Why do business empires fail?
If we observe our history, there have been very few emperors and even fewer businesses that have remained powerful and regained market share forever. It will be surprising to learn how even the greatest came to a halt at one point. There is always a new normal evolving, which drives the human population towards other alternatives that causes existing empires to fall.
Why does this happen?
Industry pundits have given us some standard answers, like:
It became too big and bureaucratic
Not innovating and not catching market trends
Mismanagement of assets ( finance, employees)
Wrong leadership choices
Ignoring customers and their feedback
All of them are pretty much intertwined. One impacts the other, and if we were to write a logical sequence to this, it would probably look like this:
Org grew Big -> Loopholes in management -> Chain of leaders that did not solve it early -> Problems got too big -> More focus towards recreating order -> Customers are ignored.
When an organization takes its eyes off innovation to more on handling in-house fires, that is pretty much the first sign of downfall.
Many great leaders are known to watch out for problems and seek and get rid of them first. No problem or no issue is ever treated small. When left unhandled, they knew those minor problems grow up to eat an organization.
For instance, Intel CEO "Andy Grove" was known for this. He said,
"A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem at the lowest-value stage possible."
It bears repeating: Fix problems when they're small! As a manager, you have plenty of tools to detect them if you just listen to your team.
Don't wait until you have a major crisis on your hands. By then, it will take a ton of your time to address and it risks putting you into a reactive management mode that is hard to break out of.
This is where one-on-ones can help (more on this later) as well as surveys and open communication with your team. The key is to be sure you're asking the right questions, and following through on what you hear. If you don't ask, you won't know, and if you don't follow through, your team will stop telling you about things you need to know.
Further Reading: Stuck fire-fighting too often? Learn how to break the vicious cycle of reactive management here. Then, work on your listening skills here to hear issues sooner.
When problems become significant, the organization invests all its resources in keeping the status quo
In our analysis, what perpetuates an organization's overall failure is just that: aiming for Status Quo more than disruption. Even if the company is the market leader with a loyal customer base, the focus should always be to disrupt its products and aim for the next phase of innovation. Innovation has done to pass even more value to the customer.
How can large organizations disrupt themselves? Especially with a large customer base?
There are broadly four different strategies that organizations follow:
Create a parallel brand and create a new breed of customers and market demand. This is the equivalent of creating a new company as an offshoot while retaining existing customers.
Re-launch existing products with an upgrade, facelift, added features, and values. Several consumer products are known for doing this (cosmetics)
Completely phase out old products that are in line with existing customer demands (EOL) and are ready to let go of existing customers who insist on sticking to them.
Acquire a product line that meets customer demands, and along with it - acquire market share as well.
Whatever strategies an organization chooses, the focus must be to disrupt at every significant milestone. Sample milestones could be a decade, a particular market size, or a saturation point of growth. Like Steve Jobs said, the critical step to innovate in the right direction is, "Get closer to your customers than ever. So close that you will tell them what they need, even before what they want".
Earlier companies used to innovate based on market research. Consulting firms provided insights based, and new disruptions were based on those insights.
With customer success organizations now at play, that should not be the case.
The customer success teams' primary role is to get customers' pulse continuously and pass it to the product teams, the leadership, and the board. A particular agenda on disruption through feedback needs to be a boardroom metric
A framework to drive innovation through customer success looks like this:
1. Focussed meetings with disruption strategy as an end goal
(Quarterly is a good timeframe)
2. Decide where to disrupt
(Product, Disruptive, Business Model, Customer Experience, Break Through, Customer Behaviour, Culture)
3. Prioritize popular picks
(Pick what enhances your customer's life the most and gets you ahead to the Market first)
4. The decision point for innovation
(Decide on a strategy and execution)
5. Develop an MVP & MVC
(Minimum viable product and a Minimum possible customer)
6. Have the MVC use/experience it
( The minimum viable customers are the customers that are usually in the Top 20%, need that feature, and are ready to be in the test lab)
7. Enhance through iterations, user experience, and support
(Based on the initial feedback, enhance it and form support & CS around it)
8. Launch into the Market at scale
(Launch into the Market at scale, it is likely that if 20% of the top customers like it, the rest will follow)
The most significant source of disruption and innovation is your current customer feedback. Leverage it to stay in business through innovation and disruption.
For a much more detailed reading on how an organization can disrupt not only in product but in various other ways, read this blog: