Rowing together for the people on the shore.

Imagine people in a rowboat where each is rowing differently, perhaps wanting to go in different directions.  The boat doesn’t really move anywhere, or at best, moves in fits and starts going slightly one way and then another.  In addition, the people in the boat are most likely showing signs of frustration with each other and may even be fighting and arguing about how their individual needs are most important and why everyone should take their lead.

Does this sound familiar?  I see it a lot in business.  This sounds like many companies and organizations.  It certainly sounds like a lot of churches I’ve been in.  Many people together in a group without a clear common objective is a recipe for a boat that goes nowhere, and in business, the most critical people, the customers, the very reason why you are rowing in the first place, are typically the ones looking on from the shore wondering why they are being paid no attention.

To carry the boat analogy a bit further, imagine your boat has a slow leak and that those shore people, your customers, not only need to be ferried across the water to the other side but also have the necessary putty to close up your leak.  Wouldn’t it make sense for the people in the boat to stop and think about how they can best get to those customers, move them as efficiently as possible to the other side and then get that needed leak-stopping putty?  Wouldn’t it make the most sense for the people in the boat to help each other so they can help those folks on the shore?  Do I hear a resounding “of course” coming from you?

When we see it this way, it’s so practical, but why is it that businesses cannot see this simple fact?  The goal of every business, whether they know it or not, is to help ferry customers from where they are to where they want to be yet so many businesses are paddling away doing their own things and fighting their own internal battles while the customers stand on the shore waving their hands wondering why no one is paying attention.

A simple way to maintain a focus on the people on the shore is to always ask three key questions when you are making decisions about your business. These questions act as guides, like a compass pointing us toward our customers because they are centered on the keys of a great customer experience: Ease of process, Enjoyment of the experience and Success with the product or service.

  • Question 1: Will this decision add or subtract obstacles for the people we serve?
  • Question 2: Will this decision make things more or less enjoyable for the people we serve?
  • Question 3: Will this decision make the people we serve more or less successful?

If the answer to any one of these questions is on the negative side, a rethink or adjustment is necessary as anything else would get our boat going back to internal arguing and losing focus on those people on the shore.  Using these simple questions aligns everyone in the organization with a clear focus on a common objective, namely, ferrying those shore people to their destination.

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