Inside Out or Outside In?


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It seems to me that over the years, a lot of firms large and small have tended to adopt an ‘inside out’ approach to business performance improvement. What this involves is people within an organisation using their commonsense and anecdotal feedback perhaps from customers or suppliers, or as a result of financial ratios, working out what needs fixing and how.

I was at Brussels airport last week on my way back from a client, and couldn’t help overhearing a couple of ladies with their laptops out, nattering about ‘Operational excellence’. I might be wrong, but I wouldn’t mind betting that they were part of a team to take an inside out approach. Operational excellence is one of those catch-all phrases that sounds like a worthy aspiration. Maybe it’s part of some Six Sigma programme, to remove waste from processes.

To my mind the problem with this inside out approach is that however clever the planners and process designers are, there is no accounting for human foibles.

As an example. I’ve just moved house with my family, and we bought a new TV – one with colour that looks quite lifelike. I can now see the news at 10 newsreader without that irritating red hue. He now looks reasonably relaxed whereas before I thought he was about to have a stroke.

Yesterday, I received a letter from the TV Licensing authority noting that I had bought a TV and that there was no TV licence registered under the new address. It commanded me to, ‘phone up and give your existing licence number if you have changed address.’

I duly rang the number and a robot with a female voice asked me me if I had my licence number of not – ”answer yes or no after the tone”.

‘No!’ I said

The robot wasn’t at all phased by this, but said: ” phone back when you have your licence number”, followed by a click as I was cut off.

Now in a perfect world we would always be able to lay our hands on all important documents. But I’m still getting used to the new house and haven’t a clue where my licence is. I’m certainly not going to make any special effort to find it. I pay for my licence by direct debit, so when the heavies come round, I shall tell them.

To my mind this is another example of inside out thinking.

Ask yourself this. Does your firm base its conclusions and strategies on inside out thinking? If so have you any stories to share of the consequences – positive or negative?

Jeremy Cox
Jeremy Cox leads the European sales effort for CustomerSat. He gained insights into the challenges of evolving from a product-centric to customer-focused business as a change leader in IBM during the mid- to late 199s. He lives in Yorkshire with his wife and two teenage children.


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