31 Aug 3 key stakeholders you should add value to
When you hear about generating value for stakeholders, you would probably think of your customers, and this is right. But don’t forget that you must be as close to them as you are to other groups, such as your collaborators and suppliers. Collect insights from these three key stakeholders and improve your value proposition.
In an organization, stakeholders are groups of people who are impacted by its products, services, processes, and other activities.
A Lean organization -or one that seeks continuous improvement- aims to generate value for all stakeholders. In order to do this, people in the organization must:
- understand who the stakeholders are,
- identify what each group gives value to and what not,
- eliminate or reduce what does not add or destroy value.
Forgetting the customer while defining the value proposition can put a company out of business, or at least in a very difficult position.
On the other hand, more and more companies consider employees as key stakeholders and are making huge progress in the use of methodologies that go far beyond evaluating the work environment.
Probably the most overlooked stakeholders are external suppliers, but countless cases show that this is a serious mistake.
Understanding the experience of customers, partners and suppliers will help obtain extremely valuable insights that will help your organization improve further and further.
How are you getting in touch with the experience of your stakeholders?
If you want to understand how each of these groups lives their experience with the organization, you need to truly empathize with them. And this is only possible if you visit the Gemba -the place where the process takes place- and experience the situation the same way they do. Let’s take a look at some examples.
In a consumer goods company that we accompanied through a project, as a part of their training, the managers had to get on the delivery truck and hand in the product in person. They got out of the vehicle, made the delivery themselves, listened to the customers, talked to them, heard about their difficulties, and this really helped them understand the client’s perspective.
On the other hand, in my role as manager of an automotive company, I received a car as a benefit. Even though this seemed like an excellent opportunity to experience the product as a customer, the experience was entirely different from the one of a common client. For example, if the car needed repairing, the secretary would take care of the vehicle. And if the service was not adequate, it was also her who handled the situation.
Is there a real immersion in the customer journey in the organization in which you are part? Which of the above examples does your experience resemble?
When it comes to employees, we see an increasing effort in organizations to understand their experience, but unfortunately, most of the time the info measured is limited to employee satisfaction or climate surveys.
It is necessary that leaders live the experience of their collaborators from time to time, that they have to use the workers’ bathroom, or eat in the dining room with them so that they fully understand their day-to-day lives at work.
It is even more difficult to get to know the experience of external suppliers, but not impossible. Among other things, it is important to consider how changes in your internal processes impact them and how they experience the relationship with your organization. Some questions to start with:
- Are you measuring the supplier’s experience and their degree of satisfaction?
- Do people visit them in their own workspaces in order to understand their ways of working?
- Does your organization regularly request suggestions for improvement from suppliers, and implement any of them?
- If there is a change in systems that impacts the suppliers, are they trained to use them?
Are you empowering clients, collaborators, and employees?
If you want to innovate and add more value, incorporating insights from all of your stakeholders will definitely help you. Understanding how they perceive and experience their participation will help you improve your product or service.
Some examples of how you can empower the client:
- Be transparent with the product or service (clear labels on products, complete information on services)
- Give customization options (choose the length of a trouser or a telephone package according to consumption)
- Provide feedback opportunities, and make changes based on the inputs (for example, beta versions of software for users to test)
But beware! It’s about empowering customers to improve their experience, and not handing them over tasks that we don’t want to do. Being an active part of the process should never be perceived as a burden for the client but as a benefit.
As for employees, we must give them space to imagine and lead their own development. It is important to allow them to express their interests and share what career path they would like to take in the future. What if they prefer to rotate areas or specialize in another department? And what if they want to work independently in the future, but in the meantime are happy to innovate within the organization?
On one occasion, a leading company in its sector faced the desertion of an employee who was considered valuable for the organization. The collaborator had tried to develop an application to change the sales model, but was not allowed to do so within the company; he eventually quit and developed the idea on his own. Wouldn’t it have been better to allow him to experiment inside the company? Couldn´t they have channeled those ideas to experience agility and innovation?
In the same way, do people in your organization give suppliers room for creativity and innovation? Or are the requirements so specific that they limit their ability to bring fresh ideas?
How are you using the data of clients, collaborators, and suppliers?
As I stated earlier, collecting first-hand data is a fundamental step in understanding the experience of all stakeholders and capturing their insights.
However, I often see that the use made of the obtained data is predetermined by the previous conclusions that are expected to be obtained.
For example, in an organization that we accompanied through a digital transformation, we saw that they had recently carried out work climate surveys. The data could have saved us much of the work, but the answers were presented segmented by hierarchy, area, and age.
This predetermination made it difficult to look into individual responses and discover patterns. It takes a naive look at the data in the search of similarities in perception, behavior, beliefs, and opinion, to discover what new things the data is telling us.
For example, who has a good experience and maintains a positive emotion after a performance review? What do these people have in common, regardless of the area they belong to or hierarchy?
In another article I explained the importance of mirroring the experience of collaborators and clients. Organizations that have engaged employees show a better return on investment and are often more innovative.
Today I want to highlight the importance of also considering suppliers as key stakeholders who can help find opportunities for innovation and differentiation.
If understanding the experience of your customers is a priority for your organization today, include collaborators and suppliers in your top stakeholder’s list.
Empathize with each of your stakeholders and get to know their experience first-hand. Empower each of these groups so that they can actively participate in the construction of value. And, last but not least, analyze the obtained data in a naive way, without pre-established analysis segments or preconceptions.
Clients, collaborators, and suppliers can provide you with very valuable insights that will help you improve your value proposition. You just have to know how to discover them.
Author: Raúl Molteni.