Improving customer experience presents unique challenges. It requires coordination across multiple business functions — marketing, sales, service, supply chain, engineering, finance, IT. 

And while "organizational alignment" has received its fair share of lip service, the challenge of alignment remains. 

Vision and Support Can Only Go So Far 

Since customer experience has become a priority, we've seen many companies invest in tools to capture, track and resolve customer experience issues and to better understand their customer's wants and needs. What they overlook in this rush to technology is the importance of aligning strategies, objectives and goals to ensure all levels of the company are working to deliver a common outcome.  

How do you do this? What measures can be used across the customer lifecycle?

Behind every successful improvement effort lies executive management vision and support. Yet vision and support alone are not enough, as vision can easily get lost in translation due to misinterpretation, resulting in misaligned priorities. 

When this happens, the result is a fragmented collection of new capabilities, which lack cohesion and impact in the eyes of the customer.  

Using Hoshin Planning to Ensure Alignment

Many times when outcomes fall short of business expectations, the cause isn't a lack of strategy or vision, but the gap between the vision and execution. 

A 2015 report by the Standish Group indicated that roughly two thirds of all software projects fail. Of the projects that succeed, three of the top five success factors directly relate to executive sponsorship and the project execution team.

Clear alignment across management levels and all of the functions involved reduces the risk of fragmented efforts that fall short of the intended mission. Improving customer experience is a multi-year journey for most organizations, and for leading firms it's a journey that never ends — after all, is there ever a time when competitors aren’t trying to steal away your customers or when customers stop expecting more? 

While a number of alignment tools and techniques exist, we’ve found Hoshin Planning or Hoshin Kanri as the easiest, least costly and effective approach ensuring alignment between executive vision and staff’s daily activities. The Hoshin method provides alignment and ongoing connection between corporate strategy and goals and action items for teams.  

It focuses on setting goals at the strategic level and cascading these goals down to operational KPIs (very similar to balanced scorecard):

progress of setting goals

How Hoshin Planning Helps

People respond well to feedback and recognition, so having team goals and action items linked to strategies plays a big part in making transformational change stick. 

Beyond linking corporate strategy with operations to develop well-aligned goals, metrics and KPIs, Hoshin planning also helps define the timeframe for changes and the roles needed to make the change happen. The seven steps of the Hoshin approach are typically completed within a few weeks — and at the end of the few weeks you are left with a Hoshin Planning Matrix.

The x-matrix captures the objectives and cascading priorities. Senior leadership can use it in conjunction with other tools, such as value stream maps, detailed action plans and status reports, to drive alignment and manage progress toward goals. 

Hoshin planning provides a framework to integrate, people, processes and technologies: the building blocks for developing new organizational capabilities.

strategies, tactics, process, results

Source: Hoshin Kanri Mid-Term Strategy

Prevent Wasted Effort

While building customer journey maps, developing customer personas and looking for quick wins to improve experiences are all critical activities, without a method to ensure alignment across activities, your efforts often fall short of the intended objective. Utilizing a tool to consistently orchestrate and align goals, teams and metrics eliminates the risk of an execution gap.

Here’s a simple self-assessment to see if your organization would benefit from using a method to align metrics and goals:

  • Are the objectives, goals and metrics clear and known to everyone in the organization? (i.e., if you ask 10 people do you get the same answer or 7-8 different answers?)
  • Can staff describe what they are working on and how their work contributes to the company's goals and objectives?
  • How many goals and metrics do you have and how many reach their target (i.e., What’s your attainment ratio — metrics at or exceeding target/total metrics?)

Perhaps the most important question to ask: are your customers satisfied with their experiences with you and would they recommend your services to others?

If you are comfortable with your answers to the self-assessment — congratulations, you should celebrate! If however, you are like most organizations you may find a tune-up and alignment may help. Hoshin is one approach that many have found useful in improving outcomes. 

Let me know in the comments below what tools you've used and what you've determined was the root cause of any execution gaps.

Title image "Line Up" (CC BY 2.0) by  Dyn Photo