3 Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture

3 Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture
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Externally Focused Culture vs. Internally Focused Culture
Your strategy must go through your people and your culture to be successfully implemented.  An important cultural dimension for many companies to define is the balance between having an internally focused culture or an externally focused culture to best execute their strategy.

Defining Strategy and Culture
At a high level, 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.  And, 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 externally 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
  • Finds ways to consistently be exposed to new ways of thinking

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.

Three Tips to Create a More Externally Focused Culture
If you want to become a more externally focused culture, here are three 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.For example, externally focused leaders frequently mystery shop from their own company, top competitors, and different industries.  They observe organizational processes and practices, along with the words, deeds, mindsets, and behaviors of employees.  Externally focused leaders take note how other companies and industries approach strategy, culture, and talent.
  2. Hire, Reward, Support, and Promote 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.
  3. Interact with Customers More to Capture Up to Date Insights
    Customers can provide wonderful insights into how to improve and shift your business. The more employees hear direct feedback  from customers, the better.  Even for non-customer facing jobs, it can be very beneficial for everyone to listen in on sales and service calls to capture and share client insights.You will know you are on the right path when your team is consistently up to date with their target customers goals, problems, and 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 How to Better Align Your Culture with Your Strategy

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