The entire company was in the atrium. From my perch on Sally Gulliver’s window sill I could see them below, paragraphs of heads of hair, punctuated here and there by the full stop of a bald head.
Mark Temple stood before them, armed only with two large flipcharts and a certain eccentric charisma. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he began, sweeping an enthusiastic gaze out over all of them. ‘I ask you one thing and one thing only.’
He paused for what he correctly judged was a dramatic moment. Then he bellowed: ‘Who the hell are our customers anyway?’
There was a slightly startled pause.
‘Look, gang,’ Mark Temple said, ‘I think we’re missing a trick here. In fact, I think we’re missing several tricks. I think we know who our customers are – don’t we?’
Ripples made of cautious nods.
‘Right. So you sing out who our current customers are. Sally Gulliver, our notoriously efficient HR director, will write them up on that flipchart. That, I think you’ll find, will leave quite a few gaps, if you look across yer actual universal demographic. Then you can shout out those groups you think should be our customers, and I’ll write them up on the other flipchart.
‘It’s your collective brainpower that’s going to turn this company around. Nothing else.’
A hand rose nervously.
‘Um, thing is, we did a gap analysis exercise of this kind six months ago, Mr Temple.’
‘Mark,’ Mark Temple corrected. ‘Surnames are for tax forms and magistrates. And did anything change as a result of your gap analysis exercise, my friend?’
‘Well no, not really…’
‘Thought not. This time, they will. Allons-y!’
And slowly the two lists began to build.
As people started to call out names, Sally Gulliver watched people’s faces. A good deal of bemusement at first, but then some uncertain enthusiasm: ideas, like a good barbecue, need to catch fire.
Maybe it was covering old ground. Maybe the exercise had been done before – perhaps even with more technical rigour. But not with this kind of cross-department buy-in, not in an atmosphere that actively encouraged suggestions, and not in a way that changed anything: Global Blancmange had continued to lose market share over the previous six months.
And Sally Gulliver knew that if there was one thing that could start to move a workforce from uninterested to actively engaged it was being asked, genuinely, to contribute to what the organisation should do next, and where it should go.
In a week’s time: A Blancmange for the Digital Age
Bingleby was confiding in Richard Goff
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