Connecting Purpose to Profit: How to Establish a Results-Driven Culture
Quantifying success can be a central challenge within any size business. When the company in question is a large organization with multiple business units and outcomes that stem from cross-functional initiatives, the challenge compounds.
During a recent Outthinker Strategy Network challenge forum, several chief strategy officers (CSOs) shared their experiences establishing results-driven cultures, and they came to a consensus over a common idea: Results can be measured in terms of both bottom line and customer experience, and a truly results-driven culture is one that seeks to strengthen the relationship between the two.
The 4 Components of a Results-Driven Culture
A results-driven culture, CSOs agreed, depends as much on customer centricity as it does on overarching financial performance. Indeed, the metrics themselves should be reflections and extensions of customer centricity — a barometer for whether your products/services are delighting the people you serve.
Building customer centricity into your culture means putting customer experience in the remit of all your employees. One CSO recounted the story of Ultimate Guitar, one of the largest online communities of guitarists and musicians who participate in forums and contribute tabs, lessons and articles. Ultimate Guitar’s leaders decided to combine weekly “empathy meetings” with weekly “pitch meetings.” In the empathy meetings, developers read through customer comments to get a firsthand account of how their offerings were being received. The pitch meetings complemented this activity; every employee was required to pitch an idea that would improve customer experience. Thus, Ultimate Guitar established a flow between customer experience and developer innovation.
As you generate initiatives, it’s important to get very clear on who owns what and to which metrics they’ll be held accountable. One CSO’s organization needed to find a way to express the outcomes of cross-functional initiatives in a unified way. This required cross-functional teams to drive the creation of the initiative. Each member of the cross-functional teams represented different sectors of the organization. As such, each member contributed to the success vision, was accountable for certain deliverables, and was measured against department-specific metrics.
The overarching lesson: Design teams whose structure reflects the initiative’s ideal outcome.
One CSO described a prioritization process based on yearly, quarterly, and monthly reviews. That structure was based on the customers’ requirements. In addition to these regular reviews, the CSO discussed their audible protocol: a “steering team” comprising three or four executives who can adjust course in the event of an external market event.
After establishing systems to promote customer centricity, developing ownership structures to own specific slices of customer experience, and sorting which initiatives take top priority, the final piece of the process is allocating resources according to the priority list.
One CSO described a resource allocation structure where an “initiative owner” owns the initiative’s budget, and their compensation package is directly tied to the initiative’s outcomes. Each initiative thus becomes a kind of mini-business, where the owner’s pay is based on intuitive performance goals.
The most crucial takeaway from the challenge forum discussion is that a results-oriented culture is one that connects the qualitative and quantitative prongs of the business: the overriding purpose of the business, and the numerical data that reflects the extent to which the organization has achieved its purpose. A results-oriented organization is one that puts both the qualitative and quantitative data in the path of the people driving success across all levels of the organization.