« February 2009 | Main | April 2009 »

March 27, 2009

Mind Over Matter

The popular press has some pop psychology in the news, reminding us that optimism leads to better health. Of the different articles and studies I have had flash across my screen the more interesting one is about the chocolate with the positive aphorisms that leads to a more productive attitude. While there is plenty of actual believable research to back up the claims, I do find it interesting that a company actually wants to market this kind of product. On the other hand, I travelled through Sedona this week, so why would I not think this kind of product as normal.

Well, all teasing aside, I think there is a lot to be said for both the power of positive thinking and the power of negative thinking. Being a guy who can spot a glass half empty from a mile away, I would like to focus briefly on the power of negative thinking.

One of the things that I like to keep in the forefront of the thinking of my clients’ minds is that if managers believe that a business change won’t work, the likelihood of them being correct increases dramatically. From a CRM perspective there is pretty strong evidence to suggest that the number one predictor of a program being successful is whether managers support it. Or, taking the glass half empty approach, which is so much more comfortable for me, if managers don’t buy in, it will be doomsday.

If you don’t believe that the new system will work, you will most likely self-fulfill the proverbial prophesy. If you are skeptical that a standardized process will be carried out, your attitude will influence that it won’t be. Your lack of confidence that the new policies will be capable of supporting new goals will help to assure that you are correct.

I see this whole thing played out fairly often. The largest road block is typically put up when a company is contemplating the possibility of switching CRM platforms. Commonly the sentiment is that no matter what the alternative choice is to the incumbent system there are key stakeholders who have had negative experiences with the proposed replacement. Warnings are raised that switching to the tainted package will lead to disaster, as happened in the past at the previous employer.

Cautioned Too

What I can tell you from the perspective of an organizational psychologist is that this attitude is intensely hard to combat. If you are about to embark on a change to a new system and you have this mindset in even a small percentage of the thought leaders, you will have a significant challenge on your hands. But, this is not because of my ability to see partially filled glasses so clearly. Rather, this is all about the power of negative thinking. When managers believe a new system won’t work, they will possess an uncanny ability for prediction.

This is why I don’t like the strategy of, “let’s get the system in and then we will win over folks with its abilities”. Negative attitudes will prevail and then be proven correct. A better strategy is to win people over prior to the change. And, I do not know of any way to do this without both identifying and engaging the naysayers. They have to be heard and then conditions have to be met that will allow their concerns to be addressed. The problem is that this takes longer and it is much easier to push past this stage fast.

It is much easier to ignore the folks who aren’t on board. At first. Then you pay. They will find you. Take the harder trail and include the folks with a different opinion than yours. If you do, you will have a much better chance of influencing them to make your CRM program successful.

March 20, 2009

Tourist In Paradise

There was an ad in one of the airline magazines placed by a resort that claimed it was a destination for travelers, implying that it was not a place for tourists. They were touting themselves as a haven for the elite. This is an interesting distinction that I have not seen articulated quite so explicitly. As someone who is on the road (in the air) 30 or more weeks out of 52, I do recognize this distinction. Encountering too many tourists while traveling can make a trip a bit less rewarding.

It is currently spring break time and the influx of unseasoned travelers is menacing. The folks in line at security are not efficient with emptying their bags of liquids and electronics, nor are they quick to remove the shoes, coats and other metal objects that so upset the security personnel. This part of the airport experience is less pleasant than usual. The planes have more seats occupied by travelers who are not aware that the thing they are kicking in front of them is actually intended to be your tiny haven of comfort.

Tourists also dress a bit differently, stick out a bit more, and in general don’t blend in to the hustle and bustle of the getting-from-point-A-to-point-B world that us regulars have as part of our work week. So, yes, there is a distinction, and I try not to be a snob, but I prefer to think of myself as a traveler and not a tourist, even when I travel for pleasure.

So, at this point you are wondering what this could possibly have to do with CRM. Here it goes.

There are many folks in organizations today that are responsible for making sure that the CRM tools that are in place, often with great investment, are working to serve their purpose. This may be a role that you play within your company. I meet a lot of these folks and they go by a wide ranging set of titles. But, when I get introduced to them or when I hear them referenced, the role is commonly described as being the person in charge of the tool.

I hope that you don’t get upset with me on this, but think this is a mistake. Folks in these positions are very important and I have recommended to plenty of my clients that they invest in this type of role. However, being a steward for a sales or marketing automation system on the one hand is valuable, but on the other hand, it is not sufficient.

This role should be responsible for supporting the effectiveness of the function that it supports, of which the tool responsibility is merely a subset. By the way, the distinction between the two roles is the only portion of the traveler/tourist analogy that I am raising. I am not suggesting that tool managers are like tourists. But, I do think that those who focus on functional effectiveness rather than tool effectiveness have a greater chance of providing value to the organization. You will be focused on the outcome to which the tool contributes rather than on the tool itself, which might sound trivial in print, but I find that the difference in orientation causes a huge difference in output.

So, what happens if you find yourself in this situation? I propose that you reframe your role – declare that your charter is on functional effectiveness and push others to expect that from you. Do you manage someone that looks like this? Re-orient your expectations and re-define the outcomes of that role. They should be focused on business results such as staff productivity and performance. Do you consult to someone in this position? Counsel them to redefine their mission to reach for greater contribution. I believe you will see an impact almost immediately.

Getting back to travel and tourism - elite travelers are allowed to have fun while they are on the road - they can even wear that favorite Hawaiian shirt now and then, but they do have to do it with just a bit more dignity.

Happy Beer Day

March 13, 2009

Green Branding

We typically get involved with some type of entertaining on or around Saint Patrick's Day and our food and drink invariably is prepared with the aid of coloring enhancements. I'll serve green snakebites before dinner. The corn bread accompanying the meal is green and whatever pudding is served following the meal will be in some way improved to a mouth watering green.

The timing of the topic of today's entry is not intended to augment the menu - it is truly a coincidence, really. I just read an article describing a very creative branding strategy that is also very green, just not in a Paddy's Day way. The whole story goes something like this.

There is this wombat in Australia that has become endangered. The problem is that it is hard to get the funding to protect these obscure critters - partially because they are shy and don't do much to help themselves on the world stage. Enter a company called Xstrata, a mining company from Switzerland. Xstrata has adopted the northern hairy-nose wombat as their corporate mascot. As a result, their logo is now the hairy-nose.

Having an endangered mascot as your logo comes with a price. You now fund habitat restoration and other programs to keep this not quite cuddly from going the path of the dino. What you get in return is that everything wombat how has your brand attached. Websites, t-shirts, environmental literature and media all show the Xstrata brand anytime the wombat is involved.

I think this is an incredible win-win situation.

You could put your brand on a sports stadium or concert arena, which I think is ridiculous. There is no pride in playing basketball at the Dunkin Donuts arena in Providence. Not only is the brand association missing, but the investment does not really accomplish anything. The Patriots at one time played at CMGi stadium. That branding investment was so successful for CMGi that they filed chapter 11 shortly after the name went on the side of the grid iron.

If you are looking to get your name attached to something think before you spend. Why not check out what the World Wildlife Fund is trying to keep alive. You might find they have just the mammal, reptile or winged creature you were hoping to complete your brand image. And if you do, everybody wins.

Wing Span Warning

March 06, 2009

In A Fix

I had this noise and it finally crossed the threshold. The original diagnosis was that the drive shaft was bad, but I let it go on for a while. The noise got to a point where I was afraid I would leave a large chunk of iron on the pavement at 70 MPH. So, I left the car with the mechanic during one of those trips where I was away for a week, giving him plenty of time to get the repair accomplished.

You can imagine my frustration when I picked up the car on the night of my return and that horrid noise had not gone away. It turns out that a wheel bearing was bad and I really didn’t need to address the drive shaft. If only I had requested for the mechanic to look it over one more time before simply making the repair.

This thing happens all the time in businesses across the globe. The CRM system is not working – it is making a terrible noise and needs to get fixed. Most of the time the expectation is that the fix should be a replacement with a new product. We get these requests continuously. The CRM program is not delivering on expectations and the tool is taking the blame.

The far majority of the time the tool is not the problem, but it can take some serious convincing to get my clients to accept the diagnosis. It is much easier to blame the technology than accept that more difficult repairs may be needed. Sometimes it is the data and sometimes it is an issue of adoption. There can be a lack of management sponsorship or there can be process issues. Most of the time it is a combination of these factors at work.

What is sad is that many companies replace their CRM technology because of a bad diagnosis when these other factors are actually the issue. It appears as the easier and more attractive fix, but results in wasted resources and unresolved organizational problems. It is no wonder that so many are skeptical about the real possibility of getting benefits from CRM.

If you are sitting on a CRM program that is making bad noises be very careful with your diagnosis. Take a close look at multiple sources of potential contribution. Even when there are some obvious improvements needed with the technology, there is a very strong chance that other factors are contributing to the unmet expectations. Give the technology the correct level of attention but don’t let it become the scapegoat. If that happens you may be the next one.

Eye of Goat