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.
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 wanting to assess their current culture and hoping to have their company 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:
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:
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 about how other companies and industries approach strategy, culture, and talent.
This all leads to a powerful sense of comparative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
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.
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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