Organizations are organization-centric by nature. It is alien and counter-intuitive to be customer-centric. 

“Simply put, those at the top feel entitled to the lion’s share of the money “their” companies earn, and managerial egos are threatened when subordinates speak their minds in the workplace and when they don’t just do what managers tell them to do.” So states James O’Toole, senior fellow in business ethics at Santa Clara University.

He was commenting on the 2013 State of the American Workplace survey by Gallop. According to O’Toole, it found that “only about 30 percent of employed Americans are actively engaged at work. The survey also revealed that more than half of the U.S. workforce passively shows up at the office without enthusiasm, kills time till lunch and closing, and exerts little effort to maintain the customers and productivity of the organizations that print their paychecks.”

It has been known for a long time that engaged workers are more productive and efficient, and that that leads to happier customers, higher profits and long-term success. You would also think that with the US economy undergoing a slow recovery from a major recession that those in work would be highly motivated.

But no. Why? Gallop believes the root cause is mismanagement. “In most organizations the cause of the failure is more hidden, and is deeply rooted in the little recognized truth that good management is unnatural behavior,” O’Toole states. “Ego, greed, and the desire for power are parts of human nature, and thus devilishly hard for managers to overcome.”

Human nature and intuition is out-of-sync with the modern world. We need to seriously tame human nature and intuition if we want to be more successful. Why? Because we are entering the age of the customer, not the organization.

Since 1994, I have consulted in almost 40 countries, with a great many private and public organizations. I have never met anyone in all that time that has said to me. “Gerry, can you help us to become more organization-centric. We’re just too customer-centric.” Never.

Learning Opportunities

I have watched intranets sink in the morass of organizational and departmental ego. Giving control of an intranet to a communicator is like giving a pub to an alcoholic. They splurge on news, news, news. Government websites so often become the platform for political egos and needy civil servants desperate to explain and justify their existence. It happens everywhere. Classical tribal / organizational behavior.

Commercial websites often fall under the control of traditional marketers who feel compelled to push their latest, newest, greatest thing, at the expense of practically everything else. The latest thing -- whether it’s a new product, Twitter, videos, apps, Facebook -- are all pushed with gusto, not because they are useful but because they are new. And "new" shows that you are innovative, interactive, cutting-edge, cool, with it and that you get it. Such lovely stroking of the ego.

Outside this ego love-fest stands the impatient customer, getting more impatient by the second. Ruthless, cynical and skeptical; more empowered and knowledgeable than ever; increasingly seeing through cliché marketing tricks and communicator’s propaganda, with the ability to easily communicate with friends and other customers: Disloyal.

Welcome to the Age of the Customer.