Henry Ford famously said “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” True innovators need to understand the Voice of the Customer (VOC) to know how to develop a product or service that will not just satisfy them, but will thrill them. Collecting VOC’s is not as simple as asking customers or potential customers, “what do you want?” The innovator needs to have a clear vision for their technology and how it will thrill customers before they engage with customers or prospects to collect VOC data. The innovator also needs to be able to articulate elements of the vision to customers or prospects, without giving away all their secretes. They need to test their reaction to the vision, in order to effectively determine meaningful VOC’s that can be used to determine specific product or service design requirements. Collecting VOC data is really about understanding customer’s and prospect’s aspirations and what they are trying to accomplish. The invention of the automobile was not just about transporting people from “Point A” to “Point B” faster or cheaper. It was about transforming a way of life making so many things possible that were not possible before it’s invention. When collecting VOC data for an innovative product or service concept, it is important to understand what possibilities the customer aspires to that are currently unavailable and will transform their lives to be much better. After analyzing the VOC data, the thrill factors should become evident and meaningful VOC’s can be devised to inform a successful design. Additionally, this needs to be done with the future in mind, not the present. The VOC’s must reflect the time when the product or service are introduced, and well beyond, to lead the competition for years to come.
In today’s hyper competitive global business environment, which seems to always be in a state of flux, is it possible to build your business to be invincible? Perhaps not totally invincible, but it is possible to gain and sustain leadership in your business sector with the winning combination; offering extreme value to your customers and achieving low cost production capability. This combination establishes a solid business foundation that is very difficult for competitors to penetrate, and at the same time, enables business sustainability that minimizes the impact of external forces such as global events like the the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. Furthermore, when a business has a rigorous and effective culture of continuous improvement, once business sector leadership is achieved, it is difficult to lose it. Extreme value is the ability to have a competitive price (perhaps the lowest price) and provide significantly more value to your customers while maintaining the highest profit margin. Offering extreme value results in not just satisfied customers, but thrilled customers that will be loyal and help promote your brand, products and services. Low cost production capability is achieved through optimization of business operations ensuring that your cost for producing, distributing and offering your product and/or services is the lowest in your business sector maximizing profit margins while providing the highest level of quality. Achieving low cost production capability ensures that you have more flexibility to lower your price if you are engaged in a price war with competitors, and still be able to maintain higher profit margins forcing competitors to sell products and services at a loss when you are still profitable. Low cost production also enables significant investment into the development and commercialization of new leading edge technologies. When you combine the ability to offer extreme value and achieving low cost production it is better than a one-two combination punch from a champion prize fighter.
Several industries are regulated by governments throughout the world to various degrees. Some industries; such as financial, medical device, pharmaceutical, food processing and commercial aviation, are intensely regulated. Most businesses in regulated industries spend considerable effort, time, resources and capital on regulatory compliance just for the opportunity to sell their products and/or services in regulated markets. Most regulated businesses perceive compliance as a necessary “expense” of capital and resources. However, regulated businesses should use the “glass half full” approach and treat compliance efforts as an “investment” in a minimum quality standard that applies towards a higher quality standard resulting in having the “best” product or service in the market. By treating compliance efforts this way, a business can leverage the compliance effort into a much bigger picture initiative that not only assures regulatory compliance, but results in higher profitability, increased sales and sales revenue, additional satisfied loyal customers and improved shareholder value. Usually, the cost of investing in maximizing quality and value is about the same as an effort to just attain compliance, but with many more benefits. So, do not complain about and resist regulatory compliance and try and get away with the bare minimum compliance effort. Embrace regulatory compliance as a grand opportunity to improve your business and bottom line results.
Business executives and decision makers advocate for using data and analysis to inform beneficial decision making. However, typically the data analysis, reports and dashboards of endless metrics cause confusion, wasted time and possibly poor decision making. Why? Because it’s just data, not the right data. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and other business metrics need to be collected and analyzed with the purpose of supporting a hypothesis or a desired outcome that supports business objectives. Executives and decision makers want to know at a glance if business metrics and analysis indicate a need to change direction, stay the course, or most importantly, if opportunity for business improvement or growth is likely, and how to achieve it. In the absence of appropriate data and analysis, organizations often resort to making decisions based on perception, or flawed analysis, that is misinterpreted. A robust analytics method based on standard proven protocols can be utilized to always make data mining, analysis and interpretation effective and beneficial for making good decisions enabling achievement of key business objectives. Adoption of these methods by business analysts and key associates, can make business data the executive’s best friend.
Most organizations do not leverage the expertise and strengths that their suppliers have to offer. Suppliers often will offer value added services to their customers that will help reduce their customer’s costs, enable improved efficiency, eliminate wasteful process tasks and improve delivery to end customers. The extra value suppliers offer often results in added value to your end customers in the form of improved delivery time, improved quality and lower price. One example is enabling a supplier to dropship finished goods in final packaging directly to customers. This may eliminate repackaging, inventory management steps, reduce delivery time and reduce delivery cost.
Some businesses have developed high level strategies for growth and/or sustainability. That’s a step in the right direction, however, most businesses only use the strategies at the executive level and the other managers and associates are unaware of the business strategies. At a minimum, the associates in the company may be aware of strategic initiatives as a slogan, general mission statement or credo. Business strategies need to be planned and actionable for all associates and levels of the organization. One Operational Excellence tool for accomplishing this is the objectives tree. The objectives tree enables strategies that result in high level objectives to be paired down as actionable objectives and project plans to all levels of the organization depending on function and specific missions. This way each operation is supporting the high level objectives and strategies synergistically enabling achievement of the long term vison of the organization.