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These days, it's very fashionable to talk about things like Net Promoter Scores, Touchpoint Marketing and Employees that Live the Brand....

After all, we're -- once again -- finding out that it's the employees of the organization that ultimately define the customer's satisfaction with our products and services.
So after spending a few years of slashing their heads off, the people are once again "our most important asset" (irony intended)....That is why, today, I'd like to explore some uncomfortable truths about these "people." Yet before you start gloating as you go along, remember there's a stinger when I upload part two next week. Each of the areas discussed will lead straight back to the marketing department, and what it should be doing to be true to the business.
A big tip of the hat to my friends at MCE, who's thinking on alignment inspired this post (to avoid confusion, the rants below are my own ;-)
Truth #1: Most people in your organization haven't got a clue what you're on about.
There is a saying that strategies are typically researched in 6 months, written in 6 weeks (by 6 people?) and communicated in 6 days. This leaves the people in the organization 6 hours to change their behavior before the next quarterly results.
The result - according to über-professors Nolan and Norton - is that only 5% of the people in any organization actually understand its strategy. So even if they have the best of intentions, it is quite probable and plausible they'll go off and do something completely different than what you had intended when writing that PowerPoint.
Truth #2: Many leaders in the organization behave against the best interest of the company.
And frankly speaking, you can't even blame them for it. Politics-free exceptions aside, building a corporate careers is 30% achieving results and 70% talking about them in the right places. If you have a kid in school, a mortgage to pay and a social status to uphold, you're not going to stick your neck out on that daring innovation which may backfire, and you're definitely going to go along when the long-term strategy gets hit by the quarterly numbers axe. This leadership behavior is, however, also seen by the troops and sends a stronger message than any corporate policy manual on the face of the planet.
Truth #3: The people in the organization are often paid to do something else than what the strategy says.
While some of us work for glory, most people's behavior is still influenced by the performance bonuses at the end of the month. Yet comparing these against your brand's objectives often gives interesting results.
This goes beyond the cliché of the sales team that is supposed to "help the customer," yet is commissioned on volume. How about the researchers who are bonused on # patents, rather than customer insights. Or call-center agents who are on the clock when talking to customers. Or - back to truth#2 - managers who get stock options tied to quarterly results. If "what you say" and "what you pay" disconnect, what are you really saying ?
Truth #4: Quite a few people in your organization are at a loss when it comes to the customer.
If you go for a walk to every part of your organization to ask them about your customers and their needs, you'd be amazed at how some of the answers differ from what's in those expensive insight and market reports you ordered. This may say something about the reportsn, yet if different people go around the organization with different pictures of the customer and his needs, all talk about consistent touchpoint experiences remains just "talk."
Next week – on this screen.
All the above can be resolved by connecting marketing ("the guys who spend money") and HR ("the guys who shuffle payslips") into a strong people management function focused on getting the brand's employees truly aligned to its strategy.
If you already have some suggestions on how this could be done – don't hesitate to hit that comments button.
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Alain Thys is a founding partner of Futurelab, a marketing, strategy and business model innovation boutique which helps companies identify new profit opportunities in an ever more complex world.

In this role he also edits Futurelab’s blog, which is the first step to establish a co-creative community of innovators from business, science, politics and the arts.

Alain considers himself a storyteller and agent of change. His core skill is to make complex business issues easier to understand and help senior executives translate them into strategies that inspire their customers, staff and stakeholders.

In previous lives Alain has been in charge of retail and marketing at Reebok EMEA, done pan-European advertising & research at Mexx and as a VC was involved in 30+ start-ups ranging from European mobile payment systems to Indian industrial alcohol plants. The obligatory flirt with digital adventureland included two major dot-busts, and turning down the friends and family round in an unknown outfit called Netscape.

Alain is a regular speaker, has authored a number of seminars and in addition to occasionally ranting on blogs is working on two books he still hopes to finish before they’re out of date.

He is very happily married, has a great little son, and apart from his family he most enjoys cooking, the South of France and a good glass of Malt Whiskey. Like his role model Da Vinci, he considers simplicity to be the ultimate sophistication.