Chapter 6. Your Customer Is Talking—Are You Listening?

"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws."

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Most project teams and PMs, like many businesses, seem to forget that the customer is the one that writes the check. The project team is trying to please the project sponsor, senior executive, or some other executive, and unless the project is an internal company project with internal customers, your actual customer is somewhere outside the company. Make sure this fact stays firmly implanted in your thoughts as you forge ahead implementing whatever project you have been charged with leading.

Most employees think they are paid by their company. The check or direct deposit has the company logo on it, after all. But in reality that payment is only a passthrough—the money is actually being paid by the customers of the business. I have had interesting conversations with various C-levels who continue to promote and sustain the following arcane concepts:

  • Accountants and CFOs claim that inventory is an asset.

  • Accounting systems continue to ignore the hidden factory in the business.

  • The annual review is seen as a key tool used to help the employee improve.

  • Customer service (that ignores the customer) is a "key component in our business success."

There are many companies that regularly dump on their customers. They never state that in their advertising—on the contrary, ...

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