Are You Prepared for 3-Dimensional, Customer-Centric Process?


Share on LinkedIn

The process world is entering a period of disruptive change, and that will significantly affect CRM and customer-centricity. First, the rising power of customers is forcing process to become customer-centric, not company-centric. That means a complete turnaround in methods from traditional inside-out process that starts with internal needs to new outside-in process approaches that start with customer needs and let adding value to customers drive process design decisions.

Next, companies have tapped out most of the major process improvement opportunities in manufacturing. Accordingly, process attention is shifting towards office/service (O/S) in general, where opportunities abound, but with a very strong focus on front and back office process that directly affects customers.

And to make matters more challenging, 90%+ of process professionals practice either Lean or Six Sigma – both inside-out, manufacturing-based process approaches where customers do not drive process design, but only influence it at best.

Can practitioners take a crowbar to one or both to make them customer-centric? They’ve tried, with only limited success with Lean, and less with Six Sigma? Why? Because manufacturing process has only one dimension – “how” work is performed. Production engineers determine “what” work is done and “who” does it before process engages.

However, to align process with customers, not only must process design rethink “what” work gets done and “who” best does it from the customer perspective, but process design also determines the enabling technology required, including management of customer data and addition of CRM and other customer-related software. Both Lean and SS lack the requisite tools for determining two of the three dimensions, and the most important two for aligning process with customers. Automation technology is determining more and more of the “how.” And neither Lean nor SS can deliver up comprehensive technology requirements to support customer-centric process.

Clearly, we need to start adopting 3-dimensional, customer-centric process approaches. That’s well within the realm of the possible using outside-in, but it’s well nigh impossible with inside-out approaches including Lean and Six Sigma. Are you ready to redesign “what” work gets done and “who” does it–and take your company into the 3-dimensional, customer-centric process world?


  1. Dick

    Graham Hill
    Customer Think
    ‘Let the Customer Drive Your Business with Lean CRM’

    Five principles that show very clearly that customers’ needs are at the very heart of Lean CRM. I know, because I was personally responsible for implementing it at Toyota.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  2. Dick Lee – Graham, you should go up to the BP Group on Linkedin and read some of the discussion threads. Even Lean practitioners are acknowledging there’s a problem caused by Lean being inside-out whereas 3G process methods are outside-in. But I don’t want to have a food fight about it, so let’s stop here.

  3. Dick

    I have been involved with lean thinking long enough to know that not all that many lean practitioners have personal experience working for lean legends like Toyota. From my and others experience, it seems that working for Toyota is generally considered a life-changing event. I learnt more about customer-centricity from Toyota than I did working for any number of supposedly customer-centric companies over the years, and consultancies come to that.

    This isn’t about fighting with buns. It is about my own personal experience gathered over four years implementing Lean CRM at Toyota. I know that Lean CRM really works. And that it is more customer-centric done the Toyota way, than with any other company I have worked with over a 24 year career working with dozens of blue-chip companies in 17 different countries.

    For me, my own experience easily trumps that of others, not fortunate enough to have worked for Toyota. The Toyota Way is the customer-centric way.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  4. Graham, much as I respect Toyota, it doesn’t prove that Lean CRM works for everyone. It does exemplify, according to your personal experience anyway, that Lean CRM can work, in the hands of a customer-centric company.

    Some companies succeeded with Six Sigma (Motorola, GM?) and this launched the TQM wave. But this success didn’t translate broadly to other companies.

    Others more recently jumped on the NPS bandwagon based on a popular book that used sketchy research. I’ve talked to several companies who report excellent results. But others have adapted/modified the concept considerably or used an entirely different methodology. So, no proof that I’m aware of that NPS works for all, or none.

    But of course individual cases don’t “prove” anything. For industry leaders like Toyota, which has great CustomerThinkers and execution, I suspect they could make a lot of business ideas work that might stump ordinary companies. “The Toyota Way” is not easily copied, or else there would be many more Toyotas.

    Dick, on the other hand, I don’t think you can prove that Lean CRM can’t work, either. You have different experiences and opinions than Graham, but unless I’m missing something, you are both just arguing your POV based on personal experience.

    Nothing wrong with that, that’s one reason why this site exists. Constructive debate sharpens our thinking, and we could use more of that. But it doesn’t seem that this debate will come to any conclusion. I haven’t studied Lean CRM, and frankly don’t understand exactly how it’s different from Fat CRM, so I don’t have an opinion one way or the other. But I believe Graham when he says it worked at Toyota.

    I’m all for any tools or methodologies that can help make a company more customer-centric and prosperous. Based on my 10 years of experience and several research studies, CRM, CEM and social media can all can play a supporting role, but there isn’t a simple formula that guarantees success… or failure.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here