(Updated in 2020)
10-Point Plan – Align Values with Value Proposition
The Clean and the Unpredictable
The core of any great business is the business model that drives it. A company without a viable, thriving business model — a process which consistently yields a growing profit — is a hobby not a business. The mathematics of the process — the return on investments — has to justify the decisions and directions of the business. Human relationships — intelligent, trust bonds with employees, customers, vendors, partners — are vital to the true and ethical execution of those decisions.
Mathematics and numbers are a comfort. They add up to clear, clean, predictable answers. We can reach the solution to a mathematical problem with the right algorithm, good data, and a trusty calculator. People are not so comfortable. Their behavior can be unintelligible, messy, and unpredictable. To reach the solution to a people problem requires experience, leadership, and gray matter decision making.
In any business, some employees are drawn to the bottom line clarity of the mathematics – the bottom line, the sales figures, the profit and loss statement. Other employees are taken with the less tangible, but equally important, human relationships – customer service, product experience, community building.
Some folks call the two groups the Bean Counters and the Kumbayers. Both terms discount that group’s value. In great businesses, every employee belongs to both groups. In not so great businesses, employees haven’t yet discovered the strength of getting those two groups together.
See the Values in the Value Proposition
So how do we get the bean counters and the kumbayers to come together?
The two groups aren’t so far apart if you consider their best intentions. One group wants to protect and grow the company; the other group wants to protect and grow the customer base. Without a company, neither group would be here. Without customers, the company wouldn’t be here either.
Serving the company serves customers and serving customers serves the company.
No business can thrive if every employee isn’t doing both. What if every employee could align customer values with the company’s value proposition. Here’s how to bring the two groups together.
- Bring together a dozen leaders who represent both bean counters and kumbayers. Seat them at mixed team tables of four. Point out that: It’s no secret that our strengths are also our weaknesses. It’s human nature to be drawn to and value what we’re good at and to discount or overlook what isn’t our strong suit. Truth is, we think people who think as we do are smart and those that think differently are … well … either not so smart or being difficult.
- As a group define the company’s reason for being in business. Write it large on a flip chart or white board. Ask them to record it at their tables.
- Tell the teams, each individual has five minutes to write three words to represent the highest values their job role brings to executing that value proposition. Explain that they should focus on what they uniquely bring to their job role that adds value to the organization.
- After five minutes, have the teams share their words and explain them to each other. Suggest that people listen for what others do of value that they themselves would never want to or could never do well.
- Ask each team to choose rewrite the value proposition including three values words that represent the entire table. Explain that the new values proposition should reflect a focus on both growing the company and customer relationships.
- Have the teams share and defend their new values-based value proposition. Challenge them to give examples of how their value proposition in action — decisions they might make — would support both growth of the company and customer relationships.
People who think differently than we do often care about things important to the business that don’t draw our personal interest. A discussion of company and customer goals can lead both groups to value every kind of contribution. Seeing how passionately one person cares about the profitability to maintain a stable business unit while another cares about totally satisfied customers opens the door to dialogue about how one can’t happen without the other. When that light goes on, people start to get interested in what they used to find difficult and the organization can develop and grow exponentially.
How do you get the bean counters and the kumbayers to serve both the company and customers?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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