November 11, 2016
What Trump Means for Best Practices
by Mike Manes
Best practices can be inside baseball. Despite all the peer studies that meant the media “knew” that Hillary Clinton was the winner – SHE LOST!
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, the majority of a major minority of the people in this country opened the window, stuck their heads out and yelled just as Howard Beale instructed in Network: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
The rest will be history. Power to the people!
As you and your organization move from yesterday, through today (2016) to tomorrow (2020), will you complete this “first term” into the future, be thrown out before your term is complete or be reelected by a landslide? The choice will be made by the marketplace.
Your performance is determined by your clients and prospects — your voters — not your measurements of “best practices” and “peer studies.” Best practices are the judgment of our peers comparing us with our “superior” peers. Best practices are inside baseball. They’re all about us – our industry.
In Tuesday’s election, despite all the best practices and peer studies that meant all the media “knew” that Hillary Clinton was the winner – SHE LOST!
The media knew she would win not from some impulsive whim but rather through history, polls, the wisdom of the elders of their tribes (Democrats, Republicans, independents) and those who had grown up in the industry of government – lobbyists, consultants, pollsters, elected officials, etc. As a practical matter, 16 of the most successful players in the Republican party scoffed during the primaries at the idea that a reality-TV star should be taken seriously.
On the other side, the Democratic party in its arrogance ignored millions of outsiders (the children of their insiders plus many of the alienated members of their tribe) who marched in protest behind and beside democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.
See also: What Trump Means for Workplace Wellness
Now do you understand? THE MARKETPLACE HAS CHANGED!
Enough about politics. Let’s get back to real life – marketing in a dynamic and divided world. Tomorrow is not about the mass market of yesterday. It is about the narrow niches of tomorrow (left-handed diesel mechanics who smoke, or some other affinity group you’ve never considered), their affinity and your knowledge of and intimacy with them, their wants, needs expertise, culture, etc.
I recently worked with a non-profit organization that had it all: good people serving a marketplace that their peers would “die for,” plus a membership group with sophistication, economics and education that any niche would envy. The organization included a successful history of 50-plus years and, unfortunately, the baggage and culture problems that nearly always accompany such success. The organization had become “dumb, fat and happy,” focused internally in their comfort zone, and they had let their finger slip off the pulse of their individual members.
These very good folks in this organization had done what far too many folks do after an era of success. They existed in their comfort zone versus working to ensure that their clients were comfortable! Conversations about the “good old days” outnumbered asking “what if,” “what now,” and “what next?” They were looking internally at each other versus at the future!
Don’t believe me: Test this on your team! Gather your team or a cross section of your team for a futuring group meeting. Draw a circle large enough to hold the assembled group. Ask them to stand on the circumference of the circle to discuss the future. What will happen? Will most (or all) face each other, or will they turn their back on the “history” inside the circle and look at the possibilities on the horizon?
Whether you think the above is silly or provocative, the reality is this: Your current processes are perfectly designed to get the results they are already getting.
Twenty-three years ago, I naively suggested we “change the culture.” After I tried this a few times and had my rear end handed to me, I learned that to change the culture you must change the people. But this is a foolish fantasy in a world filled with humans with free will and the ability to sabotage change. (Remember Maxine’s wisdom, “Change is good as long as I don’t have to do anything different.”)
I then evolved to a more real model suggesting you work to maximize the results that can be obtained in the culture you have. Now with decades of scar tissue, I know better. In fact, Harvard Business Review in its April 2016 cover story, agreed with me – YOU CAN’T FIX CULTURE; just focus on your business, and the rest will follow.
See also: What Trump Means for Business
I’ll wrap up this monologue with three slides from a recent planning retreat that acknowledge that you can’t fix culture — but that you can do other things:
- You can’t fix culture, but EACH OF US CAN GROW!
- You can’t fix culture, but ALL OF US CAN COLLABORATE BETTER!
- The final slide included seven words and one picture. The picture said it all, with a young woman with a “sad face” looking down and back over her shoulder to a yesterday of hurt and a “happy face” young lady looking up and out at the positive possibilities on the horizon! The words – “IT’S ALL ABOUT WHICH WAY YOU LOOK!”