The Five Traps of High-Stakes Decision Making

I’ve been studying decision-making at the top for many years and what I’ve found is that good decisions nearly always result from robust decision processes. Similarly, decisions that go wrong nearly always stem from procedural or organizational failures. In fact, just five mistakes account for the vast majority of poor decisions.

The Infrastructure Behind a Net Promoter System

Net Promoter SystemSM (NPS®) practitioners have created sophisticated systems that enable them to close the loop with customers, bring the comments and criticisms that they get to the front line and use that feedback to continually improve the customer experience. They have learned how to link the feedback to their customer relationship management (CRM) software and their existing operational infrastructure, so that they know what … [ Read more ]

Five Keys to IT Program Success

Given that the pace of change is quickening in information technology, it’s never been more important to understand how to make IT transformations succeed. Companies can’t afford to waste time and effort on projects that don’t deliver. Our work with leaders across industries and regions has allowed us to identify five key steps to success—actions that may be simple to describe but difficult to execute. … [ Read more ]

Keeping Customers First in Merger Integration

When companies merge, they embark on seemingly minor changes that can make a big difference to customers, causing even the most loyal to reevaluate their relationship with the company. Numerous studies have found that more than half of all mergers fail to deliver the intended improvement in shareholder value. Customer defections contribute to that high failure rate. Integration decisions come with an inherent tradeoff: If … [ Read more ]

The Five Steps to Better Decisions

Decisions are the coin of the realm in business. No company can reach its full potential unless it makes good decisions quickly and consistently and then implements them effectively. For more than 25 years, the three authors have consulted to organizations of all sorts and noticed all these organizations share one consistent trait: when they focus explicitly on decisions, they improve their performance. This article … [ Read more ]

How to Have Fewer, Better Meetings

Meetings can be the bane of corporate life. Yet meetings are essential to effective decision making and execution and thus to business results. The companies that are best at decisions have learned to manage meetings as carefully as they manage any other part of their businesses. It’s a three-step program.

Earn Customer Loyalty without Losing Your Shirt

If all you do is “empower the front line”—grant your employees more freedom to wow customers—they will almost certainly strike the wrong balance between customer delight and shareholder returns. The key to success in empowering frontline employees lies in giving them a framework within which to operate—and feedback about how they are performing within that framework.

Is Complexity Killing Your Sales Model?

Most current sales models are not keeping pace with the shifts in demand, as many companies struggle with factors that contribute to higher costs. Achieving growth targets profitably requires a repeatable, high-return model for selling solutions. And that means knowing where and how to invest in sales resources. In our experience, four mutually reinforcing actions can help senior executives keep on track with greater … [ Read more ]

Survey Sabotage: Is Your Customer Data Misleading You?

Many top companies are using or have adopted a Net Promoter® system to learn more about the quality of their relationships. A closed-loop feedback process can help businesses identify key clients, product features customers like or dislike, service opportunities and problems that need immediate attention. But these efforts can only go so far if the survey data is flawed by biased answers. Like a virus … [ Read more ]

How Group Dynamics Affect Decisions

Group dynamics can lead otherwise sensible individuals to make (or agree to) decisions they might not come to on their own. Executives need to be on the lookout for group biases and their undesirable results. Here are four common manifestations of the “group effect” and some suggestions for countering them.

Putting Social Media to Work

As part of a broader customer engagement strategy, social media can be an effective and cost-efficient marketing, sales, service, insight and retention tool. Our recent survey of more than 3,000 consumers helped to identify what makes social media effective.

Editor’s Note: this paper will likely become dated somewhat quickly, but some of the content seems to me of lasting value.

Focused Products

How much value can a company gain by streamlining its portfolio of products or services? Let’s consider the five essential steps.

What it Takes to Win with Customer Experience

Great customer experiences produce great business results. Why don’t more companies try to win with customer experience? It’s a long, hard road, especially for companies that have neglected their customers. Turning that around requires energy and resources, and it takes time. But the journey is not mysterious, and the rewards are substantial. Our research and experience over the past several years have led us to … [ Read more ]

How to Break Out from the G&A Cost Treadmill

Support functions seem to be working harder just to stay in place. Despite all their cost-cutting, they’re finding it awfully tough to please the business heads who are their most important customers. Most companies have managed to contain their general and administrative (G&A) costs in recent years through a relentless focus on functions such as information technology (IT), finance, human resources (HR), legal and facilities. … [ Read more ]

Focused Processes and IT: Lock in Simplicity

Why do conventional solutions to process and IT issues regularly come up short? The reason is that processes and IT are rarely the main problem. Nearly always, process and IT troubles reflect complexity elsewhere in the company—in strategy, in business and product portfolios, and in the organization itself. The complexity may show up first in process breakdown or system proliferation, but its root causes often … [ Read more ]

Hook the Front Line on the Performance Improvement Habit

At the heart of Bain’s High Velocity Performance System® is the premise that for any transformational change to succeed, employee behavior must change. In service-intensive industries, it is the discretionary effort of people throughout the organization that improves operational and financial performance. Unleashing discretionary effort is only possible when companies provide people with a compelling purpose for the work they do.

The high velocity performance system … [ Read more ]

Finding the Hidden Costs in Broken Supply Chains

For decades, governments and companies around the world have focused almost exclusively on tariffs as the biggest impediment to global trade. Despite tariffs dropping to a 30-year low, reform efforts have stalled in recent years and international trade remains seriously constrained. A big reason: The inefficiencies and choke-points that hobble the global supply chain turn out to be a much bigger factor than government-imposed tariffs … [ Read more ]