Gerry McGovern
Jan 25, 2018 · 6 min read

(Chapter 17 from Transform: A Rebel’s Guide for Digital Transformation)

Switch. Switch jobs. Switch brands. Create open, simple, switchable designs. This is a time of great unpredictability and rapid change. You must be flexible and adaptable, skeptical, yet optimistic. Think open. Think transparent.

The old model is slowly collapsing. The “establishment” — the organization, the elites, the experts — are coming under increasing scrutiny. Wealth is concentrating in ever greater quantities in the top 1%, as the middle class is getting poorer, and those on low income struggle more and more every day. Societal contracts have been ripped up, mainly by brands and organizations, who expect loyalty from their employees and customers, but show precious little loyalty in return.

People are increasingly information rich and money poor. As a result, there is a lot of anger out there. They do not intend to remain passive bystanders. The Web has given them unprecedented tools of organization and communication. They have the power and connections that they simply never had before.

Switch. Leave nothing static because that which is static or slow moving or hidden will get washed away in this tsunami of change. The best way you can help wash away the old model is to switch and design the switches. Sometimes, the things that make it difficult for customers to do things are that way because organizations didn’t care enough about the customer experience. But sometimes the complexity and difficulty was a deliberate part of the design and business model. Content was made deliberately complex and jargon-filled so as to confuse and frustrate. Unnecessary and time-consuming steps were added to a process in order to lock-in the customer, or to make them simply accept what’s on offer. The old model didn’t want you to think too much. It just wanted you to buy, to accept, to acquiesce.

The old model is a parasite on our lack of information, ignorance and laziness. It depends on us not thinking, not questioning and certainly not acting. So, if you want to do your part to usher in the new model and a fairer more transparent world, then you must switch as much as possible. I know that it’s hassle. It took me years to switch my insurance companies, and I’m still in the process of switching my bank accounts. It’s not easy. It takes time.

But if we all switch, think of what it will do? It will totally expose those who are ripping us off, because a foundation of the old model is the exploitation of loyal customers. By facilitating switching you will facilitate openness and transparency. The greatest strength for your organization will be that you have absolutely nothing to hide. Think if you could design something that allowed people to more easily compare, that allowed people to more easily understand. Think of how powerful that would be. That would build trust. That would build credibility. That would build brand. That would ensure longevity because you and your organization would remain fit. You would be strong and flexible because you would always be focused on what is best for the customer.

If you choose what is best for the organization — and that is by far the easiest option — then you choose a rapid route to extinction. Because your weakness will be your complexity — the locks and walls you have built — and once customers get an option to move, they will. Because — be guaranteed — your customers will find out that there is something better out there. Because — be guaranteed — your competitors will be doing their very best to make switching to them as easy as possible.

Switch to survive. Switch to thrive. The switch economy is already here. The compare economy is here. What I’m advising you to do is to stay up with the new model trends and build up your skill sets and experience around creating environments that empower customers, making their lives simpler and faster. Think fairness. Is this fair for the customer? Does it makes sense for customers to be loyal to us? Be on the side of your customers because your future career is in trouble if you stay with an organization whose business model is based on ignorance and blind loyalty.

Giving employees and customers control will be impossible for many organizations — and these will surely go extinct. Even the best organizations will constantly struggle with the idea that the customer should be given more control, so make sure that you keep your organization lean and customer-focused. And if you don’t feel the organization you’re with right now is truly capable of new model thinking, then switch jobs.

Putting the customer first means you must develop a deep, deep understanding of what matters most to them. This is an age of everything overload. There is massive abundance and glut out there, and everything is growing at a phenomenal pace. You must therefore have a clinical understanding of the top tasks of your customers. You must have that laser sharp focus of what’s most important to them in any particular situation. Clutter — tiny tasks — kills the customer experience. Tiny tasks lie in a bed or organizational ego dreaming of being top tasks. They are the number one weed — the number one destroyer of the customer experience. You must eradicate them before they kill your design — and your career. Because it takes very little talent to design for tiny tasks. Anyone can add. It’s the essence of the new model skillset to refine, to take away. The top tasks identification method that I have detailed in this book will give you a league table of what is most important — and least important to your customers.

The way you refine — the way you learn what to take away — is to get your design and content into the customers’ world as quickly as possible. Design for use through use. Get your stuff used. See what is being used and make it simpler and simpler to use. The stuff that isn’t being used, take it away. Are there gaps? Are there top tasks that you missed? They will emerge through use, through constant observation and feedback from customers. You’ll see what missing as they give up in frustration, as they waste their time, as they suggest an improvement.

Measure success based on customer success. Use the Task Performance Indicator to figure out how easy and fast it is for your customers to complete their top tasks. Make changes based on evidence that shows where your customers are having difficulties. Continuously test. Continuously improve. And always look for opportunities to make it easier for the customer to switch, easier for the customer to compare, easier for the customer to understand. Because if you are loyal to your customers — if you genuinely seek to create the best possible customer experience for them — then they are far more likely to be loyal to you.

In order to transform your organization from tribal silos to a customer-centric network, you must flood it with the experience of your customers as they seek to complete their top tasks. The more the organization is exposed to the actual experience of customers, the more likely it is to develop empathy for customers — a prerequisite for creating an environment for the development of simple, fast customer-centric products and services.

Empathy is not enough, though. You must link the experiences of customers with the bottom line — wherever or whatever that is. You must link the experiences of customers with the key performance indicators of the organization. For many trained in old model thinking, it will seem counter-intuitive that what is good for the customer is good for the organization. Have no doubt, in this age of the customer, the link and the new logic exists — but it has to be shown and proven.

It won’t be easy. It will be risky. You will often be seen as a troublemaker. You must remain nimble, flexible, and, above all, optimistic. The future is in your hands. The future is up to you.

Read the previous chapter: Top Tasks Management @ Cisco

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Gerry McGovern

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