I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want! by Jacqui Alexander

As the lyric of the chart-topping Spice Girls hit reminds us, it’s good to focus on what you want but how often in life have you experienced a slight emptiness in the achievement of a desire?  Could it be that what you really need is not the same as what you say you want?  In this post, I focus on my third principle of delivering change at pace – how important it is to ‘Focus on needs, not just wants’

Let me begin by asking a question?  Can you think of a time in your life when you wanted something and, in the process, were delighted by discovering something that you needed but that you never thought to ask for?  Well, by my mid-thirties, what I most wanted was to find a soul mate, a love that would last a lifetime.  Well, I was indeed lucky and I found just what I wanted …what I hadn’t anticipated was that I also found what I needed but had never thought to ask for.  I had found a ready-made family, as my new partner had a beautiful 9yr old daughter. Up to that point in my life, I had never had a strong maternal instinct and yet there I found myself, in a state of complete and utter joy, happiness and fulfilment.  I had found what I needed but had never said I wanted – a loving partner, a daughter and a family of my own.  In that moment, over 17 years ago, my life was transformed and changed for the better.

So, how does this personal insight relate to the business of change in organisations?  Well, how many times have you witnessed a poorly thought through change, one that fails to meet customers wants and needs and that fails to delight them?  A change that fails to understand the life or working style of its customers (internal or external), address their pain points, or liberate opportunities for improving the quality of their life or interaction with your company?

Think about the creative talent that was Steve Jobs – who would ever have imagined or said that they wanted an iPad or an iPhone and yet they now feature as essential enablers of daily life and businesses?  Steve Job’s study was himself – he is often reported to have looked in the mirror and asked ‘what do I need?’  As change leaders, we need to look at solutions that address our customer’s needs, not just their expressed wants.

So how can you understand the needs and wants of your customers more effectively?  Set aside your surveys, your focus groups and your polls… why not go and see them, interact with them, listen to them!  Understand their working day and what will make it better.  And if you are already leading a change (especially an IT solution) then go and see with this in mind – it may lead to some important adjustments to your solution.

Having gathered this insight, one theory that can help you is the Kano model.  It is a theory of product development and customer satisfaction developed in the 1980s by Professor Noriaki Kano.  The Kano model shows what happens to customer satisfaction as fulfilment varies for each feature of a product, providing three types of satisfaction:

  • Expected: These are such basic requirements a customer may not even remember to mention them but they will be dissatisfied if they are not met.
  • Wanted: A customer will specify these and is very aware of these needs.
  • Delights: These are things a customer would never think to request i.e. their unconscious needs – and when they receive them they are thrilled!

So, as you think of the change that you are currently working on, which of its features do your customers expect?  Which do they want? And what are the aspects that could delight and meet unexpressed needs?  And remember the following pitfalls:

  • your customer’s satisfaction will rapidly diminish if you fail to meet their expected need
  • the more you satisfy customer’s wanted needs, the more satisfied your customers will be
  • even small increases in fulfilment of delight factors lead to high levels of satisfaction

As Henry Ford said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses!’ – like Henry how can you more fully understand your customer’s needs, not just what they say they want?


If you missed it, you can access Step 1 here, Step 2 here, or Jacqui's video on all 6 steps here.

The Business Transformation Network has posted this article in partnership with ChangePace Consulting.


Jacqui is Managing Director of Changepace Consulting Ltd shaping client programmes that help align, deliver & improve performance.acqui is an expert in business transformation and change.  She applies an innovative and proven approach that combines the practices of organisation development, continuous improvement and project management to improve ways of working.  Her passion is to help her clients create contagious commitment to change, and to deliver it at pace. 

From 2009-16 Jacqui served as global Vice President of Change and Accelerated Delivery & Performance (ADP) at GSK. Prior to taking on this role, Jacqui held several leadership roles in GSK’s Research & Development (R&D) business.  This included leadership of the integration programme following the merger of GlaxoWellcome and SmithKline Beecham, providing change management expertise for large scale integration projects.