Working with Organisational Anthropology – the Art of Embedding

Why do Insight products and tools sometimes miss the mark? Most insight teams are charged with the remit to make the organisation more customer-focused. That’s quite a tall order, especially as most teams have dual roles, to generate the customer insight as well as encouraging colleagues to be more customer aware of business’s impact on customer behaviour.

Large research programmes are typically planned to have some dissemination and possibly a ‘product’ launch, which creates a lot of excitement and, for a short time, has the desired impact. The launch may include getting senior stakeholders to champion the research programme. Despite having these evangelists, the resulting launch soon flounders and momentum for the programme is lost.

It’s a sad truth that for most staff, customer focus is seen as an additional requirement to what they see as their day job. Even staff warm to Insight and lose customer focus when workloads get busy. Often customer focus is seen as something that is good for you (like eating 5-a-day) but less easy to practice.   We aim to take weave customer focus into existing organisational structures and governance to ensure it remains integral to the fabric of the business.

Part of our approach is to think further than initial dissemination. We work with internal teams to review the cultural anthropology (how the organisational structures works) to understand which processes and systems people use to get things done within their business. Our aim is not to reinvent organisational processes, but rather to latch onto existing organisation structures. This approach smoothes the way the organisation works and maximises the longevity and engagement with insight products.

When we work with Insight Teams to review the existing anthropology, we will typically cover areas such as:

Internal Communication: larger organisations typically have internal communications as an organisational function; in smaller organisations this typically takes the form of various levels of meetings, cascades and announcements. We need to understand how communication moves around the organisation, and this will allow us to identify key points of influence and people who can be useful to work with.

Money Approvals Process: who holds the purse strings and what is the application and governance process for funding. How equipped are fund holders in ascertaining if financial bids are customer focused?

Governance Processes: who holds the authority for wider organisational resources, how is it monitored and how often does it change.

Change Management Processes: what customer focused evidence is required by change management teams.

HR Processes: understanding staff mobility and likely churn within teams, how customer understanding is woven into staff promotional panels and hiring and rewarding.

We work with Insight teams to review the internal structuring, in order to understand where, when and who we need to influence to create organisational change that is both sticky and has longer traction with the businesses. We also discuss product lifecycle – how long before the product requires refreshment and reintroduction to the organisation, and what the longer term resource requirements are for the insight team.

Launch is not enough

We work with Insight Teams to develop a product plan which will be a mix of both long and short term milestones. These are likely to include the identification of key influencing stakeholders who need to be ‘bought in’ to ensure organisational change and identification of the communications tiers within the organisation. This facilitates engagement and monitoring of organisational changes and governance.

For example, a budget holder may be intellectually willing to advocate better customer focus, but may be ill equipped to really understand how that applies to their role. Providing them with training to “stress test” requests for their customer understanding is the less glamorous side of an insight product launch, but it is also one of the most important.   “Stress testing” can establish set criteria to establish how “customer informed” the financial request is.

We often advocate “Cascade training” in organisations where there is a lot of churn between teams or in and out of the organisation. Either via “train the trainers” or some form of succession planned training, use of video. Being prepared for staff churn is hugely important to maintain organisational memory of “how to” again supporting the remit of establishing good organisational behaviours.