“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”
― Peter Drucker
Why is it that the best run companies often have the hardest time growing?
I recently had the pleasure of exploring this issue while speaking at the Intelligence Leadership Forum (ILF), led by Liam Fahey — who literally wrote the book (well, actually, eight books) on the subject of insights. What we realized is this: Operational excellence – no matter how good it is – can never be sufficient to win in the long term.
As we peeled back the layers on this puzzling reality, a recurring theme developed; So many CEOs rely on history and instinct to run their businesses. And for all the operational excellence they’ve developed over the years, they often don’t seek direct insights on customers, competitors and even their own employees. But in neglecting this, they are turning their back on the best opportunity to keep their business apace with market forces.
This is especially true in an era where businesses are under assault from many angles: the fallout of a global pandemic, new and renewed competition, and a digital tidal wave that has swept across the landscape.
Here’s the problem as I see it- so many companies have put all of their eggs into the executional basket developing robust processes to manage, manufacture, and maintain. But, while they’ve been focused on operational efficiency within their walls, they miss the insights needed to understand the forces that have transformed their market.
For companies that want to drive top-line growth by attracting new customers, launching new products or simply growing new customers, a heavy execution and operational focus can keep the mindset within its four walls. To drive growth, they need to gain and leverage a reliable market-based perspective.
The Insights professionals I spoke with at the ILF, understand that growth companies need more – not more data or more marketing tactics, but instead more understanding. This includes a keen understanding of how we reach or serve customers in TODAY’S market, and the understanding of real insight data – a laser focus around who we serve, what they need, and whether we are continuing to satisfy and delight.
In a world where the market is doing all the driving, using a car with just the “execution” gear could leave you at the wrong destination or worse, leave you stuck on the side of the road. Adopting an insights-first posture requires a mindset and capability shift but comes with a significant payoff- the restoration of a growth-oriented trajectory to complement operational prowess.
Consider insights as the foundation of this mindset shift – a key for making decisions that will inform the strategies and tactics that follow. Why is this so critical? Because it’s here when we give the voice of the customer its rightful place in our process. We can no longer fall into the all-too-common trap of thinking that we know what they think.
Instead, we need to focus our insight -- creating process on three key areas:
Insights and a market-based perspective bring us full circle for better execution. If execution isn’t working well, it's likely not the execution activities directly, but a disconnect with one of the earlier steps. Moreover, having the right insights and strategy often allows us to do more with less. Such a mindset shift may take a while to evolve. You can accelerate the process by getting the help you may need. Please reach out if I can be of assistance.