Most business strategy and operations meetings are packed, standing room only, mainly because everyone wants to represent their function, protect their departmental budgets, and push for their ideas on strategy and products. The room is full of people, ideas, and agendas, some open and obvious, several hidden. Running a successful meeting is not for the faint of heart and it is during such meetings that an observer can easily determine the level of alignment, teamwork and shared objectives, or not!
There are numerous books and HBR articles written with excellent “do’s” and “don’ts” about how to run an effective meeting. One of the best I have found that is full of practical insights on the human side of meetings was written many years ago by a colleague of mine, Robert Kausen. The book is: We’ve Got To Start Meeting Like This!: How to Get Better Results with Fewer Meetings.
I must say that over my 35+ years of supporting strategy execution and business performance, no matter how may people there are in the meeting, there is almost always one important voice missing! The Voice of the Customer!
It’s not far off to say that 95% of most meeting time is taken up with internal issues. Costs, budgets, schedules and sales usually lead the way and it is this type of inside-out thinking and behaviour that tends to create more problems than it actually solves. Many years ago I supported a very talented new General Manager, Ian Walsh, turnaround a nearly bankrupt, once market leading aircraft engine company, Lycoming Engines. One of the key issues that Ian and his leadership team focused on was, Voice of the Customer. In fact, their vision was written as: “Return to Profitability by Listening to the Voice of Our Customers”. And they did, on both.
Let’s face it, who pays your salary? If you say the company, you have failed business 101A! The customer pays our salary! Without customers buying our products and services, and telling their friends and social networks to shop at your stores or use your services, your business will stagnate.
I often evaluate senior leadership teams on their focus and alignment around key business issues. And in nearly every case, no matter what the industry, issues about customer insights, customer data, customer information, customer wants and needs, tend to score the lowest.
It’s never too late to take an Outside-In look at your business. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.
Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture