If you are working on changing the customer experience then stop!

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Recently I visited my brother to see how his car business is doing. In the process we got talking and he shared a story that we can all benefit from. It illustrates the folly of striving to improve performance of a complex system through piecemeal ‘change’.

By brother’s business partner bought a used car (which worked perfectly) and set about improving it. He changed the wheels. He changed the seats. He added a body kit. He had all kinds of work done on the engine. He had the exhaust replaced etc. In total he had spent something like £17,000 on the car. What did he get for it? He had a car that no longer worked well. Why? Because he forget that a performance of car is emergent behaviour that arises as a result of the interdependence of the all the components. That means you cannot simply change things piecemeal – like he did – if there are interdependencies between the pieces!

You may be looking to improve the customer experience or to move your organisation from product focus to customer-centric. In both cases I recommend that you take the road less travelled. Start with what you want (your objective) and identify the constraints that any solution has to bear in mind. Next study the ‘system’ at hand and figure out the key interdependencies. Once you have sufficient understanding of the ‘system’ then go ahead and design. Design is coming up with solutions and as such involves a blend of thinking: imagination, creativity, analytical and synthesis. When you have the right design – rather like the architects blueprint – then you can start building to that specification knowing that all the pieces fit harmoniously.

You can choose to simply ‘fix what is broken’ in a piecemeal way. This is much easier and it appeals to those with an engineering mindset. And it is natural because organisations are split into functions – each with its own agenda. If you do go down this path then don’t be surprised if at the end of this series of changes you (your organisation, your customers) end up in the same place as my brothers business partner.

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