Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Know the Client - Know the Organization

Has a client ever said to you, "great proposal, this is what I want," only to learn later that your client wasn't making the decision? (And whoever was, you had no contact.) Result?  We know.

How could we not know the way decisions get made?

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Because decision making, like all organizational functions, integrates three foundational areas that we rarely get a good handle on: an organization's principles, people and processes. So we end up making assumptions,  developing solutions and delivering presentations that miss the mark.

We can do better. A system exits to assess the organization's 3P's - the principles, people and processes - and use that information to improve performance.

Consider these actions:
  • Understand the Organization's Principles: These are the guiding ideas and values that impact the organization. Some are stated, like "collaboration" might be in a mission statement; others may not be, like "risk-taking" or "fiscal conservatism." Some are positive and some not, but all drive organization culture. Knowing these principles and how they impact organizational behavior will improve solution development and client relationships.
  • Assess the Organization's People: This may seem obvious but the importance of the human dynamic cannot be overstated. Sure, we get to know our clients kids' names, but are we aware of the web of relationships that affect our client? Can we be sure who really has power? Who are the "informal" leaders. Do we know who likes whom, who likes to work together?  Who has the knowledge, the history? 
  • Know the Organization's Processes: To know how an organization operates, the totality of all its processes, is a daunting task. But there are some key processes that we should be very familiar with. Decision making is a big hairy one.  Purchasing is obvious, but how about career development? Knowing what your client needs to do to advance her career might be very helpful information. Planning, budgeting, technology implementation, customer feedback, sales - all critical processes to know. 
Armed with this information, we can design productive and fun client interactions. We can deliver better services and products. We can reduce errors and time to cover mistakes. Improve client retention. Make more money.

So, how do you access and apply this information? You know a bunch already.  Stay post will serve up some tools all can use.

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