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UNIVERSITY OF BATH
Marketing Vs. Operations: The New Cold War
Owing to The Differences in Vision tussle between Marketing and Operations teams occurs in businesses of all sizes. This must be addressed with a lot of care.
Issue Date - 11/08/2011
 
Pay and reward – The biggest challenge is moving away from opposing sales and cost performance measures. Starting to evaluate marketing and operations on the same metric (based on customer satisfaction) is the most powerful aligning force. Identifying the customers major priorities and using them to evaluate departments will promote a focus on the end user rather than internal performance.

Decisive leadership – Senior management have to get out of the board room and sell the company strategy to managers and staff. Communicating a single vision for the organisation, rather than just functional performance targets, helps to get people thinking about the wider organisation. This is only credible when it is done by the people at the very top. Chief Executives in several companies have run ‘road shows’, taking their message out to every level of the business.

Promote long run perspective – Shared ownership can be powerful in creating this perspective for senior managers and staff alike. Shifting ownership is a big challenge, but all management can create a longer term perspective by supporting decisions that may have negative short run consequences, but are in the long term interest of the company. This requires subjective evaluation of quarterly targets and accepting that they may show poor performance in the short term.

Background and Culture – Bringing people together in a room can be a surprisingly powerful force in breaking down barriers. In one large industrial manufacturer, when marketing and operations staff were put together in a large meeting room, it was the first time many staff had seen anyone from the other department. Encouraging social interaction can significantly improve working relationships.

Take people out-of-function – Staff rotations and exchanges at all levels have proven successful in many companies. Short term placements enable sharing in the experiences and language of other departments and can be key in better understanding their perspectives. Bringing together project teams from all groups for specific tasks also helps promote an integrated view.
 
Celebrate success – When the company does well, reward everyone – not just specific groups or departments. This helps avoid jealousy and political infighting. Increased sales usually lead to rewards for marketing but not operations, despite operations having to make considerable effort to upscale production. Resentment from operations staff is not very surprising when viewed from this perspective.

Don’t punish failure – When problems occur, rather than penalise one function, bring teams together from both functions to think together about how to rectify them. Communication – High levels of communication do not necessarily mean good interaction. Communication must be purposeful and two-way.

Big investments are not needed to achieve the changes suggested here, but a commitment to change must be real. Forming ‘virtual policy teams’ in regional government, bringing in staff from all departments to attack specific issues, have generated million dollar cost savings with minimal investment. With different backgrounds, these teams understand the broad range of activities taking place across the organisation and have used simple problem solving techniques to achieve significant gains. Supporting teams with the resources required to enact change and taking people away from their normal chain of command is also important. Like, Honda physically relocates project teams and takes them out of their normal chain of command to remove day to day pressures and priorities.

Both big and small companies suffer with poor group relationships. Boeing’s operations suffered when marketing offered too much unnecessary customisation to gain customers. On the other hand, I have seen a small furniture manufacturer suffering because marketing took orders to gain bonuses even when the company was at over capacity. Such behaviour occurs in businesses of all sizes and must be addressed. Bringing people together to resolve the functional divisions in the business is an issue for managers at all time. Thus, in a desperate economic climate, ensuring that the organisation is working together to serve the customer, rather than wasting time and resources in internal battles and competition, is a priority for all companies.

Coordinated By : Karan Arora
          
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