The Consequentialist Lens

August 10, 2021
3 Minutes
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In SaaS businesses, operating results are earned every single day; and good businesses are made, not found. Writing here about building organizations, learning from the experience, and appreciating the ride.
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At our pre-wedding rehearsal dinner, one of the groomsmen made the following toast: “A person is judged by the company they keep. And, although I’m not all that crazy about Todd, his friends are truly amazing!” It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.

In the 20-something years since, that dynamic persists: I’ve been fortunate to meet, collaborate with, learn from, and befriend many remarkable people in and around small-scale SaaS businesses. Some of them have generously shared their wisdom on this blog (such as here and here). Today that practice continues with some sage advice from Robert Morton.

I met Robert during our shared time at Blackboard; and now the guy just can’t shake me. A true lifelong learner, Robert has continued to expand his formidable skills and push the boundaries around how to build durable businesses and relationships. He recently hung up his own shingle as a growth and customer insight / experience consultant at Highland Advisors (full disclosure, Lock 8 is a proud client). He also recently wrote passionately about the concept of consequentialism as it relates to customer experience. With Robert’s blessing, I share those thoughts below. Thank you, Robert; here’s to consequentialism:

Every time I read another company drone on about “we strive to put customers first”… only to follow with some weasel-ey, anti-customer move, I’m reminded just how badly most outfits need a dose of consequentialism. A mouthful of a word but the gist is this…

Your intent doesn’t matter, what’s in your company heart doesn’t matter… there’s just your actions and what they result in.

If the move you’re making improves customer value, it’s a customer centric move.

If the move you’re making chips away at customer value, it’s an anti-customer move.

That’s it. What you mean, or how well you wax poetic about your customer-centered beliefs, doesn’t count. In this view there are just actions and a tally of outcomes over time that add up to a more customer-centric or more anti-customer bearing as a company.

Over-simple? Maybe. Isn’t intention a mark of seriousness and care in the approach to just about anything? Perhaps.

But I’ll wager we’d have better customer outcomes, with a lot more impact per word, if we at least passed a consequentialist lens over all the customer (employee too, likely) moves we make.

No self-soothing with noble intents or rationale gymnastics allowed. Just the cold light of asking ourselves “is the outcome of this thing we’re planning customer-centric or anti-customer”? And if the latter, “how do we feel about that, what do we want to do about it”?

And if you believe as I do that the conversations you have shape the culture you have, simply posing and wrestling with these questions in the open carries its own very powerful reward.

Because when we do, we change the accepted language and conversation of our orgs. Turning more of our everyday work gabs into open development discussions about the customer (or employee) experience we want to make here.

And that, more than any single CX decision we end up making, may be the most consequential move of all.


Are we speaking the same language? Let’s talk.

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