I like to use the term EDCA (Explore-Do-Check-Act) learned from Graham Hill to designate the Explore aspect of Lean. I view it as more of Design Type thinking content that allows for that collaborative learning cycles with a customer. Most of us design sales and marketing actions around how we think, not how the customer thinks. We have this idea that we know what is right. What I will say is that most of the time we are probably wrong. Or another way of putting it, move away from thinking that you are the “expert” or the smartest person in the room. Instead move towards the thinking that the “room is the smartest person.”
When thinking about implement EDCA in sales, I believe we have to change our mindset similar to the thinking process I outlined in the blog post, Old Style Thinking of Plan – Do. It is difficult for sales teams to not only shift from PDCA to EDCA but to manage the process of EDCA in the first place. Sales need to understand that at some point the discovery that takes place in exploration must move from that act of Exploration and assimilated into operational practices. Just as we would always blame quality people of the habit of paralysis from analysis, we will often find sales either bringing in half-baked ideas or always waiting for one more piece of data or report. We need a way to start the collaborative process between customers and our organization.
In my “exploration” of this subject, I found some excellent advice from, Debroah Ancona and Henrik Bresman, authors of the book, X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed. In it they said:
Other teams error by forgetting about exploration altogether and moving immediately into the implementation and action of exploitation. The drive to get things done in these cases is so intense that teams just start with the solution that first comes to mind. Management can sometimes unknowingly emphasize this “solution mindedness” by pushing the team to make tough targets quickly. The trouble here is that members may be moving quickly in the wrong direction or fail to think outside the box.
Finally, some teams never want to let go of their product. No one is interested in exportation; no one takes responsibility for easing the product out of the team and into the rest of the organization. Without this transfer of enthusiasm and ownership, team members may find their work rejected or simply ignored.
So first, teams need to organize themselves to examine the world around them, think in new directions, and consider multiple possible options (exploration). But then they must choose one direction and organize themselves for effective action and implementation (exploitation). Finally, teams need to take one last step and shift their focus again toward ensuring that their work has traction in the larger organization (exportation).
They promoted the use of Explore-Exploit-Export. Sales must find a balance between the three areas, sort of an E3DCA approach. One more tidbit from the book:
The point is that team members need to be able to shift away from an emphasis on exploration—thoroughly understanding the product, process, opportunity, or task that the team has undertaken. They need to be able to move on to exploitation—using the information from exploration to innovate and actually make their dreams and ideas into something real—and finally to exportation, in which they transfer team member expertise and enthusiasm to others who will continue the work of the team, bringing the team’s product into the organization and possibly the marketplace. Each of these different phases requires a different focus and hence different amounts and kinds of X-team activity.
When most people think about Lean, they view Lean only from a problem solving perspective, that 5 Why stuff. In that context, a Lean sales person would assume the role of an expert solving a problem for someone. When I apply Lean to Sales and Marketing, I view Lean as a knowledge building exercise. It is the deeper understanding of the customer business that we achieve through the methods of PDCA and EDCA.
You may be thinking why don’t we just use EDCA for the entire process. My idea is that EDCA really does define the process but E3DCA creates an iterative loop within the process. This way we involve teams, internally and externally in a much more collaborative way. What is happening in the world of sales is that we are on the edge (or maybe already there) of a collaborative way of selling. We no longer can just sell to a customer; we have to understand our customer’s business and our customers customer’s business. The only way that I believe possible is if we are participating at the point of use of our product or service (Lean Thinking with Service Dominant Logic) and using a process to get the message in, E3DCA.
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