Last Monday, February 3rd, I celebrated 2 years back at Walgreens. As I start my 3rd year, I find it remarkable how much things still feel new. And, I say that, in a good way. In the last 2 years, I’ve seen 3 areas of change that have kept me on my toes:
- We’re now a global company, following the completion of our merger with Alliance Boots
- A new CEO and virtually a brand new C-suite
- Sona, our CMO and one of the main reasons I came back, departed for a COO role at Kohl’s
- Coming out of 1 – 3, we have a brand new org structure and report through completely different leadership
- While not officially completed, we did announce our intent to acquire Rite Aid
Scope And Focus
- As I wrote about in January, I learned a lot in 2015. In particular I’ve started to learn how to manage team members that are heads and shoulders above me in their level of subject matter expertise.
- When I first joined Walgreens in 2011, it was to lead Social Media. When I rejoined in 2014 it was to lead Social Media and Content. These days, I oversee our efforts in Social Media, Content, Mobile Marketing, SEO, SEM, Affiliate and Digital Strategy. It’s been fun, interesting and at the same time, daunting.
- One of the things I’ve consistently been asked to do, throughout my career, is build organizations. Building an organization is very different than growing an organization. The decisions you make, the people you hire and the partners you choose, all change. For example, in a growth model, where the organization is mature, I’m more concerned about disruption than in a startup/build model. You start to favor continuity, but have to always be cautious in letting continuity lead to complacency. If you only focus on 2% growth, eventually you get lapped by something shooting for 20% growth.
- A few months back at Walgreens, a colleague I’ve worked with for years, said to me, “who is this kinder, gentler Adam Kmiec?” – Good question. I think a lot of my change is philosophy and approach comes directly from the shift to growing an org, instead of building one. Maybe I have softened. It’s possible. I think the biggest thing I’ve figured out how to do is to care about and think about the intent behind what people say and the decisions they make. Maybe they were up all night, with a sick kid. Maybe, they’re getting unrealistic pressure from their manager. Maybe, it’s just a bad day. When you start thinking about the intent, your perception and subsequent actions change dramatically.
- “What focus means is saying no to something that with every bone in your body think is a phenomenal idea, and you wake up thinking about it, but you end up saying no to it because you’re focusing on something else.” Said differently, saying no, may not win you friends and it’s more difficult to say than, “yes.” However, saying no is what keeps you focused on the things that matter most. That level of discipline is something I’ve never really had to have. It’s work in progress, but that’s a big change.
- Toyota helped pioneer and make famous, the power of asking, “why.” In particular, it’s asking, “why” 5 times. A major element of the Walgreens Leadership model is to seek to understand. It’s hard, when presented with a problem, not to jump immediately to a solve. With all the experience we have and the number of situations we’ve encountered, it’s easy to want to start answering the problem, before truly understanding what the root issue really is. Much like a child, I’ve learned to embrace the upside in being the annoying person who asks, “why?”
You have to get accustomed to change. Nothing stays the same. Being back at Walgreens the past 2 years has been invigorating. The pace of change is side-splitting. Learning to keep adapting, while staying focused is equal parts challenging and exciting. I’m glad I came back home, to Walgreens and I’m still thankful for the opportunity, 2 years later. It’s been a heck of a ride and I can’t wait to see where we’re headed next!