In April I reviewed "Social Business by Design" by EVP Dion Hinchcliffe of The Dachis Group, noting that Dachis seems well positioned to guide its clients into the social business realm. Now we have "The Connected Company" by Dave Gray, SVP of the Dachis Group, offering another perspective on how companies must engage their employees, partners and customers if they are to survive in an environment of continuous change. Hinchcliffe's book was distinctive in dedicating much less focus on the technology aspects of adopting social business than other books like it. Gray's book is even more focused on the business, cultural and motivational necessities if companies are to succeed.
Often technology and the sheer coolness of tech companies (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon) inspire business leaders to emulate them and all of us to wish we worked for companies like them. The focus in both of these books is on business strategy. The results of companies that have committed to getting connected (IBM, GE, Apple, Google, Vanguard Group, Amazon and others) indicate that working in more engaged ways is becoming mainstream. This seems great for the Dachis group because they can now function as business consultants beyond just technical or Web consulting.
I loved how Gray designed the flow and presentation of the book to practice what he's preaching. His Table of Contents is 15 Kindle pages long, offering links to chapters and subsections of chapters throughout. In addition to the ease of going right to what you're interested in reading, this enables the reader to jump around as they hopefully start planning out how they will apply these strategies in their own companies. Gray also uses his own graphics and illustrations throughout to clarify his discussions--many of which he also uses in his blogs and slideshows elsewhere.
The book is divided into 5 parts. The first part provides the rationale for why companies need to get connected, stating that customers are changing and expressing their opinions so easily and quickly now that only adaptive companies can keep up. Gray establishes his treatment followed throughout the book by starting with case studies about how several companies learned dramatically that they could not keep up with posts and messaging that were coming from both inside and outside their respective organizations. His writing is clear and precise, introducing and establishing examples and metaphors (e.g., cities and cars are examples of connected systems) that he then uses later throughout the other parts. Many of his references come from Gray's readings and interviews, and he references those at the end of each chapter so the reader can dig down for further detail. By the end of Part One, we know that services (or customer experiences) are not strictly under the company's control; customers each have their own definitions and expectations of how they want to be served and companies and their employees must be prepared to deliver different experiences according to each person's expectations.
Based on that good foundation of what customers want in the first 7 chapters, Part Two then explains what a connected company is and how it can respond to those customer expectations. Gray establishes that knowing their true purpose (not just making profits) distinguishes connected companies. He works through famous examples of how IBM and GE re-made themselves and then through additional examples (Southwest Airlines, Ritz Carlton). He also introduces how many of these companies have adopted the Net Promoter Score as a way to address customers who hate their experiences.
In Part Three we learn how connected companies (Netflix, Whole Foods, Nordstrom's) use pods to interact with customers, and how pods are like smaller versions of the overall company but with the ability and data to make their own self-directed decisions. This part is where there is the greatest focus on systems, software and platforms but it is all done at a higher, more conceptual level to understand how these pods can be supported, not controlled. In Part Four, Gray describes how connected companies are led, differentiating the roles at the pod level, for leaders and for managers. And finally in Part Five, he describes how to get started in transitioning to a connected company and some warning signs along the way.
"Social Business by Design" reassured senior leaders that social media and business was not just a technical play. "The Connected Company" arms them with greater understanding so they can make the organizational changes necessary to make each employee an important contributor. At certain points, I could see how Gray was synthesizing many of the same books I've read into a compelling narrative, and so it was kind of an outsider's perspective on what he sees happening across many companies. This is not typical, as most authors seem to have been more engaged in the inside of the companies and changes they're writing about. What makes it all work is the way he puts it all together to guide companies to the next level.