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Zero Time: Providing Instant Customer Value - Every Time, All the Time! Hardcover – July, 2000
From the Inside Flap
In the rapidly emerging, global digital business environment, the speed of change will be limited only by the laws of physics. What kind of organizations will thrive in such a world? According to the Theory of Relativity, time stands still for an object traveling at the speed of light. Therefore, viable companies in the near future will be those that achieve the calm-the zero time-at the eye of the storm of change, by learning to move at lightspeed.
These "Zero Time" companies will react to change before it happens and provide value for every customer at every opportunity. They will recognize and satisfy customer needs before they are articulated. They will identify future markets, often years before they actually emerge, and rapidly acquire the competencies needed to capture those markets. And they will zero in on valued customers and act quickly to forge lifelong partnerships with them.
While all of this may sound like science fiction, it is very close to becoming business fact. As you will discover in the pages of this groundbreaking book, many of today's most successful corporations already possess Zero Time capabilities, and it is only a matter of a few years before fully-evolved Zero Time companies appear on the scene. Once they do, those companies who cannot or will not take the evolutionary leap into Zero Time will become extinct.
In Zero Time, three leading researchers from the University of Texas-affiliated IC2 Institute offer us our first glimpse of the Zero Time corporation. They explain how technology is impacting upon organizations and, with the help of fascinating case studies from Intel, Ford, Amazon.com, Dell, and other near-Zero Time companies, they identify the five key disciplines needed to become a Zero Time organization, including:
Zero Value Gaps: aligning company values with a select group of right customers in order to deliver absolute gratification and lock in customer loyalty for life Zero Learning Gaps: mastering three types of learning-stealth, just-in-time, and rapid learning-and instantly converting learning into customer value
Zero Management Gaps: restructuring an organization holonically so that every part contains the entire organization's information, knowledge, and capacity for action
Zero Process Gaps: aligning work processes throughout the company in order to achieve zero resistance to total customer service
Zero Inclusion Gaps: bringing all relevant parties into the decision-making process, including suppliers, customers, and customers' customers
A visionary guide to surviving and thriving in a superfast business world, Zero Time is must reading for managers at mid- to large-scale companies in every industry-and for e-business start-ups who want to get it right the first time.
From the Back Cover
Praise for Zero Time(TM)
"Zero Time provides valuable insight into the critical success factors of the digital age: total customer experience, velocity, and operational efficiency-all components of Dell's direct model." -Michael Dell, Chairman and CEO, Dell Computer Corporation "Zero
Time will become a secular 'bible' for the twenty-first century-speed in 'closing the gaps' is essential, not only for success but for survival."-Herbert D. Kelleher, Chairman, President, and CEO, Southwest Airlines Co.
"With this publication, the authors continue to make significant contributions to the world of business, and we are deeply grateful for their remarkable insight and vision."-William H. Cunningham, Chancellor, The University of Texas System
"Zero Time contains some of the most powerful and creative ways of thinking about learning systems, customer focus and delight, trusting corporate cultures, and organizational agility that I have ever seen."-David M. Darst, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
"Zero Time boldly identifies the point at which the much-noticed innovations of companies as different as FedEx, Dell Computer, General Electric, and Cisco will converge as a dramatic new model for American business . . . From the pile of new volumes on corporate change, this is the one to select for your strongest essential insight."
-Barry Munitz, President and CEO
The J. Paul Getty Trust
"The business issues associated in moving at Internet speed to serve a customer base that desires instant gratification are clearly stated [in Zero Time] . . . The corporations that put these recommendations in place will be the winners in the electronic business age."-Ralph J. Szygenda, Group Vice President and CIO, General Motors Corporation
"Zero Time is the executive's guide to the new millennium! Yeh, Pearlson, and Kozmetsky have distilled the essence of the chaotic dynamics of today's paradigm-busting business world into a coherent set of principles and guidelines for success."-Alan B. Salisbury, PhD, Past President
Learning Tree International
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The book is built around five basic concepts for a targeted group of high profit margin customers:
(1) Instant Value Alignment with customers (FedEx's commitment to on-time delivery and instant access to tracking information)
(2) Instant Learning by employees and customers (Dell Computer's computer-based education at work cell assembly sites)
(3) Instant Adaptation of the organization (G.E.'s focus on building a direction for the company around vision and trust)
(4) Instant Execution of value for the customer (Progressive Insurance's accelerated claims processing methods)
(5) Instant Involvement of all stakeholders (Cisco Systems' involvement with its suppliers and outsourcers from development through implementation for customers)
A company can progress towards having all five elements in a three step process. First, you become a market leader by emphasizing either product/service innovation (employing instant learning and adaptation), operating excellence (using instant execution and involvement), or customer closeness (relationship building based on instant alignment and involvement). Second, you turn that into locking customers in by adding one more key element from the five part model. Third, you complete the transition into providing all five elements.
A t-strategy is described for making this transition. You find an opportunity that is unfilled (such as the desire to be alone in the middle of other people that is partly served by the Sony Walkman), develop a key core competency for that conceptual space, and expand into some zero-time operations. You first apply that vision, core comptence, and distinctiveness for one market, then expand it into different, but similar (and usually related) markets. These market extensions form the vertical part of the 't' shape. For example, Dell Computer wants to employ direct selling with a competency of build-to-order to dominate the market for PCs by operational effectiveness. It expands from desk-top PCs to portable ones, then to servers, and now into storage.
Now that you understand the model a bit, let me share a few quibbles. First, I disagree with the idea of focusing on a subset of customers who can provide the highest profit margin. I think a better concept is to identify the customers where they will give you the greatest combination of competitive insulation, profitability, and improvement in your economics of providing goods and services in order to be able to take on more customers profitably.
Second, several stakeholders are missing from the discussion here such as shareholders, bondholders, the communities in which you operate, and those who regulate what you do. More thinking needs to be done about how to apply the model there stakeholders.
Third, the authors argue that providing all three dimensions gives you a guaranteed customer for life. I disagree. You could still be upended by someone with a proprietary technology with the same zero-time elements that gives an edge in bringing more benefits to the customer. Another way of thinking about this is that technology can still be disruptive to this strategy (see The Innovator's Dilemma).
Fourth, the authors do not address how to make the cost-benefit trade-off decisions. Getting closer to zero time gets more and more expensive. How much is it worth? How fast should you transition to this level of performance? The book will tend to encourage a too-fast transition, in my judgment.
Fifth, when is a non-zero time response better? If someone asks me my opinion on an important subject, they may not want a response in 1 second. They may prefer that I pull together all of the resources of my organization for the next 3 days instead and provide a better answer. The book doesn't address that class of circumstances.
Sixth, how do you correct for errors? I frequently stay in hotel chains that pride themselves on writing down my preferences. Then they smile broadly as they anticipate my needs and provide those preferences. The only problem is, that those aren't really my preferences. For example, staying at a luxury hotel with a sore throat, I ordered mid-afternoon tea with lemon. I don't usually drink it that way, but that's the way it always comes when I am at that hotel. In another luxury hotel, someone asked me casually if I liked the room I was staying in. I was feeling friendly and happy, and said, 'Oh, yes!' Well, for the next six years, I had the same room -- even though I actually preferred a different room. I respect what these hotels are trying to do so much that I don't have the heart to tell them they are unintentionally giving me the wrong service.
Basically, like all models, it is a lot easier to understand than to do it well.
After you have completed this fine book, put yourself in your stakeholders' shoes. What would you really want from your company? How would you like to go about making that happen? How would you like to adjust your needs and the responses you receive? Then use those insights to talk directly with your stakeholders about how well you are doing. If you are like most of the companies I study, you aren't ever delivering the right value. You'll need to get that straightened out before you start working on getting great value provided in zero time.