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While markets react, if not overreact, to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and uncertainty generates a sense of panic, businesses must make themselves fit to thrive in an environment of unpredictability and accelerating and rapid change. Those still in the EU and wedded to the dream of ever closer political and fiscal union and those who are miffed at the cheek of the Brits in derailing their dreams may take some comfort from the run on the pound, but the 500 million consumers won’t take kindly to the imposition of “consequences” threatened by France’s economy minister, Emmanuel Macron – not if that leads to higher prices for the products they wish to buy from Britain or responses in kind from Britain in any tit-for-tat trade war.

Brexit should invigorate transformation, not cause it to stall

Once the dust has settled, the inescapable fact that every business must recognize and act on is that profitable growth can come about only through continued customer relevance. This challenge must be met by every business, no matter where it is located or whatever its nominal nationality. To survive and thrive, established firms must develop the capabilities to adapt at speed. The trigger point for change must be the customer, not the investor community. Companies that succeed in increasing their relevance to their customers will grow profitably. Brexit may generate a tsunami of uncertainty, but business leaders must act with speed to transform their organizations and make them customer-adaptive, to create the conditions for continued customer relevance. Eight mutually reinforcing attributes (see Figure 1) must be orchestrated to create the right conditions:

  • Leaders must articulate a clear vision and purpose that centers the entire enterprise on the customer.

  • The collective intellectual power and desire of the workforce must be engaged to fulfil this vision.

  • Silos must be removed and collaboration across and beyond the enterprise must be enabled and encouraged.

  • Acute sensing capabilities must be developed to gain real insight into what customers want and need and how their behaviors are evolving. Greater foresight must also be developed to sense emerging customer trends and also threats from potentially disruptive competitors.

  • Every interaction with customers must be contextually relevant and delivered in line with customers’ preferences and across any and all channels through which they chose to engage with the company and its brands.

  • The ability to innovate continuously is critical to refresh the value customers receive.

  • Simplified processes that span the value chain and can be adapted and optimized in support of customers must be enacted.

  • The business and enterprise architecture also must support continuous adaptation and be directly linked to the strategic plan for the business.

The more uncertain the environment, the greater is the need for transformation. Brexit should provide a positive shock to invigorate customer-adaptive transformation, not cause it to stall.


Further reading

“If you are not customer-adaptive your survival is at risk,” IT0020-000178 (February 2016)


Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement

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