Do You – And Does Your Organization Have A Customer-Centric Experience Innovation Framework?


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Some years back, Jim Higgins, an academic colleague in Florida, wrote a terrific book – Innovate or Evaporate – for managers, professionals, team leaders and anyone in the enterprise concerned with increasing competitiveness.  The foundation, or architectural plan, Jim used was the Seven S Framework, a management model developed by Tom Peters (yes, that Tom Peters) and Bob Waterman in the late 1970’s, while they were consultants at McKinsey.  This was the basis for my second book, The Customer Loyalty Pyramid, which addressed how organizations could strategically create a culture that would focus on customer value, customer experience, and customer loyalty behavior.  The customer-centricity model, or framework, can be displayed as follows:




The arrows in each element of this framework are all pointed in a single direction – the customer. Essentially, Peters and Waterman went full circle with this model by linking strategy and culture with organizational effectiveness. Here’s a brief description of each component of the framework, along with some brief perspectives on how it applies to optimizing customer experience and loyalty behavior.



1. STRATEGY is the integrated vision and direction of the company as well as the manner in which it communicates and implements that vision and direction.  So, the key strategic question for any organization is the degree to which customer value and stakeholder behavior transcends customer acquisition, or a product or sales focus.

2. STRUCTURE is the form of the organizational chart and interconnections between positions in the organizational hierarchy.  Is the structure compressed, or latticed, and responsive, even proactive, with customers or is it a typical vertical architecture with the customer a secondary consideration?

3. SYSTEMS is represented by the procedures and routine processes required to perform the work, including the ways information moves through the organization.  Who sees, analyzes, and applies customer-related data; and is it shared to optimize both value and experience for customers?

4. STAFF is the personnel categories within the organization, e.g. marketers, engineers, customer service, sales, accounting, HR, etc.  Does each employee job description, irrespective of function or title, have an element which shows how that person a) provides value to customers and b) works with other individuals and groups to assure that value is delivered at the level desired by customers? Learn more on this subject by registering here for my next webinar, “Successfully Building Employee Ambassadorship Into Your Company’s Customer Centricity Initiatives

5. STYLE is the characterization of the ways key managers set priorities and behave in order to achieve the organization’s goals.  In a customer-centric enterprise, goals are set around customer value delivery; and style represents the daily communication and action informal ‘rule book’ which governs how those goals are met.

6. SKILLS are the distinctive capabilities of the organization as a whole.  How does the enterprise define its best elements of performance?  If optimal value delivery isn’t core to skills, the organization can’t be truly identified as customer-centric.

7. SHARED VALUES are the core beliefs, or manifesto, underlying the organization’s existence and its expectations of its members. Values act as an organization’s conscience and provide guidance in times of crisis; however, these values, also known as superordinate goals, are what set the operating tone of the entire company and help to shape its reputation and image outside the organization.

The original intention of the framework was to help guide thinking about organizational effectiveness in the broadest operating sense. The 7-S model turned out to be an excellent tool for judging an organization’s ability to implement a given strategy. The model showed that thinking about strategy implementation was more complex than just the relationship between structure and how goals are met.  It demonstrated that culture, employee contribution to value, and the flow and actionability of data, were also key pillars of customer experience optimization.

As the graphic indicates, to be effective, an organization must have a high degree of internal alignment among all seven Ss. Each S must be consistent with the other factors for them to reinforce one another. All Ss are interrelated; and a change in one affects all others, especially where innovation and customer-centricity are concerned.

Certain key factors such as staff, strategy, structure and systems can be changed in the short term. The three remaining Ss — style, skills and shared values — are factors that can only be affected long term. Skills are both hard and soft.  Since its introduction close to forty years ago, countless companies, in multiple industries and locations around the world, have successfully onboarded the seven S framework; and, when applied with discipline and innovation around customer experience and value optimization; have found it is a straightforward and very workable template for successfully attaining organizational and stakeholder goals.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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