The Chief Growth Officer's To-Do List


There’s a new sheriff in town: the Chief Growth Officer. At least that’s been the developing storyline over recent years, with the rise of the CGO role at global corporations such as Colgate-Palmolive, Hershey, Mondelez, and The Coca-Cola Company. Indeed, CMOs have taken  much of the blame for lackluster growth lately, but in many cases, CMOs haven’t been set up for success, often lacking the resources, the authority or even the job description to influence critical initiatives. Conversely, the CGO appears to be armed with precisely this authority. But the question is how will he or she use it most effectively? How can the CGO avoid the same fate as the CMO?

The most often repeated answer is that CGOs need to bring together siloed teams from across the organization and galvanize them around the consumer. Yes, they do. But, if this CGO position is really a mandate to re-write the rules and up-end business-as-usual practices, we believe it’s time to go big or go home.

Let’s look at the mandate again: Galvanize siloed teams around the consumer. We’ve found that, too often, this expression is full of intent but there is no reliable process in place for making it a reality. Companies tend to study the people who turn to their brands already and focus on optimizing their loyalty programs, but they don’t take the time to step back and study people’s lives at a macro level—including people who don’t turn to their brands at all, or people who don’t even engage in their category. In other words, they say they want to learn more about the consumer, but they’re really just going back to the well.

If delivering growth depends on attracting people from outside of the existing base, then CGOs need a better way of understanding all the jobs to be done in people’s lives. What do we mean by this? We’re talking about all those situations—big and small—in people’s lives when they are trying to make progress, along with the various solutions from which they choose to help them make that progress: buying new cars, grabbing on-the-go snacks, going out on date nights… What are the jobs in people’s lives and what solutions are people turning to when they are not choosing your company (or your category)? And what jobs could your company steal away from the competition? These are the questions CGOs need to be answering.

But it’s not just about understanding the specific purchase situations people are in (shopping for a car); delivering growth requires leaders to more deeply understand the motivations influencing the pursuit of a particular solution. Take the job of mobility—cars used to be the prevailing solution for the job of mobility, so automakers focused on improving features and competing with each other. Today, fewer millennials have been buying cars, and when they do buy them, their motivations are different than they used to be; they might actually be looking to a new car not only as a means of transport, but as a potential source of income. (Interestingly, in some situations, baby boomers could also be swayed by the same motivation—further evidence that it’s not enough to focus exclusively on demographics when innovating or positioning existing offerings.) To be truly consumer-centric, CGOs need to be asking questions about people’s motivations, life situations, and possible solutions. A knowledge of jobs to be done is essential for understanding the consumer’s life at a deeper level; a knowledge of the inadequacy or lack of available solutions for serving a deeper motivation (or job) is the CGO’s beacon in a sea of possible strategic directions.

Now, how about those siloed teams that need to be galvanized? These teams need a blueprint to rally around. That is where the magic needs to happen. And at Halverson Group we have been working on this essential challenge for decades. Identifying jobs to be done is not enough—identifying jobs to be won is everything for a company. Because not every person is worth going after and not every job is worth pursuing. Jobs to Be Won™ are those jobs that are viable (the market for this job exists; it’s not just a great idea); valuable (the opportunity is big enough to put resources behind), and winnable (with existing, developed or acquired capabilities, we could actually make this happen!).

Currently, the growth strategies that come out of various departments at a company tend to reinforce the respective vantage points of each group. But the CGO has a mandate to bring departments together, to connect the dots between business objectives, people’s jobs to be done, and the jobs that have most value for a business, or, Jobs to Be Won. When a company’s Jobs to Be Won are aligned across departments, they become the basis for a holistic growth roadmap that connects shorter- and longer-term growth initiatives. Siloed teams galvanized!

We’ve seen the positive results of this approach with our own clients: Helping the Indianapolis Museum of Art steal share from the zoo and the movie theater (while still meeting the jobs of its core members) through new programming, staff allocation, and strategic planning; and helping Enjoy Life Foods (a Mondelez brand) re-position itself from an allergy-free food to a healthy go-to snack for all healthy eaters. We’ve also applied the same thinking to strategic initiatives in the alcohol, non-alcoholic beverage, gaming, life organization, and other categories.

A new way of thinking for a new c-suite role

Here’s what we know about the new sheriff in town: He or she will acquire new reports from across the organization—from marketing, from sales, from innovation. Probably, there will be a closer look at the organization’s mission and values. And, most likely, there will be conversations about the importance of consumer-led initiatives to drive growth.

But the challenge is to move beyond covering the usual territory. We believe there is an opportunity here to re-examine how all the aforementioned pieces fit together. Because, as things stand at most big corporations, they don’t fit together as effectively as they should. Mission and values are often not drawn from consumers’ lives. Employees are not aligned around an organization-wide strategic growth blueprint. And consumer research tends to revolve around existing customers’ behaviors and preferences, rather than better understanding people’s lives.

What if the CGO were to shake things up by flipping the order on the to-do list from starting with what we know about our company to starting with what we know plus what we think we know plus what we don’t know about people’s lives and our organization’s role in them? From there, the strategic blueprint, the team-building and necessary tweaks to the corporate mission can ensue. As an organizational psychologist, I’ve seen firsthand that the most profound transformations occur at companies when they shift from an internal focus (mission and vision-led re-orgs) to a focus on helping people make progress in their lives. Taking the time to walk in people’s shoes is essential to uncovering innovation dig sites, generating new growth outside the existing base, and exploring new avenues for positioning and selling existing offerings.

As CGOs embark on the exciting (and daunting) journey of breaking down silos within their organizations to promote enterprise-wide growth, our hope is that they will do their homework about people’s jobs to be done and their own Jobs to Be Won. Growth is not easy, but, with the right collaborators and frameworks in place—and with the guiding knowledge of how people really live their lives—growth can be achieved.