1. THE “HAWTHORNE EFFECT” LIVES ON.
It warrants attention, involvement and refinement by all the lessons learnt have been profound, but often unexpected.
During the 1950s academics from University of Chicago undertook a study of employee performance at The Western Electric plant in the locality of Hawthorne, Illinois, United States of America.
They were studying, monitoring and quantifying a hypothesis that greater light intensity was a key causal factor in increased production.
The researchers were conspicuous, interacting with the employees.
Over a period of time, the light intensity in the workplace was progressively and regularly increased.
Each time the researchers returned and conspicuously measured performance levels.
Production increased on all occasions.
To test the possible presence of double-positives or double-negatives in the findings the researchers returned and, unannounced to the workforce, lowered the light intensity.
Production increased again and did so repeatedly, with subsequent measures as the light intensity was reduced.
Put simply, individually and collectively, employees were responding positively to the attention and interactions to which they were being subjected, and which they were enjoying.
It explains, in part, the current variable performances of entities, public and private, big and small, when management “shine the lights” on aspects like customer service, innovation, creativity, change, disruption and quality.
Each aspect and measure is typically enhanced…. – until the attention and focus of the senior ranks are diverted to other “pressing” issues.
Customer-first, quality-first and managing-change initiatives provide a label.
They do not establish and sustain a driving force.
Winning, success, competitive advantage and quality are not part-time pursuits.
They are the outcomes and consequences of commitment to, and the follow-up and follow-through of specific, tangible values, practices and beliefs.
It takes unimpeachable focus, structure and discipline.
In short, if it’s worth doing, leave the lights on, and above all maintain the focus.
2. SERIOUSLY, FUN
This is serious.
Clients and consumers are finding it difficult to find, and enjoy, entities that are fun to do business with, and to visit.
It’s depressing, which is reflected in sales, customer loyalty and cash-flows.
Fun, enthusiasm, excitement and pride are emotive, subjective – and typically, overt. They are also infectious.
Business owners and leaders need to recognise being up-beat is far better than being beat-up.
Coming down on self and others during testing times is common, perhaps even understandable.
However, it’s a reflective mood, typically echoing the external marketplace.
Recessed economic conditions can and do contribute to depressed internal attitudes.
Neither is productive, or progressive.
A positive, up-beat and fun mindset counts for a lot.
In isolation, individual humans, teams and companies can not greatly influence or determine global and macro-environments.
They can, however, become, or be, a beacon of hope and relief.
Now might be a good time to sit back, contemplate and embrace the long-standing business adage:
Take the marketplace seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.
A good start will be to assemble the team members … – and have some fun.
3. TRUE TO YOURSELF
Inflated spurious curricula vitae (CVs) and penalty-inflicting unconscionable behaviour are indicative of widespread pervading negative values and self-images.
Unbelieva-Bill is not a tag that should be limited to the Australian Federal political sphere.
Trust, integrity and believability are the foundations of sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships.
They are also the pillars on which entities establish and maintain themselves to be employers of choice.
Isolating, analysing, articulating and inculcating accurate and genuine core values is a complex procedure.
It requires time, objectivity and resources, often with the advantages of an external perspective and input.
Knowing oneself is important.
Sharing those values establishes expectations, contributes to images, competitive advantages and above all, discerns a sense of purpose.
Strategic, tactical, cultural and social goals are more readily attainable, endorseable and understandable when those who contribute to them know themselves and are true to themselves.
MIND THE GAP
Mission, vision and philosophy statements assume a different mantle when effort is invested in knowing and bettering oneself.
Increased competitiveness, sales, revenue, profits and customer loyalty are natural consequences and manifestations.
Meaningful introspection is not a recognised or accredited academic discipline.
It is far too important and challenging for that.
Grades are not and cannot be assigned.
Like half-truths, inflated CVs and unconscionable behaviour put simply, are lies.
Knowing oneself is an absolute. 100%.
The resultant outcomes are equally impressive and commendable.
4. INITIATING, NOT MANAGING CHANGE
A light-bulb moment
Recently, an invitation popped up on my computer screen.
A well-established, high- profile AFL coach “had hung up his boots” and was now conducting presentations on “business leadership and managing change”.
Now, stop right there.
He seems to have learnt little on the football field.
Successful back-pocket players can make a successful transition from the ranks of player to coach.
However, leading the charge to closing down competitor teams attacks can, and does, minimise scoring opportunities for the opposition.
However, you win games by kicking more goals, and yes, points, than the other side.
Likewise, businesses win deals, revenue and profits by initiating, not managing change. In the latter instance, one is always in a “catch-up” mode.
In football, the rules and umpires are always inclined to favour the player in the front of contested marking duels.
Coleman medal winning goal scorers typically provide a target with a clear lead.
In sport and commerce, recognising, accepting and inculcating a tolerance of risk are important.
In essence, to win, one often needs to break from the pack.
Many sectors lack this, particularly in Australia.
Delegating the authority to fail is imperative.
Success is both an outcome and subjective, therefore not accurately perceptible or assured.
Serial success in change is seldom, if ever, random or serendipitous.
A common focus provides a driving force.
Parameters are typically set about the allocation of time, money and resource. Risk tolerance is determined, as are time horizons.
Regardless of what we think, say, do, make, market or service, obsolescence is enviable.
Those inevitable cycles are contracting.
On-going, progressive innovation and creativity are imperative.
Keeping ahead of the pack demands self-initiated thought, policies and actions.
Past and current practices and policies are often the barriers or a drag on the discipline and foresight to identify and conclude what one needs to stop doing,
It is often the difference between successful initiation of change, and the managing of change.
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
Some former football coaches and players do have much to share with the business fraternity.
Hopefully, it extends beyond the well-worn mantras of one day at a time and staying focused.
Even more have something to learn.
Like the virtues and advantages of embracing, initiating and maintaining change, in favour of managing change.
5. GUARANTEED – REALLY?
There are no guarantees.
Money-back offers have been marginalised, if not neutralised.
They currently offer little prospect of generating additional revenue, placating consumer anxiety, stimulating preferences and developing or sustaining relationships.
To some they are considered “quaint”.
Their peak usage and effectiveness of such were attained in the 1980s, when consumers were less informed about quality, performance standards and were particularly less aware of, and inclined to exercise, consumer rights and entitlement provisions.
MAKE IT SIMPLE
Macy’s department stores in the United States of America were explicit, concise and unqualified in their promise:
Satisfaction guaranteed. Period.
There were no limits, compromises or necessity to justify, and to submit written substantiations of claims.
Recognition of, and respect for the life-time value of a customer dictated delivering the promise … – without question.
This practical, simple policy which genuinely empowered Macy’s service providers with the authority to provide satisfaction, and fulfilled a basic aspirational consumer goal, being: Peace-of-mind
It was a distinguishing and powerful point of difference, and competitive advantage.
Competitors were hesitant to duplicate the offer, fearful of the cost and expectant of abuse by consumers.
To an overwhelming percentage and absolute number of Macy’s customers the money-back guarantee was appreciated, respected and valued.
Abuse of the privilege was isolated and very occasional.
NOTHING LASTS FOREVER
Over time other retail networks introduced, promoted and adhered to the ideals, led by Costco, Target, Nordstrom and Kohl’s.
Increasingly, consumer expectations changed and reached higher planes.
A competitive advantage was transformed into a basic essential.
Not to do so precluded one from the prospective shopping list.
Many business laggards still suffer from a loss of opportunity, revenue, profits, repeat and referral business, as well as loyalty, – unaware or alive to the importance and centrality of explicit and implicit guarantees.
Major motor vehicle manufacturers (for a long time) offered limited warranties related to the purchase of new cars.
Local dealerships extended similar, restricted assurances with the sale of used vehicles.
In the former instance, the deal was typically valid for 12 months or 12,000 kilometres – whichever lapsed first.
For used vehicles the offer was three months or 3,000 kilometres.
In the current marketplace seven-year, unrestricted-kilometre guarantees – with capped service costings – are not unusual.
For a significant percentage of consumers that represents a risk-free proposition, with the resale value of the vehicle is written down to nothing.
Hence, any price paid is a bonus.
It makes for easier, – not necessarily easy, – decision making.
Contemporary consumers tend to be better informed, more discerning, demanding, price-sensitive and aware of their rights (and prepared to exercise them) than ever before.
Accordingly, guarantees are often considered to be a given.
That is, implicit.
No one wants to, or indeed does read the fine print of (sales/supply) contracts.
Access to, and a preparedness to share experiences on social media have tipped the scales of balance and justice in favour of the customer.
SOME THINGS CAN’T BE GUARANTEED
One particular Asia-based international airline would find it difficult to win favour and increased custom by extending a money-back guarantee.
Two high-profile instances, in which hundreds of passenger lives were lost, are indelibly imprinted into the minds of people around the world.
That makes guarantees non-negotiable and, possibly, inappropriate.
Safety is sine qua non (second to none).
The calendar year 2017 recorded the lowest global number of paying passenger casualties.
It was not a perfect record, but did reinforce the high expectations about safety by intending and actual airline passengers.
Consequently, Qantas has lost any competitive advantage based on its safety record, and the endorsement of actors Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man.
Sometimes things don’t need to be promised or guaranteed, – just delivered.
Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.