Across a wide range of industries from consumer goods to financial services to healthcare, growth is increasingly driven by emerging companies. While smaller companies have led the way for creative destruction for as long as any of us can remember, the gig economy has accelerated this trend. Today, the barriers to entry are lower and companies can “ride on others’ rails” to create new products and services with greater speed and at lower cost than ever before. At the same time, the benefits of vertical integration, of keeping more of the work in house and leveraging information systems, financial controls, and investment in physical assets to create economies of scale, have shrunk. While these opportunities are not limited to emerging companies, it takes sustained leadership for larger organizations to overcome inertia and evolve their cultures to renew growth and innovation.
In an earlier blog found here, I wrote about how both larger and smaller companies can disrupt their operating models to open up their companies to new sources of talent and collaboration with their strategic business partners. In this blog, I’ll revisit and build further on these themes, while linking them together with other ideas in this blog series on culture and change management.
Let’s explore five specific ways you can create a more flexible and scalable operating model to accelerate your progress on your CX priorities.
1. Bring in a Fractional or Advisory CX Role
Fractional and advisory roles are a great way for companies to tap into external perspective and accelerate value. This is especially true for private-equity firms and venture capital firms looking to magnify the ROI from investments in CX and create a self-funding flywheel for growth for their portfolio companies (for more on how to do this, see my Accelerate Value blog series here). While a fractional role involves a larger time commitment of two to three days per week, typically over 9 to 18 months, an advisory role is more focused, for example joining quarterly meetings and providing coaching support in between. Fractional and advisory roles can be a catalyst for change, helping to prioritize the right opportunities to work on and engage your teams working on them.
In some cases, a fractional role may make sense rather than a full-time role to augment your existing leadership team and provide additional bandwidth to coach and support your team to raise their game together. For example, if your CX team reports to the CMO and you are looking to coach and develop the CX team without bringing on a Chief Customer Officer or Chief Experience Officer in addition to the CMO, then tapping into a fractional or advisory role may help you to develop high potential talent into more senior leadership roles without hiring to fill a gap in between your current team and your C-level leadership.
2. Enhance Your Governance Approach
While important, organization design is not the most critical thing to focus on to accelerate your progress on your company’s CX journey. CX is a team sport, and regardless of where you put a CX team in the organization, and which roles you add to inject new skills and energy into the team, you still need to focus on how people work together across functions, business units, and geographies. No matter where you put a CX center of excellence in the organization, there will be blind spots. If you put it in marketing, then there will be a potential blind spot for how your CX team collaborates with sales and service. Even if you build up a larger centralized team, it will still need to work closely with other parts of the business. This is especially true as you transition from a “change” to a “run” state for your CX opportunities to support ongoing needs such as content creation. The role of the center will shift over time as you work on new CX opportunities.
This is why governance is so important. It provides a more flexible way for your extended CX team to collaborate and make more effective decisions. One way to strengthen your CX governance is to set up a CX Council, typically comprised of a cross-section of stakeholders that report to your C-level leadership team. A CX Council provides a forum for you to set priorities, make key trade-offs that require cross-functional alignment, and address key change management issues to clear a path for your teams. Resolving these decisions at the CX Council reduces the need for every major decision to go to your executive leadership team.
3. Build Alignment for Your CX Playbook
Your CX playbook complements your governance approach, your talent strategy to upskill your teams in new disciplines that are key to CX (e.g., human centered design, agile product management), and your cultural behaviors. It provides more consistency for how you work on your CX opportunities as you move through an ongoing Ideate-Test-Scale cycle. Building alignment on the playbook will also help to sharpen role clarity for who has decisions rights for what in the playbook, as well as help identify where there are gaps in the organization and new roles need to be added. Your CX playbook will also reinforce your cultural behaviors.
In the Ideate stage, you are focused on how to generate insights across your customers’ moments that matter, bringing to life ideas for how to amplify peaks or create new peaks. Initially, you need to build alignment for your roadmap of “bold bets” that you can work on in teams with the right range of skills and accountability for clear outcomes. For this not to be a once-and-done exercise, however, you need to pay attention to how you continuously generate new ideas. Do you need to create roles that bring the right human-centered design perspective to drive greater ownership and focus for specific personas or moments that matter? How can you bring people together more regularly under the right conditions to spark ideation? Is it easy for your people to bring ideas forward? Is there a way for them to progress their ideas without “working off the side of their desk?” These are just some of the key questions to address in building out the Ideate stage of your CX playbook.
The Test stage of your Playbook fosters continuous experimentation. By breaking down your CX bold bets into more manageable, bite-sized chunks, you help overcome resistance to change and gain valuable learnings. You also build organizational muscle to team together in new ways. Driving adoption of lean startup behaviors and mindsets is key to your success on your company’s journey. This requires sustained engagement from your people to make the right behaviors stick in the organization. Showcasing your success stories and building confidence in new ways of working is key to sustain your motivation and commitment to change.
To reach the full potential of your CX vision and keep your growth flywheel spinning, you need to transition your bold bets effectively from Test to Scale. This involves a shift from resources working on changing things, to putting in place the resources, governance, and measurement to enable continuous improvement. Securing access to these resources requires executive sponsorship to approve the investments and clear a path for your teams. More resources is not enough, however, to drive the business outcomes you are looking. You need to drive ownership and accountability for your business outcomes, both through behaviors that encourage people to feel empowered to act if their decisions are “above the waterline” (i.e., they won’t sink the ship) as well as behaviors that foster cross-functional collaboration to reach them.
4. Tap into Freelance Talent
The gig economy has made it easier to engage a network of high-quality freelance talent. Across creative industries, the proportion of freelance talent has more than doubled over the past couple decades. The shift to remote work has made it easier for companies across a broader set of industries to embrace this trend. Today, you can find freelance talent not just in more traditional creative roles such as UX/UI, but for people skilled in working with many of the platforms that power your CX such as customer listening, building dashboards, and conducting analysis. Freelance talent can complement part time workers, accessing the skills and energy of people who value the opportunity to work across a broader set of companies over time. You will also find strong performers that are interested in moving into a part-time or full-time role with your company after a great experience working with you on a freelance basis.
5. Build a Stronger Partner Ecosystem
Your partner ecosystem includes the service providers and technology solutions platforms that work with your teams on your company’s journey. The way you work with them should amplify the effectiveness of your own people. Are you getting the support you need for culture evolution and change management? Are you getting support in developing the training and behavior activation programs to upskill your people and reinforce new ways of working together? Does the way you work with your partners provide learning and development opportunities for your people so that you have less dependence on them over time and you can focus work with your partners on new bold bets in your CX roadmap?
Your ecosystem partners can also provide managed services or staff augmentation that supplements your own team. This can be a temporary solution as you build up your team. It may also make sense on an ongoing basis in some cases where you more cost-effectively tap into talent and infrastructure and “borrow scale” from your partners in places that are not your own core competence. This makes more sense than using freelance talent where there is a need to continuously replace talent, renew their training, and tap into the relationship networks of your partner companies.
Taken together, these five actions will help you build a more flexible and scalable approach to pursuing your prioritized CX opportunities. They will help you foster greater openness to additional sources of ideas and talent. They will help you to address the building blocks of culture evolution: behaviors, mindsets, skills, and relationship networks. By applying them in flexible and efficient ways to your CX opportunities, you can increase your organizations’ capacity to work on a broader set of CX opportunities and get your growth flywheel spinning faster.
I hope this blog sparked some great ideas for you! To see other blogs in this series, click here. To see our full set of thought leadership, click here.