Lean Sales Process does not start at Plan or Build


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Lean’s culture ties to PDCA or PDSA is exactly what limits Lean’s success in sales and marketing. I may even go out on a limb and say it will limit the success of the The Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn methodology being applied effectively to sales and marketing. The reason is that these theories are based on product-dominant thinking or GD-Logic.

When using GD-Logic thinking organizations tend to start with Plan (PDCA). In the Lean Startup, they skip the Plan and go right to Build (Do) or the experiment (hypothesis). What we forget to do in both instances is to download the customer’s needs. We assume tacit knowledge is far better than co-created knowledge. As we take our knowledge and make it explicit (experiment), we have difficulty not holding on to our per-conceived thoughts and proving our hypothesis. We are stuck in one view. We proceed to the Check/Study or Measure stage and the answers are manipulated and our Adjust or Learn Stage is just confirmation on the results that we wanted.

Think of your sales process. Are your sales efforts focused on guiding customers through a process that will ultimately lead them to a desired outcome, a purchase of your product? Are efforts guided on a website and data provided to segment and guide your customer through the ultimate experience? In offline sales, do you try to be a problem solver for your customer and assist him in making the right decision? Is problem solving key ingredient for successful sales people? (Read my blog post, Lean Salespeople are Challengers, not Problem Solvers).

It is difficult to learn when you position yourself as the expert. It is also difficult to see things objectively without suspending your thoughts. I am always reminded of an old Zen saying, “If you want to take a deep breath, you must exhale first.” That is the power of CAP-Do. If you are not familiar with it please view the CAP-Do Cycle Infographic in the Lean Sales Methods section. When we utilize the traditional cycle of PDCA, we start with Plan. We form a hypothesis of what we need to do. We assume the role of a teacher or revert to GD Logic. If we utilize the CAP-Do, we start with Check or understanding. We look to uncover common intent while stopping and listening to others. This point of understanding and Service Dominant Logic (SD Logic) is best implemented through the CAP-Do cycle.

I take a slightly different approach than many others when I interpret the Act or Adjust stage in CAP-Do. I view Adjust not as a method to prepare for Plan but to connect with others to see divergent views. Where C was about factual listening and measurement, A is about empathetic listening. It is where we look and listen through the eyes and ears of our customer before proceeding. It is not an easy process to accept different and often times opposing views. When considered, these views should not cause us to jump to “Pivoting” or making adjustments in the Plan stage of PDCA. Rather, it should cause us to PAUSE. We are oftentimes in a rush to Tug of Warget through the Act (Adjust) stage.

PDCA and CAP-Do create a healthy tension between the Supply and the Demand side of your business. Times are changing, and this tension is no longer being controlled by the supply side or PDCA. It is on the customer experience side and where the importance of CAP-Do has come to the forefront.  One of the secrets to Lean and foreign to many of us in Western Culture is the state of reflection or Hansei. Reflection needs to come before the Plan stage. I believe it is what makes for a successful Plan stage. I think it is the missing ingredient in many of our iterative cycles. To test this is quite simple; ask yourself, can you accept divergent thoughts without reflection, without a PAUSE? Can you accept divergent thoughts starting at Plan?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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