In Lean Marketing, I discuss the use of a Sales and Marketing team as a cross functional group whose number and expertise is derived from the decision making path of the customer. The team is first and foremost the listening post for the customer (prospect) that enables them to provide the customer with the information, technology, and support that is required. This is done through a PDCA/SDCA Cycle that depending on the complexity may constitute an entire sales cycle or just a certain portion of the customer’s decision making process.
Detailed long-term planning cannot meet the rapid changes occurring in the market place and are becoming less in favor and rapid cycles found in Agile Software Development are becoming more common. The reason is that most successful sales cycles meet market needs by having a high degree of flexibility and the ability to adjust their plans as needed. So, with iterative cycles the rage, is there any need for a planning?
We use PDCA to provide a flexible structure and create a team with shared responsibility and authority for a successful outcome. The plan is in creating an effective way for teams to work, create, share and capture knowledge during the sales cycle. It has been said that less than 20% of the knowledge within a company is captured. When you consider that number and now consider that you are primarily dealing outside the company that percentage has to be significantly lower. PDCA is an effective methodology that can be utilized to counter act this. It is first and foremost a learning tool that emphasizes the creation, sharing and capturing of knowledge. It is also a people process that emphasizes learning by doing and as a result focuses on making things happen.
The Knowledge Creation PDCA Cycle is actually very simple:
- In the first stage, Plan is defined as where companies are connected in a new way to bring new knowledge. This connection may have occurred through the web, conferences, experiences or research. It is the accumulation stage where the organizations share their knowledge and determine the next learning opportunity.
- In the 2nd stage, Do is defined as converting the new knowledge needed in processes, practice, material and culture to each organization. In this stage, the company intends to distribute and utilize knowledge between the experts in service, IT, supply, finance, etc. to assure value is delivered between companies. The goal is to create an all for one, one for all approach.
- In the 3rd stage, check is the measurement of understanding. We do not only evaluate the knowledge shared but the process and workflow. Creating the flow of knowledge and optimizing the interactions typically becomes the most valued part of the interaction. Simple questions are asked such as: What are we here to do? What are we learning? Who will do what by when? And how are we doing? What needs more of our attention?
- In the 4th Stage, act is when the application of knowledge and interaction is transformed into competitive advantage. Utilization and reutilization of these components on real problems and the ability to deliver the product/service as required is answered here. This cycle may only be one step in a multiple decision making process or at the point of a purchase decision.
PDCA should be repeatedly implemented in spirals of increasing knowledge of the system that converge on the ultimate goal, each cycle closer than the previous. This approach is based on the belief that our knowledge and skills are limited, but improving. Especially at the start of a project, key information may not be known; the PDCA provides feedback to justify our guesses (hypotheses) and increase our knowledge.