thinking like a customer

thinking like a customer

Big Picture or Small Picture?

By on September 5, 2012

Customer 3D is big picture; product-centered is small picture. Great leadership—the kind that employees trust and respect—relies on broad understanding and balanced actions focused on a central purpose.

As filmmaker Ed Wood said, “Nobody will ever notice that. Filmmaking is not about the tiny details. It's about the big picture.”

He’s right, of course.  Big picture thinking simply means that the leaders are unifying the organization around a single focus. There will always be small picture problems that are encountered in every business. Customer-centered companies, however, resolve those problems with a longer view—a context provided by seeing the big picture through the lens of the customer. This perspective reminds the organization not to deviate from its larger plan and purpose. It’s a ‘macro’ approach that is focused on the “tomorrow” of the business and the future of what it will mean to your customers.

Customer-centering does not happen because of individual acts of good service. It takes an over-riding view that work has a purpose—that it means something to each employee because of the value they bring to their customers and the world. It’s the difference between asking “Am I allowed to do this?” vs. being empowered to recognize “The organization should be doing this.”

For organizations that have drifted too deeply into being product-centered, a big picture focus on customers will help the company reinvent its business model. We are all familiar with the regrets which could be put on our gravestones someday that we might have spent “too much time in the office.” The parallel regret that many businesses are developing is that they will look back at some point and realize that they spent too much time on their products and not enough on their customers.

With little, if any, investment involved, it is remarkable what looking at the big picture will do to balance the favorable outcomes for both you as the seller and your customers. Suddenly, as Aristotle wrote, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” Everyone is working for the same purpose.

Certainly, big picture thinking provides organizations with the best experience that the “picture” is changing over time. The behaviors of employees (executives and others) have a tremendously better probability of staying ahead of those changes by centering their actions and decisions on the biggest picture of all: customers.


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