How customer-focused is your company and could it better? VFQ (Value, Flow, Quality) takes a customer-focused approach to every project, but what does it mean in reality for your company to begin every project and undertaking with the end-user in mind?
A powerful way to involve customers in the outcomes you’re trying to achieve – and help guarantee the success of any undertaking – is through gaining swift and continuous feedback from them. Making customers part of the loop, by the way, applies to all end-users – internal as well as external.
Gaining customer feedback early and often and holding retrospectives on the work we are undertaking reduces risk and helps us see if what we are doing is of real value to our customers. It also helps us identify sooner whether the work we are doing has the potential to offer real value, or is just leading us up a costly blind alley. Working on something without feedback runs the risk of us spending a long time and valuable resources delivering something which ultimately isn’t wanted, simply because we haven’t found out earlier, along the way.
‘We all have degrees in hindsight’, so the old saying goes, and we all know how easy it is to look back and see what you should have done. Philosopher, Dallas Willard puts it another way: “suppose out failures occur, not in spite of what we are doing, but because of it?” That’s a pretty scary thought. The way forward, especially when implementing new ideas, says VFQ, is to quantify the outcomes: how are you adding value, improving workflow or serving customers’ needs? So, in any new undertaking, it’s important to keep identifying the outcomes and then seeing if you can quantify them. For example, is what you’re doing actually adding value, and by how much? Is the work flowing better, are the customers more satisfied, are the products and services better – and by how much?
External feedback helps us determine the value of our product to the consumer; is it serving their needs, or, to put it another way, is it doing the ‘job it needs to do’ for the consumer to be of value to them?
Whilst being customer-focused looks outward, the goal, internally, should always be to improve the Value, Flow and Quality of what we are developing and producing so that we are not just building the right thing – but we are also building it right. One approach is to share the context of the work we are doing. People respond positively when being made aware of the wider picture of their work and the environment it is being conducted in. What follows is a more creative and positive mindset from individuals and teams and openness to performance metrics and desired outcomes.
Quantifying outcomes and improvements, not just guessing them, and gaining regular feedback through delivering early and often shows if you’re on the right track – and making what the customer really wants.