promise. Focused is the first characteristic of an aligned brand, and it’s born from an accountability for the customer promise at every level of an organization.
When an organization is focused, employees understand the mission and vision, and they’re able to connect their individual roles in the organization to the customer promise. Focused organizations enjoy cultures that are positive and purposeful. There’s cooperation among departments and teams and an understanding that “we’re all in this together.” A focused culture lacks the noise and distractions that can so easily pull people off-purpose, which can breakdown delivery of the customer promise.
Employees in a focused company feel like they belong, and their contributions are valued and vital. Teamwork and morale are strong. Turnover is low, and employees are motivated to advance their careers within the organization. Focused organizations usually have strong employment brands, and openings are easy to fill with candidates who are eager to jump on board.
When a focused organization undergoes change, there’s usually a smoother and easier transition, especially when leaders connect the change to the context of the brand and customer promise. When other unforeseen bumps in the road arise, there’s greater resiliency. The brand recovers quickly, and there’s a prompt return to business as usual.
The Scattered Organization
On the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that are scattered. There’s no clarity on the company’s mission and vision, and employees may not even know the customer promise. It’s all about clocking in and out, and going through the motions of the job with no connection to a bigger picture.
Scattered organizations are disorganized at every level. Communication may be nonexistent or may be so overwhelming that employees stop listening because they don’t know how to relate to or understand the context and priority of messages.
Culture in scattered organizations is negative and undermining. Personal agendas and egos often rule every decision instead of consideration for what’s best for the brand and delivery of the customer promise. Turnover is often high, and employees feel no reassurance from leadership in the direction and strength of the organization. Leadership may be largely invisible to the majority of employees. Likewise, leaders are disconnected and unable or unwilling to engage with their teams.
When faced with change, scattered organizations can quickly spiral out of control. Any murmurs of change can immediately set off waves of paranoia and fear throughout the organization. Rumors fly and there’s no understanding of the purpose and context for change.
Obviously, customers want to do business with companies that are focused. They feel valued and connected to the brand, which gives them reassurance and makes buying decisions easier. Likewise, employees want to work for companies that are focused. They feel aligned with the organization’s culture and find more meaning in everyday tasks.
By practicing Internal-External Brand Alignment, an organization can achieve focus. Aligning the business behind delivery of the customer promise provides a clear purpose that guides everyone’s actions and eliminates distractions.