The Champion and The Challenger

"It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." - David Brin

The way any company currently operates has a momentum that can drive its eventual downfall, unless it evolves due to the intercession of a proactive management team.  It is the rare, yet healthy organization that, as an analogy, puts an unknown challenger like Buster Douglass on the fight card against an "unbeatable" champion like Mike Tyson.

Executive personalities eventually fail, market strategies eventually fail, employee "carrot or stick" incentive plans eventually fail, but it is important that the business does not fail. So if we can call a company's current mode of interacting with customers the "champion", then a company must always be developing its own "challengers", lest it be beaten into submission by an external opponent.

Unfortunately, this is hard to do unless driven from on high.  In customer operations, for example, it is not often welcome for one to say, "what if we changed our quality assurance to focus on how well we take care of the customer rather than how well we follow the script that was approved by management?"  That would fly about as well as a lead zeppelin.  Unless... management has a champion and challenger framework for managing change, and they can compare results on the fight card to see who wins.

Here's how it works.  The current model for your business - the way you sell, deliver, provide customer service, whatever, is the champion - what you have determined to be the optimal modus operandi for your business.

Now, instead of fomenting jihadist talks at the water cooler and watching insightful employees leave, or allowing a competitor to come in and eat your lunch, you plant the seeds of your own champion's destruction within your own companyWhy?  Because while you are focusing on getting things done, things "out there" keep changing.  How? You introduce challengers.  You create a competition for "best of breed" within your own company.  It keeps those intelligent yet recalcitrant employees excited about coming to work, and it keeps you one step ahead of your competitors.

I consult in the area of customer experience and call center operations.  For my clients, champion vs. challenger means taking a customer segment or region, and applying some new methods of interacting with the customer.  It might be how a call is routed, the level of information that is provided, when a call will be escalated, the conditions under which an agent will try to "upsell" a caller, or the knowledge competency requirements for an agent to handle a certain type of call or caller.  There are many more examples from my line of work.  The key is to make the Challenger a discrete and measurable activity.  Confining each challenger activity to a limited scope helps with that.

Don't wait to get cold cocked by an unforeseen opponent.  Find ways to experiment with your operations to create challengers within your own organization.  Don't be forced to tap out.