Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
The evil queen asks the magic mirror this question again and again in this well-known fairy tale, Snow White & Seven Dwarfs. The queen is obsessed and frantic, expecting the same confirmation she enjoys hearing, “You are, my queen, the fairest of them all.” She hears the same answer again and again, until one fateful day when the mirror speaks out terrible news, her worst nightmare.
There is now another woman, Snow White, who is fairer than her. The queen was still beautiful and probably a close runner-up to Snow White. But, she wasn’t satisfied and got completely occupied by trying to take her top position back, even to the point of plotting a murder. Well, we all know the happy ending of Snow White and yet the tragic (yes, tragic!) ending of the queen who had so much, but lost everything including her beauty and very own life.
In business world, this magic mirror exists in variety of forms. If leaders of organizations do not have keen discernment, they all may head down to the similar tragic ending as the queen, losing what is important over what is temporary. Focusing on market position by pure market share % is like the queen asking who the fairest of them all is. Mechanically conducting annual customer surveys and over-analyzing the results is like the queen who is obsessed with how others view her. Don’t get me wrong, there are places for market share and customer survey. However, steering an organization to gain a position at whatever the cost is like the queen who ultimately turns herself into an ugly old woman to deceive Snow White.
Annual employee survey has become just another KPI for managers to improve a couple of percentages every year, missing the bigger picture that employees are flesh and blood, not those %’s and graphs. Charts and statistics may give you reference points, but employees are people that need to be listened to in person and cared for with hearts.
I am not saying that market share, customer survey, and employee opinion survey are of no use, but I am afraid that many executives just want to have those numbers charted up on the board and focus on improving them. Why? Because it gives good satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment. But, isn’t it like the queen who is looking at the mirror every day asking the same question while missing the bigger picture of who she is?
Market share is important. But, 20%-30% of market share of the saturated PC market does not mean much because a completely new market (i.e. iPad, Android Tablets, Smart Phones, etc.) gets created. Because of digital cameras, market share of optical camera means completely different than 10 years ago. If our strategy is solely to keep the market position or overtake someone else’s throne, our view will be skewed and self-absorbed, just like the evil queen.
Conducting this massive annual customer survey can somehow be beneficial, but truly listening to customers comes from how well each employee listens to each customer on a daily basis and is empowered and competent to resolve issues proactively and timely.
Employee opinion survey definitely plays its role too, but many times it becomes another to-do-list and mechanical indicator that eventually does not mean much in practical manners. I think sometime we are fooling ourselves. Let’s face it. Is it that difficult to find out what makes our employees satisfied and engaged? We all like to work for a company where pay and benefits are reasonably good, people treat each other with respect, stunning performance and excellence are prevailing, ethics and principles are valued, management is approachable, the company brings tangible values to the mankind so that I can be proud of, employees see themselves growing in the company, and good fun and laughter are well intertwined with serious business matters.
So, what is the bigger picture of your organization? Break the mirror! Go out, and be engaged!