A tip for your next meeting: ask about customers
Start your next meeting by having everyone say when was the last time they observed a customer, in person, using your product.
Seriously. Go around the room and ask (if you can do so without getting in trouble). If people are being honest, on many teams, the answer will be “never.”
Why don’t people directly observe customers much? This question has been much on my mind while working on our new book, Customers Included. Once you start looking at the world through this lens, it’s hard to miss the evidence: teams, companies, and organizations rarely spend time with customers before making decisions that affect them.
For example, just a few days ago the Wall Street Journal published this article (reg. required) about New York State’s new online health portal, which community groups are using to help sign up citizens. The article goes on to say this:
Many of the community groups that will sign up New Yorkers up for health insurance beginning Tuesday are uneasy they haven’t tested the online portal that governs the system. “That’s the one thing we would have liked,” said Elizabeth Benjamin, with the Community Service Society of New York, who added that she believed the system would work.
This is strikingly similar to the story of the border fence (full text here) in Customers Included. This billion-dollar project launched without getting enough meaningful input from the users – you can guess what happened. (The silver lining is that Democrats and Republicans could agree on something: the bipartisan conclusion was that the border fence was a disaster.)
So if you get a chance at your next meeting, bring up the possibility of direct customer observation. And if you want some more material to make your case, grab a copy of Customers Included – here’s the Amazon link, or you can get multiple copies at a discount.