I recently learned in a staff meeting that the marketing research team was meeting with a group of their clients, discussing the plans for the coming year. One of the big questions for one of the trackers: are we even measuring the right metric any more? I don’t know the details of what happened, except that, at one point, the clients were surprised to learn that the research team was willing to explore new options, and the research team was surprised to find that the clients were willing to explore new options. Each side thought the other was entrenched in the way things had been done for the past few years.
Balancing trend and change
This revelation has set me thinking for a few weeks about the implications of this discussion.
- How long had each group been asking the same question about the current validity of the metric measured, but hadn’t raised it, thinking it was of no use to bring up?
- How long had a metric with potentially low relevance been measured and socialized, with other groups doing their best to fit whatever they were doing to meet the demand of increasing the score?
- What other trackers being conducted were using the same metric because of the desire to be in lock-step across the organization, instead of using the metrics that made the most sense for each organization?
- How did the organization as a whole get to this point of finally being able and willing to both raise the issue and indicate a willingness to change if it was the right thing to do?
It’s this last point that has perhaps been mulling in my mind the longest. I’ve been watching some organizational behavior for the past few years among some of the large companies in the area where I live. I’m seeing what seems a cycle of customer excitement because the company is new, and so are its ideas, to growing to the point that customers start thinking it’s getting old and therefore irrelevant, and then the company working hard to refresh its image to become relevant to its existing customer base and to the new generations of customers who are now coming of age to care about the company’s image.
At a more granular level, no matter the size of the organization, I think there are a few items that greatly affect its willingness to raise and address tough questions.
- Leadership: leaders set the stage. In the market research world, are our leaders open to trying new methodologies, questioning long-held tracking studies’ relevance, etc.?
- Communication: I’ve noticed that the more open the communication is, the more open the culture seems to be about questions. I’ve also seen those who are typically open communicators be shut down by managers who are reluctant to be open about what’s going on, either for fear of questions being taken the wrong way by peers or for fear of clients misinterpreting information, or just because they are private individuals. (Caveat: the open communication needs to come with a level of maturity and understanding of how and when to communicate, without shying away from the actual communication itself.)
- Humility: willingness to admit that they don’t have all the answers, let alone that the answers they have are the right answers. This naturally puts everyone in a mindset of seeking the right answers, questioning assumptions made by themselves or by others, and acceptance of interpretations of information that differ from their own.
I’m not by any means an organizational behavior expert; the items I’m listing come from experience and observation from the various companies for whom I’ve had the pleasure of working. I just have been finding it fascinating to think that a group whose sole purpose is to question and to seek answers to business issues can be seen as a group unwilling to change course or re-evaluate the course currently adopted.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below or find me on Twitter (@zontziry) or on Facebook (MRXplorer).