Sensemaking, Time Changes Everything


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This post is the tenth post in my series on Sensemaking. Like the previous two posts, this focuses on how you apply the principles of Cynefin in your sales strategies with your customers.

For links to the other posts in the series, go to: Sensemaking, The Big Issue Facing Both Our Customers And Us.

In the previous posts we looked and how the “context” or domain your customers may be in will change depending on where in the organization of the functions that you engage. As a result, our organizational strategies, our engagement strategies, the skills, competencies, tools, content, processes will have to change to be aligned with the part of the organization we choose to target.

Likewise, at all levels, things change over time. As a result, we need to look at where we and our customer are, how things are changing, and align what, with how, and how we engage with our customers–engaging them where they are at.

We live in a very dynamic world, over time, things change. What was new and innovative in the past, has become commonplace or even mundane. Problems and challenges that seemed to have been insurmountable 5 years ago, may be well understood and easily addressed today.

In the Cynefin model, over time and experience we see a clockwise movement of problems, issues and challenges. As we gain collective experience and knowledge of things that were Complex, many may move into the Complicated. Problems that had been Complicated may move into the Simple. Likewise, disruption may occur in our Simple context, throwing everything into Chaos. (Disruption can occur with any problems in any context.)

We are actually quite familiar with this concept in another context. If we look at the product/market maturity curves made famous by Geoffrey Moore in Crossing The Chasm, we can see how Cynefin contexts can be mapped to his model.

How we engage customers in identifying issues and solving their problems changes based on where they are in this model.

Understanding this becomes very useful across several areas:

  1. Our targeting strategies. Depending on customer/problem maturity, our targeting strategies are very different. Innovators and early adopters will have the mindset, skills, disciplines, risk profiles to address complexity far better than laggards. As we, ourselves, seek to position solutions to challenges that are in the complex domain, we have a lot to test and learn ourselves. Consequently, we want customers that are anxious to collaborate in understanding. As our, collective, experience grows, the issues move into the complicated domain, and we can expand our markets to customers that have the characteristics and abilities to address and manage challenges in this space. And it doesn’t make sense to engage the laggards until the problems are moving from the complicated to simple contexts.
  2. Beyond our targeting strategies, the buying difficulty becomes different from stage to stage. As a result, our engagement strategies, and the skills/competencies we need in our sales teams change as we move from context to context. This goes beyond just our people, but impacts the tools, programs, content, systems, processes, and support required for success.
  3. Our organizational and deployment strategies will change as we move from the complex to simple domains. In the complex domain, we will probably need a team oriented sell, with subject matter experts, account managers, people with problem solving expertise and so forth. As we move into the complicated domain, we may move to a simpler structure, as well as having more tools to support our people in selling solutions to customers in this quadrant. And as we move to customers in the simple quadrant, we may ultimately move to self education and web based sales. As we look at these domains, the skills and competencies required for success change, the systems, tools, processes change, the content and other support programs change. To maximize sales performance and our abilities to engage our customers in a value based way, as well as our ability to be as effective and efficient as possible, we have to align our organizational models and deployment strategies to match the domain we and our customers are at.
  4. Related to the previous points, in large organizations, we may focus on a wide array or problems and challenges, working with different customers in different domains. We have to align our go to market strategies, our organizational and deployment strategies with the context for those problems/issues and the customers that have those challenges. Too often, we have a “one size fits all” approach which will cause us to be far less impactful than we could be.

One thing, we and our customers must be attentive to, regardless of the quadrant or domain we, collectively, are operating in, is Disruption. Increasingly, whether it’s new technologies, new business models, societal or governmental we are increasingly vulnerable to disruption.

This throws both we and our customers into the Chaotic context. When we find our markets and customers are in the Chaotic domain, the challenges are different. All the old rules are gone, many of the traditional solutions may no longer be relevant, we and our customers will have to reinvent ourselves or fail.

So far in our exploration of Sensemaking, we’ve focused on our customers. We’ve looked at identifying where our customers are at and how we most effectively engage them in our Sensemaking.

In the next post, I want to offer some thoughts on our own organizations. Our own companies and our people live in worlds of increasing turbulence. As a result, Sensemaking within our own organizations is critical. If we can deal with our own challenges, we will never be able to address those our customers face.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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