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Customer Value Enterprise®: The Journey to Customer Purpose

By understanding and addressing the ‘customer experience’, a business that is sensing and responding can offer world-class customer service in a very short space of time.

The key to corporate success going forward is to create a Customer Value Enterprise® focused on customers.

Yet while many organisations recognise this fact, very few are able to move fast enough because of their ingrained systems and processes.

In a Customer Value Enterprise®, the hierarchy is essentially turned upside-down. The role of the manager is changed from authority to support. The manager’s central responsibility is to provide the necessary knowledge and tools to empower frontline staff to handle the needs of the customer and assume responsibility for the end-to-end service.

Frontline staff embrace this innovative culture. As they are the true experts, they assume the responsibilities of designing their own job roles, articulating the needs of the customer, and identifying the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve customer success.

Implementing lean

This strategy uses human intelligence and relationship-building skills as the starting point for organisational transformation. As relationships shift between staff, managers and customers, and as staff embrace new responsibilities, old assumptions and mindsets will inevitably be challenged – and to good effect.

A Customer Value Enterprise® offers a new paradigm: an approach that breaks with the past to create breakthrough services.

In the world of IT what is the difference between Lean and Agile?

I was recently asked by a client about the difference between Lean and Agile in IT scenarios.

It certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this and to be truthful, my previous answers to that question seem to have provoked some who believe that Lean and Agile are different.

That those same people have a vested interest in viewing Lean and Agile separately is not lost on me.

Yet the history of Agile quite clearly shows that it was an attempt to translate Lean Manufacturing principles, along with self organising teams, into a new way of working – and it did a good job.

But back to that client, a senior manager with his question about Lean and Agile differences.

Here’s what I told him…

Lean IT and Agile: Principles and practices

Within the world of Lean IT, you often see ‘Lean’ and ‘Agile’ practices being applied alongside each other, so the question arises: are they the same?

Well, yes and no.

They both adhere to  general Lean principles such as people involvement, on-demand-services, learning loops and continuous improvement, while maximising value to the customer with little or no waste.

However, and this is a crucial point, the practices are different.

Lean business consultants in Europe

Lean IT addresses the management of the whole value stream (and in the best cases include the entire business and customer environment) synchronising end-to-end production, from software products specs through testing, building and operating IT infrastructures to create value for the customer.

Agile practices apply Lean principles to the task of software development and continually develop new software functionality in a steady, low-level stream rather than the traditional ‘big-bang’ large system deployments of yester year.

The Agile approach requires controlled experimentation, iteration and innovation.

Then, when the software is ready to be deployed into a live customer environment, different ‘Lean IT’ techniques are required to ensure service stability, while maintaining the ‘Agility’ created by the new software.

Lean IT is designed to ensure software and infrastructures combine to continuously meet the changing needs of customers.

Lean IT: Getting Rid of Root-Cause-Analysis

In life, we always look for the cause of problems, rather than the conditions that precipitated them. This method of single-focus solutioning leads us to believe that we’ve mastered the problem. But that very sense of satisfaction is a crucial mistake.

In the world of Lean IT thinking, the term ‘root-cause-analysis’ should be replaced by ‘root-condition-analysis, identifying and removing conditions that allow a failure to occur rather than simply apply a point fix which may only remove one element. A point fix is a ‘root-cause’ solution, that effectively ends the search for the real cause of the error.

Consider fire by way of example. Fire occurs when fuel, heat and oxygen come together at the same time. Remove any one element, the fire is extinguished and it appears that we have stopped the fire. And we have indeed stopped the fire but without a real idea of how to prevent a reoccurrence.

In truth, to ensure that another fire doesn’t occur, countermeasures need to be put in place for all three factors. Just working on the root-cause of the fire creates the illusion that the issue has been resolved when in fact there are two other potential causes of the fire to be explored further. If you mitigate or remove all three conditions instead of just one then the possibility of a fire is vanishingly small.

We need to look at ALL the conditions that can conspire to bring our systems down. We must never be fooled into thinking we have ‘fixed’ a problem. In Lean IT,  we abhor the term ‘fix’, instead terming all solutions ‘countermeasures’ to keep ourselves alert to changing conditions in complex arrangements that could very well disrupt our services.


Workforce and management teams need to think differently about the nature of customer problems, IT problems, business problems and the countermeasures we design. All this requires a Skill-Shift and a Mind-Shift. Lean IT is an investment in the quality of our thinking, seeing the whole and the holes within.

In addition, Lean IT is about carrying out a ‘root-cost-analysis’ on failures. It establishes the true cost of failure not simply in IT terms but in business terms.

This provides an IT operation with the best information to make wise investments in technology by viewing the IT budget as key to producing strong benefits to the business and its customers.

End-to-End Customer Value Enterprise® Measurement Key

In the coming weeks, this blog will explore the core themes of Sense and Respond: how the business of doing business has changed, is changing and how to forge a new vision out of continually exploring the organization and the customer at the very core of it.

Because of their intimate one-on-one contact with people, most customer call centres really do believe they matter and unsurprisingly find it hard to let go of traditional ways of working. Regardless, leading contact centres and service operations have replaced many of their volume metrics with customer-value metrics.

Controlling resources are important to a company, especially managers who have a duty to oversee such issues. Where call centres failed in the past was in turning concern over resources into targets for front-line staff. If management tells customer contact staff that controlling resources is important, it becomes a belief to them that these goals are of importance to the customer, which is clearly not true.

Staff should be focused on delivering value to the customer. However, with controlling resources viewed as a customer issue, a distinct lack of customer engagement results and silo thinking becomes institutionalized.

Implementing lean

Implementing Customer Value Enterprise® measurements should always be end-to-end because it is the end-to-end performance of the whole business that actually creates value for the customer.

These end-to-end measurements are purpose-related with a key question at the core: ‘Does this matter to the customer?’.

The answer is not always obvious, and the only way to get an accurate indication is by measuring end-to-end.

Measurements such as ‘total elapsed time’ and ‘capability to deliver value’ are good examples. Others might be a first-time fix – does that matter to a customer?

An obvious answer is ‘Of course it does’, but the business can also turn the question on its head and question: ‘Why does the customer need to have the fix at all?’

Companies that have adopted this end-to end approach have gained a deeper insight into their customers by fostering a new type of relationship between front-line staff and customers.

Customer loyalty has shifted to company loyalty to customer

In the coming weeks, this blog will explore the core themes of Sense and Respond: how the business of doing business has changed, is changing and how to forge a new vision out of continually exploring the organization and the customer at the very core of it.
In the past, organisations relied on the idealistic premise that customers will stay loyal if the product or service is good enough.

The current reality is that customers are intrinsically fickle, moving to where they perceive they will get the best service for the best dollar.

Customers have been deemed ‘sophisticated’ by corporations; a nice euphemistic way to say that they are more demanding.

They’re looking for more in every way because there are more options and choices. In short they have the power in the marketplace.

Customer loyalty is almost an oxymoron, a once-viable concept in the era of mass production before Sense-and-Respond. The reverse is now true: this is the era of company loyalty to the customer.

Lean business consultants in Europe

Simply delivering goods and services to the specification of a marketing and sales strategy is no longer acceptable. Trying to make the customer fit the sales proposition, only serves to shorten the life expectancy of the business. If you build it, they won’t come.

In the new business world, the deified customer wields true power. The customer is the arbiter between success and failure. But this benefits the business, too, because businesses capable of sensing and responding to customers’ needs are able to make the customer a true and loyal advocate.

The customer becomes a surrogate sales force; and the deliverers of excellent service become surrogate customers within their own organisation.

Organisations that embark on the ‘Journey to Customer Purpose’ acquire the ultimate tools to engender customer loyalty, customer retention, and employee satisfaction.