Chapter: "Strategic Planning and Customer
Satisfaction: The Ultimate Drivers of Change Management," by
Financial Publishing Company
On a spring day, the publisher of six well-known, monthly technical
financial-services publications called his director of publishing
services into his office. The publisher charged his subordinate
with making the publications user-friendly. The CEO had announced
that customer service was one cornerstone of the new strategic
plan. A second cornerstone was professionalizing the skills of the
organization by making an investment in the professionals in the
firm. In the publishing arm of this 3,000-person, multiservice,
highly visible financial services corporation, succeeding in the
second endeavor was an awesome feat.
The following six levels of key players lay between the CEO and the
subscribers who ultimately read and used the financial information
- Eight executive directors, one for each business unit: The publishing end the business was minor for them compared with product sales of tangible financial services. It was not that they thought the publications were trivial, but their bottom line was not directly dependent on them.
- The publisher: He had a high stake in this plan. He wanted tangible evidence of change to demonstrate his ability to the CEO.
- The director of publishing services: He was a true professional in publishing and saw this plan as an opportunity to significantly upgrade the publishing products for which he was responsible.
- The editor-in-chief of the flagship publication: He hoped that this effort would solve some of the day-to-day business problems he had receiving articles and other written material from as many as 800 in-house business analysts, economists, and financial services specialists each year, none of whom were professional writers.
- The editorial staff: They hoped this effort would empower them and make them less at the mercy of the nonprofessional contributing writers whom they served on a daily basis.
- The writers: They initially thought this plan would be nothing much, just business as usual.
The director of publishing services fleshed out the problems:
1. How would the customers, or subscribers, like to see the
publications change? The director of publishing services had
undertaken a large readership survey about content only a year ago.
Content was in line with subscribers' tastes; format and style got
2. Assuming publishing services management could determine the
needed format and style, how could those managers get all the
people involved to agree on the changes and, much harder, get those
format and style changes implemented? The changes had to take place
at the level of each individual contributor. Editors had neither
the time nor expertise to rewrite the huge numbers of long,
technical articles submitted to them.
There were 11 steps to implementing the change (here are the first
1. The director of publishing services shopped for a consultant. He
wanted someone who met the following criteria:
- was local and could be easily available
- had a track record with companies in the industry
- was seasoned and credible to the highly educated, well-paid professionals at the firm
- had experience in writing for publication
- was an outstanding course developer and trainer
- was with a firm that was large enough to handle this size job.
2. Before making his final choice, the director of publishing
services invited four executive directors (EDs) and the publisher
to a joint interview with the consultant. He asked the consultant
to meet one-on-one with the other four EDs. The information she
derived from these meetings, the familiarity she established with
each ED, and the goodwill she established set the tone for the
3. After the director of publishing services hired the consultant,
he quickly brought other team members into the process. The manager
of marketing, the senior editors, and the most prominent writer
contributors all oriented the consultant to the task at hand.
4. With the manager of marketing, the consultant set about
designing and conducting focus groups to reach consumers and
determine what style and format changes were desirable. Before
conducting the outside focus groups, the consultant ran trial focus
groups with internal people, mostly contributing writers. Focus
groups were designed to represent each of the types of subscribers
to the publications. The focus groups were videotaped, and the CEO
watched an edited version.
5. Many concrete recommendations came out of the focus groups.
These were discussed with the EDs, the publisher, the director of
publishing services, the editor in chief, and the editors. They
were codified into a simple-to-use manual for the whole company
with lots of examples of right and wrong style and format usage.