As a senior leader, you know that collaborating with clients leads to improved outcomes. In fact, your leadership team most likely knows this too, but for some reason, you aren't yet able to implement this way of working into your day to day activity, in a way that is achieving measurable impact for your clients.
There are most likely good reasons for this, one, you're busy juggling so many different priorities and are overwhelmed with change, that dedicating enough time to execute it well and get it done, is difficult. Two, you've told your team you need them to engage more and the reasons for this, but changing how they work is a tough job. Many of them are used to working in existing ways that involve either some or no consultation/co-creation, so to change that culture is going to require a lot of energy. Finally, working in new ways puts your people out of their comfort zone, the path of least resistance is to just avoid it, rather than pushing through the effort of finding the right people to consult with, and then picking up the phone or visiting these people to get their perspectives.
This is a common challenge we see across the sector and the best way through it is to make it easy for people, by setting up a regular process that will run like a machine, drawing up all of your insights from across the organisation, making sense of them, and then passing these initiatives out to your teams to work on and solve.
In this article, we explore what needs to be included in your process, so that client collaboration can become part of how you work.
This is a three-step process that we call ‘Insights To Action’, the 3 steps are - Listen, Learn and then Deliver. Let’s explore each step in a little more detail below.
1. Listen - This can be simpler than you may think. So often we see organisations that have multitudes of information that they get from their clients and they either don’t capture it, or they put it into reports but don’t do anything tangible with it. Using this data can bring about major improvements and gains for the whole organisation. Being able to collect all of the information across the organisation, combine the information collected, and finally, make sense of this information to get a clear picture of what is important for your clients. There is nothing more powerful than for your people to have the experience of hearing directly from clients about what is important to them, particularly if they don’t have day-to-day interactions with your clients. By capturing both the positive ways your work is appreciated by your clients and also the irritants that they face in dealing with you, it will give you a comprehensive overview and form a solid foundation to then explore in greater detail.
2. Learn - Next, we want to learn more about the issues that have been identified. Speaking to different people across the organisation may help you learn a lot more about a problem, as they may have completely different perspectives. It’s a good idea to have knowledge-sharing sessions with diverse groups from different areas and different levels, as it can help the entire organisation to build a 360-degree view of the client’s problems. That way, you can be assured that the information is not one-sided. It’s helpful to prioritise the issues you are working on once you understand them, so that you can be more effective in the delivery. When it comes to prioritisation, using a matrix with different questions that enable you to understand the scope of the problem, how large the work may be, and what the potential payoff could be if you were to work on that problem. Building criteria for the things that are important to your clients and how regularly they occur is a good start. Try to come up with a series of questions that focus on the most important aspects that you want to address and you can use this model to prioritize where changes need to be made.
3. Deliver - The final step is to build momentum and deliver the solution/s. So, you’ve done some really important background work and gathered all the required information, but without actually progressing on any of these items, you’ve still got data that you are not effectively using. The best place to start is to review your top 1-3 items from your prioritisation list and then divide people into smaller working groups, and using Co-design have them work on one item each with input from your clients. Then you’ll have people from different backgrounds working on creating solutions for different issues - together. Therefore, the organisation will benefit from the various skill sets within those different groups, but it will also encourage collaboration across the organisation.
You can then request regular updates on the progress of these projects, what measurable impact has been delivered and what are the next 3 most important client issues are in plan to be worked on next.
But remember, this needs to be implemented as a system. That means regular reporting at each of the 3 steps of the process, and regular pre-scheduled meetings to ensure it is an ongoing process will ensure you get the results you desire. And that this activity won't be forgotten amongst all of the rest of your day to day activities.
Constantly prioritising problems and giving the individuals in your organisation a chance to come up with solutions for these problems will assist you to continually improve and build the innovation skills in your teams. By following the steps given above, you will find an overall improvement in your organisation, led by collaboration with your clients.