Beware the "Flavour of the Month"

Last year we were part of the team that launched an exciting new initiative in a major industry in North America. The initiative was tested on a small part of the market with handpicked customers and when it received high marks it was rolled out to the wider market where it was also enthusiastically received. But the offering almost faltered because one unit of the company was not delivering the product correctly. Significant components of the service were not being included and this meant that the core benefits of the new offering weren’t there.

 So what was happening? We discovered that the offending unit of the company considered the new program the “flavour of the month”. The front line employees who were charged with delivering the new offering didn’t believe in it. This business unit was sceptical of the company’s commitment to changing so fundamentally even though the CEO had made it quite clear that this offering was central to the company’s future growth.

But there was something more. The unit had historically won praise for its efficiencies and cost-effective methods. They felt that being ”customer-focused” meant manufacturing the materials quickly and getting them to the customers on time. It was clearly doing its part to save the company money but now it was being asked to do things in ways that the employees felt were inefficient and more costly for the company.

 It’s hard to think that a company can endanger itself by striving to be innovative and receptive to customers’ needs.  But sometimes this commitment to change is not wholeheartedly supported by the employees who have to make big changes to deliver these new innovations. This is particularly true if these employees have not seen the positive customer feedback to the innovation. They may even be sceptical that the improved offering is delivering the benefits that management is claiming.

 But the customers made it clear in their video interviews that they wanted the company to have a deeper understanding of their needs and the company responded by learning more about their customers’ business and consequently launching the new initiative.

 So what did the company do to erase the “flavour of the month” label? They turned their focus to internal communications. The CEO made personal visits to the sceptical unit and explained in detail the importance of the initiative. He made it clear that the company was totally committed to it and that some units would have to make changes. Secondly, the company commissioned video case studies that powerfully captured the customers’ enthusiasm for the new offering and shared the case studies with all business units. Here was irrefutable proof that the company was making a difference for their customers. That was the end of the “flavour of the month” tag and they quickly became supporters of the new initiative.

 Here are my three rules to stop the “flavour of the month” syndrome.

 1. Make sure that there is clear endorsement of the new initiative from the top on down. Don’t forget your internal audience.

 2. Recognize the units that will have to make significant changes and make sure that they understand the rationale behind the new offering.

 3. Communicate the positive feedback from your customers so that all of the business units can share in the feeling of making a difference for your customers.    

Simon LuntComment