The more things change, the more they stay the same. Going back to 1985, companies clearly held the upper hand over customers in terms of potential market dominance limiting selection; pricing power to keep margins high; and promotional influence that could shape customer perception of products. That was then. Now, achieving market dominance is a pipe dream in most markets; pricing power is wishful thinking; and promotional techniques are having less and less effect. We’re undergoing a period of profound change, with customers becoming the dominant factor.
Business tools haven’t kept pace
Let’s look at the three, core, non-financial business toolsets (and we won’t list employees as “tools”): 1.) Strategic planning; 2.) Process; 3.) Technology. Technology has made great strides keeping up with the times, at times moving too quickly. But planning and process have made only modest, incremental adaptations to rapidly changing business conditions. Neither has kept pace.
Back in the 1980s, HYM Principal and Founder, Dick Lee, realized that future business conditions would demand new planning methods that put customers in the center of the business circle. In response, he designed for a graduate business course a customer-centric planning approach, now called Hyper-Planning. Since inception, Dick has continued to update and enhance the approach, most recently with a specific planning process to help identify likely consequences, both intended and unattended, of making directional changes required to achieve customer-centricity. H-P has produced dramatic customer outcomes for companies including 3M, American Express, Microsoft and hundreds of mid-sized and even small businesses.
Very recently, we’ve partnered with CAMMI Logic to offer and powerful tool for helping clients stay ahead of market changes. HYM is now authorized to administer the Company Alignment Maturity Model Instrument (CAMMI), which will help us identify structural strengths and weaknesses in marketing, sales, customer service and supporting functions―as well as customer-related process that determines so much of the customer experience. CAMMI Logic, the developer of this assessment, has pre-tested the assessment on more than 60 companies with consistently excellent results.
In the 1990s, Six Sigma and Lean remained the dominant process approaches, with TOC (theory-of-constraints) a more flexible alternative. But after struggling to twist TOC to meet process demands in the back and front office and in service settings (now called “the O/S”), HYM realized the need for an entirely new customer-centric process methodology free of constraints imposed by initial design for manufacturing use. In 1996, we launched Visual Workflow, a breakthrough process approach we now realize was the first, formal, Outside-In process regimen. As with Hyper-Planning, we’ve continued to expand VW’s capabilities and adapt to changes in work settings. VW’s unique strengths include participation in process design by business side managers with no prior process training and applicability to highly variable work environments staffed with empowered knowledge workers. VW has worked wonders with companies including HB Fuller, Honeywell, Standard Register and many SME organizations.
We have also added an element using the same “change anticipation” activity we added to Hyper-Planning but at a much more granular level.
Among the many notable VW features is a flow level mapping style that eliminates use of process symbology to enable business-side participants to jump in and participate in cross-functional design with no prior process experience.
Visual Workflow maps the flow level with pictographs that both CEOs and janitors can readily interpret. We save more standard process mapping for when it’s needed.
While actually an element within process and Visual Workflow, EC deserves a call out of its own. A combination of communication process design and a new genre of enabling technology, Enterprise Collaboration elevates communication flow design and management up to the level of workflow and dataflow, including providing a clean, alternative channel to e-mail for task-based communication.
While HYM does not provide technology products or development services, over time we’ve developed singular expertise in translating process needs for technology enablement into technology documentation that guides both vendor selection and subsequent software configuration. We also provide systems architecture schematics laying out process-enablement changes in information flow and data integration. Using these tools allows us to create an unusually high level of Technology Alignment with process that greatly contributes to work quality and organizational streamlining.