Professor K. Sudhir

As the world changes, most organizations don’t adapt fast enough to remain customer focused.

Saying your organization is customer focused is like saying you support mom and apple pie. Who would say they are not focused on their customers? Companies that attain great success were, almost by definition, customer focused; otherwise they would not have achieved success. But the reality is maintaining that focus is not easy. The market is a dynamic place. Customer preferences are constantly changing. Your competitors are constantly striving to outdo you. And as the world changes, most organizations don’t adapt fast enough to remain customer focused.

In the Customer course that I teach, we take the perspective that, of course, you need to have marketing skills to understand consumers and develop a customer-centric strategy. But then we look at how to create an organization to execute against that strategy, and it’s not just a marketing problem anymore. And so we bring in faculty and ideas from accounting, from OB, from finance and operations.

MBA students often gravitate toward the subjects that they’re good at. If you’re an accounting person or a finance person, you’re likely to get excited about courses in those subjects. Then you pursue those courses and you go into a company and you remain in your silo. But in our integrated curriculum and with our method of team teaching, we get all of the students excited about something in each course. They start to see why other people in an organization might see the same situation through a different lens. And they learn to draw on that diversity of views to help them think holistically about problems. They make connections.

So, our students, as they go out into the world, have the advantage of a broader perspective, where they see how the parts work together to make the whole strategy work. That might be the most crucial skill that managers need to make an organization truly customer focused.

Interviewed spring 2010.