2 Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture

Business man overlooking city to illustrate an Externally Focused Culture

Externally Focused Culture vs. Internally Focused Culture
An important cultural dimension for many companies to define is the balance between having an internally or externally focused culture to best execute their strategy.  We define corporate strategy as your game plan for winning.  We define workplace culture as how and why things truly get done in an organization.

Depending upon your corporate strategy, sometimes it makes more sense to primarily focus on internal systems and processes (e.g. Wal-Mart), and sometimes it makes more sense to primarily focus externally on customers and market trends (e.g. Whole Foods).

This article is for leaders hoping to have their companies culturally focus more on customers and market trends to better execute their go-to-market strategies.

An Internally Focused Corporate Culture
Let’s start by defining an internally focused corporate culture as an organization that primarily focuses on internal systems, processes, and conformance to internal standards.  A culture that is internally focused looks inward for answers and solutions.  This often makes sense if your strategy is to cut costs, reduce waste, or quickly scale repeatable solutions.

An Externally Focused Corporate Culture
An externally focused culture is an organization that primarily focuses on customers and market trends.  A corporate culture that is externally focused:

  • Looks outward for feedback, trends, answers, and solutions
  • Happily adjusts any internal process to meet current and future customer demands
  • Prioritizes customer experiences
  • Relies heavily on external sources of information

This often makes sense if your strategy is gain market share, grow revenue, improve customer intimacy, or to increase your position as a market leader.

Two Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture
If you want to become a more externally focused culture, here are two good, research-backed places to start:

1. Consistently Analyze the External Environment
Define the factors that need to be monitored so the organization can strategically respond in a timely manner.  This includes developing ways to detect changes in the external environment, having strong sales and marketing feedback loops, and creating deeper and more regular opportunities to learn about the needs, thoughts and strategies of customers, competitors, partners, and suppliers.

2. Hiring, Rewarding, Supporting, and Promoting Externally Focused People
Look for individuals who are flexible and externally-oriented. Reward those who have a keen insight into what others need and a history of responding quickly to meet those needs. And finally, empower customer-facing people and those that support them with flexible solutions, pricing, options, and tools to effectively respond to changing, and often very different, customer needs.

The Bottom Line
If your strategy is to gain market share, grow revenue, improve customer intimacy, or to increase your positioning as a market leader, the chances are high that you need to culturally focus more externally than your current norms.  That means improving your ability to consistently analyze the external environment and how you hire, reward, support, and promote your entire workforce.   Is your culture externally focused enough to help move your growth strategy forward?

To learn more about how to align your culture with your strategy, download Aligned Cultures Count for 40% of the Performance Difference

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