We need bold and decisive action in 2012 to deal with the issues of our day. We have entered a new phase, what I call the Era of Rapid Adaptability® (ERA). This means that we need to make decisions quicker than ever before, balancing our intuitive self (the Gut feeling) with a more robust analysis of the data. The key is balance, both are critical to better decisions.
I had the extraordinary pleasure of being able to work with 3M for many years before starting my business. The central thread and our training at 3M was always about knowing our best customers deeper than any competitor and involving them sooner and continuously in any new innovation.
I left 3M about 20 years ago and started Gordian Business Pty Ltd. Gordian Business is a specialist consulting firm that creates business opportunities with our clients to execute their strategies to achieve breakthrough results. Let’s discuss the origin of the name Gordian.
The Gordian Knot Story
Like most business leaders today, Alexander the Great was confronted with a complex issue, and he needed to make a decision. Unlike today, he did not have a mobile phone, or access to firstname.lastname@example.org. He just had extraordinary skills in problem solving and decision making. Let me share the story with you.
Long ago, the Kingdom of Phrygia had been founded by an old countryman, who was driving his ox-cart into the city when two eagles flew down and settled on the yoke. The people thought that this was a sign from the gods. So, the cart was kept in the city's chief temple, and it was prophesied that whoever loosened the knot that fastened the yoke to the pole should become King of Asia.
As he moved across Asia Minor, Alexander the Great came across the knot and the story. He studied the knot for a long time, but could not see the beginning or the end to its twists and turns. The story goes that he drew his sword and cut it with a decisive blow.
This is why we still talk of "cutting the Gordian Knot" when someone solves a complicated problem by bold and decisive action.
Knot-cutters versus Knot-studiers
Most modern decision-makers want to be Gordian knot-cutters, not knot-studiers. They want to be bold, confident and smart in their use of information. Alexander, when faced with the problem of the Gordian knot, did not form a Gordian knot committee, his approach was all about problem solving and not procrastination. He did not ask for reports documenting the legend or describing the knot. Alexander did not ask for endless feasibility studies, financial analyses, risk studies, or legal opinion. He simply cut the knot.
Modern decision-makers often find themselves drowned in irrelevant data and statistics. Too great a volume leaves the modern decision-maker studying the knot, instead of solving the problem.
As you employ more and more knot-cutting strategies your organisation will begin to react more quickly. Eventually, knot-studiers will have to become knot-cutters or find a market for their knot knowledge in someone else's company.
Creating Rapid Adaptability
In Australia, Asia and the USA, the companies that we currently consult for are successful and are growing because they are very focused on dealing with rapid adaptability in how they manage their top clients. They know that, in a very competitive global market, account management within their top clients allows them to make change that produces results.
One reason that they grow is because they meet with their top clients weekly or monthly and they know their business, their threats and the joint opportunities. The reason that they continue to grow is because they adopt the philosophy of ERA by meeting internally every 90 days to review their top accounts. Their senior managers are engaged in strategic conversations about what needs to be done differently to their best accounts. These strategic conversations are based on fresh client data– every 90 days.
Another reason they grow is because senior managers use these 90 day reviews to persuade their executives. They persuade their senior executives to change their organisations to deliver more value to their best clients.
I present our Strategic Account Management Program at the business school (MGSM) at Macquarie University. In the last program I presented, a senior executive wanted to know why the 90 days was so crucial.
My response was simple, if you don’t engage every 90 days to discuss, dissect and make some rapid changes, your competition will out manoeuvre you in the account. Today if you are not relevant, you will become a commodity, then only be able to negotiate on price, not value. Great businesses like Kodak fail because too many internal decisions are based on what knot-studiers want and not on what top accounts value and will pay for!
Finally, we have to accept we have entered a new ERA and we have to make decisions that allow our best accounts to grow and for us to grow with them.
What are you doing to help your best accounts grow, so you can grow with them?