Marketing Standard Work = A Learning System

In Good to Great, Jim Collins states that “the first step of leadership is not visioning, but rather confronting the brutal facts. When creating a marketing plan, a company must be willing to honestly assess the current reality of its existing efforts. This is the most important component of a successful marketing effort and does more to ensure success than the most comprehensive roadmap strategies and tactics.

Most plans will focus on identifying marketing opportunities (segmentation and a need), and then strategies focused on a unique value proposition. They then develop plans, maybe even thinking that they’re Agile in nature that still has an air of casualty using short iterations thinking that they can create structure. However, marketers despise randomness. They will even resort to desperate measures to construct predictable patterns, i.e., Sales Funnels. We think markets though complex are predictable.

Never forget Gall’s Law, “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked. A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over with a working simple system.”

When we categorize and document what we are presently doing, we are defining our standards. It is not a matter of best practices. Standards are the most fundamental and misunderstood concept needed for growth. Your core values are the way you go about what you do and how you do it. It is what your customer understands and experiences. When an employee steps out of the box to do something remarkable, it is a result of having the clarification that this is what our standards (values) would encourage us to do.

Having standards allows us to see opportunities for improvement and leverage the resources in our marketing space. We move from the always-be-closing, win-lose mentality into what we may call the “new normal.” It is about being there or participating in your customer’s success. It’s a place where strategy once resided.   It has been replaced with a marketing perspective that is more aligned with action research and tactically experimentation.

“With tactics in the driver’s seat, everything changes: long-term vs. short-term becomes meaningless; prediction is still possible as an activity, but probably futile in its results; action beats analyzing-, correctable replaces dependable. The one thing that we know is that it’s in the learning rather than the deciding.”  The Death of Strategy –

It becomes all about engagement and building effective feedback or learning loops. These loops become our method of learning. We use this learning to provide more value to our customers and participate with them at the relevant edges of the use of our products/services. This requires us to think differently and follow different practices or standard work. I borrow from the Response to Intervention folks for the 4Cs, primarily Austin Buffum, that they have developed:

  1. Collective responsibility: A shared belief that the primary responsibility of each member of the organization is to ensure high levels of learning for everyone. Thinking is guided by the question. Why are we here?
  2. Concentrated instruction: A systematic process of identifying essential knowledge and skills that we must master to learn at high levels, and determine the specific learning needed. Thinking is guided by the question. Where do we need to go?
  3. Convergent assessment: An ongoing process of collectively analyzing targeted evidence to determine the specific learning needs and effectiveness. Thinking is guided by the question. Where are we now?
  4. Certain access: A systematic process that guarantees we will receive the time and support needed to learn at high Thinking is guided by the question. How do we get there?

Many marketers and agile people will talk about complex adaptive systems. It really is the correct terminology to explain marketing systems. However, few will discuss Standard Work in the same vein. They will start with change practices and management. Starting with these four questions provides a standard learning structure:

  1. Why are we here?
  2. Where do we need to go?
  3. Where are we now?
  4. How do we get there?

 For Lean readers, does it sound a lot like Kata?