Collaborate, Don't Dominate
To successfully implement CRM a company must be capable of evolving into a customer-centered organizational design. That is, it must eradicate the fiefdoms naturally occurring in its lines of business, departments, and other hierarchical levels of control. A company must redesign itself and retrain its workforce to collaborate around, to serve, and to nurture its individual, profitable customers.
This type of collaboration may never happen. Why? Because the majority of companies today continue to be run by individuals who rule by command-and-control. These managers believe in and are trained to practice not collaboration, but rather competition and dominance. Their companies reward them for this behavior. The organizational structure supports each leader's distinct area and encourages rivalry between departments for ever-shrinking resources.
Turf protection, the roar of power struggles, and self-preservation don't create collaborative cultures. Instead, collaboration requires a supportive environment through nurturing, coaching, and guiding. Look up the word collaborate in your thesaurus and you will find describers like cooperate, work together, and act in unison.
Research documents dominance as the norm. The persistent dominance state exhibited in business today is a relic of the past. It has been well documented in research throughout history. Riane Eisler speaks to the dominance culture of superiority in The Chalice and the Blade
Cultural Transformation theory proposes that the mainstream of our cultural evolution was toward partnership, but... there occurred a fundamental social shift...this change in direction from a partnership to a dominator model.... The dominator model as a social system is characterized [as] dominance and generally hierarchic and authoritarian social structure as being the norm.
The world is changing and with it new norms of social behavior are needed and are beginning to emerge.
In today's highly competitive world it is too risky and too costly to make business decisions based on bravado and gut feel by dominant players. In fact, an old-style company that does not access all required information (facts) and then synthesize it across multiple disciplines (sales, marketing, service, finance, IT) risks making half-baked decisions versus its more clever collaborative and integrative competitors.
Old methods of doing business using iterative, stop-start processes, relying on the input of individual experts and other dominant decision-makers, are being retooled in the new, collaborative work environment.
Unless a company is able to integrate its business activities to collaborate around the needs and concerns of its high-value customers, it will be unable to practice CRM successfully.
As long as the domination-driven, mechanistic, product-push business model reigns, the transition to a nurturing, knowledge-sharing, customer-centric business model will fail. And failure is not an option in this increasingly competitive business environment.
Laura Pollard is president of CRMA Canada. She is also a part-time professor at the University of Toronto, and president of CRM consulting firm Accelerate Growth Management. Contact her at
Iryna Reim, who contributed to this article, is a management consultant and corporate coach whose practice focuses on organization and leadership development. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org