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  • Yas Ahmad

McKinseys framework to becoming a customer-centric people function

Updated: Sep 10, 2022

McKinsey built a business on trust-building, with multiple components and then has gone on to sell this very model to its clients. The framework deconstructed addresses the stentorian cry for help that people functions require to become customer-centric.


The four elements of this customer-centric framework are propitious beyond people functions too and can be added across recruitment, people analytics, learning and development etc.

  • The first is credibility, do you have the expertise and domain knowledge to be effective.

The practicality of credibility is based on previous results, endorsements, certificates, and earlier experiences. Essentially do you know what you are talking about?

  • Second, reliability on commitments. Is your people function trusted and counted on by the rest of the business.

As obvious as it may seem, being on time with deadlines and in general, communicating clearly, and delivering when committed, provide confidence with affirmations. “People like dealing with our people function”. This comes down to committing to what you promise.

  • Third, is self-orientation for key stakeholders. Do your organization's stakeholders perceive the people function as selfish or aligned to a common goal?

Self-orientation requires real interest, being supporting and making this about the goal. Getting on the same side is vital.

  • Fourth, my favourite is intimacy. Is there a safe connection in the working relationship?

Are you providing a perceived safety, is there a common comfort level between discussions. Finding common ground and being open about the support that will be required.

Most people's functions will review the above and feel confident they are focussing on the above. But unfortunately, this still won't be enough. Mckinsey’s success framework has one huge asterisks.

Reframing focus and prioritisation of what matters.

Using the concept of anti goals. Inverting the process of traditional goals and services. Instead of determining the optimal service or product and then creating goals around this. With anti-goals, you focus on moving backwards. By inverting the problem, the focus shifts to the creation of services/products with the starting point defined as the end.

Let's use the example of a haircut.

  • A potential customer or main stakeholder is the man with long hair and in need of a haircut.

  • The haircut is the regular product or services your provide

  • A confident and excited customer is what comes after your product or service.


The focus tends to shift automatically to the service. Talking about the achievements of the people functions, the features, attributes of the now. Shifting this to focussing on the Confident and Excited Customer that will become of after your service provides.


  • The knowledge customers/stakeholders will gain and subsequent decisions they can make

  • The mistakes they will avoid

  • The success they will accumulate

  • The reputation they will gain


However you decide, and no matter which element of Mcksineys success you try to apply. People functions need to learn to provide a service/product with confident and excited customers as the goal. One of my favourite quotes comes to mind when thinking about people functions and leaders that go through this transition of focussing on service to focussing on the end customer.


“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”


Beyond the hedonic treadmill, we face moments of uncertainty. Refocusing allows us to highlight the importance of perspective to focus. This is what matters now and in the future. Do this and avoid compunction from trailing behind.


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