Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Retailers: Most are Lethargic Road-Kill!

It’s amazing to see many of the major retailers simply stand by and watch their business atrophy.  On the other hand, there are a few that work hard to get out in front of the key trends/changes impacting retailers.  Best Buy is an amazing example of doing exactly that.  While facing bankruptcy in early 2013, with its stock price down to $11.80, it watched its competitors such as CompUSA, Circuit City and Radio Shack fall by the wayside.

Instead of simply standing still and getting run over, Best Buy launched a completely new business model.  Stores became not only retail outlets, but also inventory warehouses used to fill online orders from a new, robust Best Buy website.  Since orders were being filled from the nearest store to the buyer, one or two day shipping was achieved.  Best Buy also brought accountability to the store-level by measuring the performance of individual salespeople on the floor and before long, it was on the road to success.  The stock price today is in the $58/share range, almost 5X that of early 2013.

Organizations don’t survive if they can’t quickly implement change to adapt to new situations. Recent academic research isolated the key reasons why change initiatives tend to get bogged down and don’t succeed.  Here are the three biggest barriers and how to deal with them:

1.) Overcome Caution with Clear Accountability – Middle level managers, typically charged with carrying out change, tend to be excessively cautious.  They protect their current areas of responsibility, and put a lower priority on any extra effort required of them.  To counteract this, the leader must clearly describe the deliverables required and name an individual for each deliverable who will be held accountable its success or failure. Those individuals need to know their performance will impact their performance appraisals, salary, and promotion potential.

2.) Recalcitrant Personnel Must be Dealt With – If a leader leaves in place a manager who is responsible for a key part of the change, but is constantly argumentative and reluctant to make a strong commitment to what is expected of him or her, it is disastrous to leave that person in place.  Naturally, the leader needs to listen to any and all issues that people raise, but once proper modifications have been made to reflect this input, it is imperative to have committed individuals executing the plan.

3.) Overcome “Initiative Gridlock” With Clear Focus – Leaders need to be aware that they can easily overload the organization.  “Initiative gridlock,” where so many projects are active that resources get spread too thin, is the result when the leader lacks the insight and courage to discontinue, or never start, efforts that are not of the highest priority.  Often a leader is reluctant to terminate an effort, or reject a proposed initiative, for fear that he or she is making a mistake or missing an opportunity.

The above is not rocket science.  These are things that all of us know, but experience show they are hard to implement.  Strong leaders understand that.

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