I believe the best organizations are as closely aligned with their customers as possible. Not just through their marketing, product development or sales. Customer alignment runs through the whole organization. From how we set our own purpose, organize, prioritize, invest, learn and more. A healthy company is running on a customer aligned operating system — or a customer DNA.
I have tested this, asking people in internal roles like e.g. administration and finance how they were offering value directly to their customers, and they were easily able to identify how their work was contributing valuable outcomes to their customers.
So what is a customer DNA?
Back in 2016 Aaron Dignan and The Ready published the OS Canvas it was a way to describe and understand the organization as an operating system.
The OS Canvas is “something that could take a complex system and make it a practical playground for imagining and implementing a new way of working.”
An updated version includes the following forces of influence on the organization:
Purpose — How we orient and steer
Authority — How we share power and make decisions
Structure — How we organize and team
Strategy — How we plan and prioritize
Resources — How we invest our time and money
Innovation — How we learn and evolve
Workflow — How we divide and do the work
Meetings — How we convene and coordinate
Information — How we share and use data
Membership — How we define and cultivate relationships
Mastery — How we grow and mature
Compensation — How we pay and provide
I immediately took a liking to the canvas because it makes clear the forces of influence on the organization and helps us decide which, why and how different forces need to be aligned with our customers to provide a healthy organization (healthy in terms of its outcomes and responsibility in the ecosystem).
To me the customer is not a marketing gimmick or a data point. It is a force of influence on the organization which used correctly can inspire, inform and shape several parts of a healthy company. Enabling it to keep up with the changing ecosystem and consistently provide the best possible outcomes at the right time.
A customer aligned organization could be said to have a customer DNA.