“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” – “The customer is always right.”
–  “Lowest price wins!”

We’ve all heard the tried and true adages that govern our business environment.  These knowledge nuggets have been around for decades, and continue to be quite widely accepted as “truth.”  Yet, the business environment we experience today bears very little – if any – resemblance to that of the previous millennium when these insights were initially shared.

Believe me, I’m not yearning for the good old days.  The technological transformation we experienced in the last several decades is nothing short of incredible and brings so many new opportunities within reach that we would never have thought possible.  These new opportunities bring more change rendering the “status quo” an outdated concept.

CEOs and their leadership teams constantly shift, adjust and move on to the next great idea, next competitive threat, or next innovative approach.  Clients regularly tell us that the speed of change is breathtaking and that teams today work harder, faster AND smarter, yet barely seem to keep up with the changing environment and shifting client expectations.

So, change is our new norm.  Why, therefore, do we so often fall back onto “conventional wisdom” when examining our business and contemplating strategic initiatives for the year ahead?  What do I mean? Here are a few examples.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”

As a trained economist and someone who believes vehemently in goals, action plans and tracking for accountability, this particular conventional piece of wisdom should be my favorite quote.  This is one of those classic business “truisms” that is indeed true for many aspects of operations, quality control, and financial processes.   Unfortunately, this concept has been extrapolated by some (many?) to mean “if you cannot measure it, it isn’t happening.”

We deal with C-level executives who understandably need to know the potential outcome of their investment in their people.  Sure we can, and should, measure business results and remain extremely focused on outcomes.  However, those tricky “soft skills” (and that even more elusive “attitude” element) will always and forever remain key to success and very, very hard to measure.  We know we have succeeded in our work when senior executives tell us that they can “feel” the change in the environment, and they can “sense” the enthusiasm of their team.  By definition, these are outcomes you cannot measure, but you surely do try to manage because these “soft skills” significantly affect measurable outcomes.

“Customer satisfaction is key.”

More truisms with great validity – up to a point.  But if interpreted literally, these can profoundly limit organizational growth.  For example, if the goal is to deliver exactly what the client expects on time and within budget, do you get a satisfied customer?  Yes.  A loyal repeat customer?  Not necessarily.  Ensuring teams go to the next level, lead with value and truly exceed expectations is how to develop truly loyal customers – those who keep coming back and continually refer you into a new client base.

In our view, loyalty is a huge differentiator that creates an engine of growth that protects a company from their competition and secures their spot on the leader board for years to come.

“Lowest price wins!”

Sales is full of “truisms.”  My least favorite is “Lowest price wins.”  There is no argument that having a lower price helps you close in most situations, but in today’s environment where time is one of the of the most precious commodities – who out there can afford to re-do a project if the “lowest bidder” fails to do the job right the first time.  Come on – we’ve all been there.  Have you ever hired the cheapest contractor to fix the basement, and then had to hire the higher priced contractor anyway?  If you truly believe “lowest price wins,” then how do you explain success phenomena like Starbucks, Apple, the Red Door Spa, or more locally – the Inn at Little Washington?  In our experience, customers want the highest value possible, and that is a combination of price and outcomes (both measurable and unmeasurable).

Isn’t it time to shift the conversation beyond “conventional” wisdom and think creatively about the current environment we face (challenges and opportunities) then develop some new absolute truths to guide our decision making for today’s ever changing environment?