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Question:  Tom, There are leaders in our company who have not heard of and others that don’t believe in what you call mass customization.  How can I prove it to them without insulting their intelligence?  M. V.


 Answer: M. V.  You do not need to prove it to them – you need to help them “see” it – it is hidden in plain sight.  Ask them to consider the following: there has never been two multiple item carts at the check-out in any grocery store, Wal-Mart, Home Depot or any big box store that are alike?  The Store contains the standardized Mass and they are the Customizer who is pushing the cart.  There are no two cell phones alike. There are no two Harley bikes alike. Every person’s insurance portfolio is customized.  An ATM allows them to “customize” their banking experience.  Every round of golf is “customized” using the 14 clubs of “mass.”  The design of every air conditioning system is “customized.” Yes, many products are still mass produced, but somewhere they go into a Mass Customized SYSTEM.  It starts as the “mass” called a coffee bean and goes into the “customized” Starbucks experience.


 Mass Customization is a massive competitive advantage and very profitable.  Consider why Wal-Mart has been successful.  It is a “massive” arena for “customized” shopping and it is this reality that allows them to offer “low prices” to “orchestrate” that “buying experience” for their customers.


 Never insult anyone's intelligence.  It is an awareness issue.  Help them be aware that “buying” is always “customized” regardless of the perception that the “seller” may have about his/her business. No company can survive as strictly the “Mass” today.  The “buying experience” is king. They can experience this transformation in awareness using the Transformational Sales and Leadership Simulation.  It legitimately “confronts” those who do not “believe” that Mass Customization is real and here to stay. 


Comment and Question

Tom, there has been a lot of interest in business modeling recently. I attended your Simulation last year and recall the New Business Model diagram in the Simulation workbook. It is nothing like the process that is being recommended in some of the recent meetings. What is your take and how is your approach different?


I have not attended the recent meetings and can not comment on the validity of the approach. Business modeling, like innovation, has been one of the most misrepresented issues in the business “press” for the past twenty years. If it was an accurate process, the failure rate of new business start-ups would not be over 90%. So--- the question is, does the “business modeling” exercise accurately define the behavioral process of developing a successful “business?”

S. S. As you know, I wrote an entire book Transformational Change on this subject. The New Business Model is called Mass Customization. (Refer to page 138 of Stanley Davis’s book Future Perfect) Therefore, all business modeling sessions must start with that MODEL of Customer expectation. What is an ATM machine, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Harley Davidson, Facebook, Apple --- some people get caught up thinking that the business model is all about the technology or the innovation to create a new product, but the business model of any business today must be based in the underlying STRUCTURAL REALITY of Mass AND Customized. The second Structural requirement is the “Economics of Real Time.” There is “No-Float” in anything today, (Refer to pages 81-83 of Dee Hock’s book One From Many). The absolute key to business modeling is to start at the STRUCTURAL level. It is from the underlying STRUCTURE that behavior within the Business of the BUSINESS emanates. If any company is not a Mass Customized “Real Time” business today, it is domed.

Therefore, by definition business modeling is an activity that defines – at the Structural level --- the “macro behavior” of the Company and how the process of execution must be designed to serve Customers. (Our Founding Fathers developed the Constitution to define how everyone must behave.) The only consequence of a business model is to “translate” operative level behavior into beneficial service to customers. Another common mistake is to confuse Measurements for PURPOSE. The Operative level of any organization can not execute “create shareholder value” or even “make a profit.” For example, in their Business Model of 1972 General Motors articulated “10 strategies and measures” that proved to contain “false assumptions.” One example was: “Quality does not matter: it is a matter of styling.” The operative level “translated” all 10 of those strategies into operational behavior and none were designed to serve customers. They subsequently changed the word “styling” to “low cost producer” and “cost cut” to bankruptcy. (Fortune Magazine, February 20, 2006)

The approach that I describe in Transformational Change is based on simply answering the 10 Questions that people within any business/organization/City must answer in order to be aligned in executing the Business of the BUSINESS. You can see from the attached the Defective and New Business Models that have been developed from our Simulation.

S. S. Thank you for the question. This is a massive Leadership topic and very relevant as our Economy struggles to make the “transformation” from the Industrial Age Business Model to meet the challenge of Mass Customization. If you would like a presentation on this issue at your next business modeling meeting, let me know as I have a three hour presentation of the approach described in my book.

Comment and Question

Tom, I enjoyed your presentation about releasing human potential at our meeting several weeks ago. In your last email you indicated that there is a big difference between teamwork and alignment. Can you explain further as we are big on teambuilding.
C. B.

Read more: Leadership: Teamwork vs Alignment

Comment and Question

Tom, I have not read your book but there must some systemic reason why it is almost impossible to implement change. I’ve been involved in product ideation exercises for innovation and nothing comes from it. I’ve heard many presentations about transformational leadership and nothing transforms. The conferences about being a change agent continue and nothing changes. We conducted sales training for 8 sales engineers to develop new business and nothing has changed. Everyone blames the economy. Do you have a systemic answer that is not grounded in blame?
C. B.

Read more: Leadership: Causation vs Potential

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