Those of you out there who know me will recognize my borderline obsession with team sports, and in particular, American football. While I’m always intrigued by the action on the field, I really have to admire the work that it takes for those engaged in team sports to excel. The most interesting thing to me is how, in order to succeed, a team has to be extremely well organized, and one mistake in how the organization is constructed, whether that’s on draft day, in the pre-season, or on Super Bowl Sunday, can lead to a disappointment.
The team I live and die with is the Chicago Bears, but I live in Indianapolis, so I have had the opportunity to observe just how the Indianapolis Colts have transformed themselves from an NFL doormat (sometimes called the ‘Dolts’) to a perennially elite team in the NFL in the span of just a few years. Most people will point to the fact that the Colts have 3-time MVP Peyton Manning at the helm of their high-powered offense. While that is true, I think there is more to it than that. I believe that it speaks to the quality of the organization, which is also a key component to the ultimate success of a company’s customer strategy efforts, including a customer listening program.
I recently read former head coach Tony Dungy’s book, Quiet Strength, and he makes a point on several occasions how important his network of allies were to the success of his teams, both in Tampa as well as in Indianapolis.
In Indy, Tony was able to reach the pinnacle of the football world, which he was not able to do in Tampa. That has a lot to do with the other people in his network in Indianapolis, starting with the Owner, Jim Irsay. In his book, Tony recounts a 15 minute voicemail that Irsay left on his answering machine shortly after his tenure in Tampa was over. Irsay outlined his vision for what the Colts could become, which helped Tony realize that Indianapolis, despite his disdain for the climate (can’t really blame him there), was the right place for him.
Irsay had recently brought in a new GM/President to help revitalize the organization’s strategy and felt that Tony could be the person to guide the team on this journey. All the while, Irsay recognized that other people currently in place (the offensive coordinator was Tony’s college football coach), and those that Tony would bring in, would be trusted to implement the strategy both on and off the field. The organizational plan filtered down to position coaches and those who execute on the field. Even scouts who knew how to evaluate talent and bring in other resources to fit with the strategy were considered pieces to the puzzle that ultimately won Indianapolis a Super Bowl in 2006.
Despite the fact that this is the world of professional sports, this is really no different than thinking about how critical the organization is to a customer listening program’s success in the corporate world.
· An initiative like a customer listening program has a hard time surviving unless an executive sponsor is visible, like the Colts have with Jim Irsay
· A passionate customer strategy owner needs to be involved; someone who is able to see that strategy through, like Bill Polian, the Colts President
· A program manager who can serve as a liaison between executives and the functional/front-line personnel is also an essential component. Tony Dungy fits this description as well as anyone
· Tony had a cross functional steering team that he trusted, which were comprised of the offensive and defensive coordinators as well as assistant coaches, all who brought their various talents
· An implementation team, made up of position coaches (quarterbacks, linebackers, etc). This group was responsible for ensuring that the players improved the quality of their play, and learned from their mistakes on the field
· But all the preparation, guidance and support can fall short if the functional project team isn’t able to adapt and execute when it matters – when the customers are watching and waiting. This is where players, like Peyton Manning, come in, to execute when the customers – the fans – are paying their money to see an exciting, competitive product on the field
· But that’s also where I see us, Walker Information, coming into play. We might be thought of as the scouts, those who are there to use our experience, our ability to connect the organization with others in similar positions, and our analysis/interpretation skills to help people across the organization know what to look for, how to use feedback to adapt to the changing customer needs, and ensure that successes are communicated internally and externally.
With Tony’s recent retirement, the question will be how well the Colts can replace him and others who’ve successfully organized to keep them performing among the best teams in the NFL.
But maybe the bigger question is…
Are you organized in a way that will enable your customer listening program to succeed? If not, can you identify your role today along with the missing pieces that need to be put into place to succeed?
Vice President, Client Service