The Four Temperaments of Organizational Alignment

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It seems to be an unwritten rule. Or maybe it’s our collective failure to think of history as anything more than a collection of dusty tales from long dead, tech-deprived societies. Or maybe it’s simply ignorance. Whatever it is, it seems rare for anyone in the business world to look to the ancient Greeks for insight on organizational behavior.

There have been a few articles written over the years that touch on what ancient Greeks had to say about personal behavior, justice, leadership, and ethics, and community, preparation, and discipline but I can’t recall ever seeing anything that shared ideas they espoused that could be borrowed today in an effort to have business organizations work better together. So I’ll take a stab at it by lining up The Four Temperaments with the various stages that a company’s internal organizations are likely to experience as they embark upon an effort to align around a common goal.

Organizational Alignment is one of the ten capabilities we believe companies need to focus on and achieve higher levels of excellence in if they are to truly digitally transform. I’ll be periodically sharing stories around a few of these capabilities in future posts, and while my favorite is Customer-Centricity, I’d like to start with Organizational Alignment.

Why Organizational Alignment? Because it’s about people, emotion, and conflict. It’s about leadership and competition. It’s hopefully not about betrayal and deceit but one can never rule anything out. Because it touches the raw nerve of a company, Organizational Alignment is the one capability out of those ten with the most potential for bending the arc of history back towards ancient Greece and those four temperaments. Those four temperaments (in case you didn’t click on the link above) are: Choleric, Melancholic, Sanguine, and Phlegmatic. They are words you’ll not likely utter or read once a year, maybe not even in your lifetime. But they offer apt descriptions of each stage that occurs when, being a key digital transformation initiative, all the various organizations that touch customers are informed that they will need to operate from a single source of customer data.

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Choleric (short-tempered, fast, or irritable, fiery) – Cries of heresy! “Operating from a single source of truth about customers?” “Why should other teams see what I’ve entered in the CRM?” “Why would my customer notes matter to their work? I don’t care about theirs; why should they concern themselves with mine? If I need to let them know about a customer matter that I’m responsible for I’ll let them know.”

Admit it, you’ll feel territorial. You’ll feel cynical, skeptical, threatened, controlled, pressured by Big Brother, disrespected, and probably a little hurt. I mean, come on, why should Sales and Marketing operate off the same customer records (same fields, no hidden data) as Support (and vice versa)? If this is how you envision your reaction then you’ll be in the first stage, the choleric stage.

How to resolve and move forward:

  1. Leaders must clearly describe to their organizations all the reasons why a single data source is critical
  2. There must be consensus on point #1 amongst all organizational executives
  3. All executives are peers in this initiative
  4. Even though it involves only the internal organizations, the customer is the most important party in this initiative. Empathize with the customer. See this from McKinsey to really understand what that statement means.
  5. Urgency, momentum, and transparency are critical attributes

Melancholic (analytical, wise, and quiet) – You’ve adjusted a bit and tamped down the fire. Your org is talking to the other orgs and collectively you’ve moved into a more analytical phase. Maybe the first thing that comes to your mind at this point is that your organization should be the one that defines the rules. After all, your organization has traditionally “owned the customer”. Wouldn’t it be logical for the group that knows the customer best to define the rules?

If I were you I wouldn’t shout that too loudly. That paradigm sailed away years ago along with its poor track record once SaaS rocketed onto the stage. No one but the customer owns the customer now.

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How to move this phase along:

  1. Accept and embrace the initiative; understand and buy-in to the goal of placing the customer at the center of the CRM and conceptually have all organizations revolve around them
  2. Accept that internally transparent data is the best way to serve the customer

Sanguine (enthusiastic, active, and social) – This is when things become fun. You’ve met new people (your colleagues in the other organizations) and they appear to be quite bright and ambitious. You think they’re okay and that you might actually be able to work with them.

How to move this phase along:

  1. Figure out new ways to serve the customer from the common data records you’re all using.
    1. Is the data revealing surprising information about the customer
    2. Is the data suggesting that your existing processes are not working as you had hoped
  2. Make change happen
  3. Communicate the same messaging to all organizations about the wins

Phlegmatic (relaxed and peaceful) – Some time later, after all the other temperaments have sequentially run their course, comes this state during which you can review and pat each other on the back. Oh, and you can also expect to see your customer retention rates go up.

Yay! Congratulations! One capability down, nine more to go.

Stay tuned!

If simplifying things sounds useful to you, you might like to check out Customer Experience Simplified, to discover how to provide customer experiences that are managed as carefully as the product, the price, and the promotion of othe marketing mix.Customer Experience Simplified

 

Image source: Pexels



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