Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Wal*Mart

Fear Creates Inaccuracies

Insights.  To me it’s all about insights.  Every day people make decisions.  Sometimes those decisions are right.  Sometimes they are wrong.  While I’d prefer that people were right every single time, the reality is that’s impossible.  So, I focus on the insights that drove the decision they made.  Were the insights grounded in the right foundation?  Were they strategic?  Were they on trend?  Were they sourced from the right locations?  Someone who makes mistakes that are grounded in strong insights, I can accept.  Those mistakes are honest ones and with the right coaching they can be all but eliminated.

The problem is, in most organizations we have a fear based culture where making mistakes is seen as a bad thing…and all mistakes are treated the same.  If you will, context when evaluating the mistake is taken off the table, when in fact it should be the first thing on the table.  I’ve worked in a fear based culture and it’s no fun.  When you have a fear driven culture in place, you end up with a lot of sandbagging.  Here’s a little narrative to explain what I mean:

  • Widget line manager asks the widget maker, how many widgets can you make in a week?  The widget maker knows he can make 25, but just in case he can’t says 20.
  • The widget line manager tells the widget foreman they can make 15 widgets, because he certainly doesn’t want to be blames if they don’t make 20.  And besides, if he says 15 and they make 20, he’s a hero.
  • The widget foreman tells the widget plant manager they can make 10 for the same reasons the widget line manager told the widget foreman 15.
  • The widget plant manger now tells the sales force they can make 5 widgets because he needs to pad and sandbag.
  • The sales force tells the Wal*Mart buyer, they can produce 1 widget a week for them to carry.
  • Wal*Mart says, no thanks we need at least 20.

Fear, drives us to stretch the truth.  It drives us to sandbag.  It drives us to be inaccurate.  This is the reason I rarely trust financial projections.  Who wants to say they are going to generate $1,000,000 this quarter, then hit $990,000 (falling short by only $10,000) and disappoint everyone?

The truth is we all lie all the time because of fear.  Think about it.  When you tell someone you’ll see them in 30 minutes, you’ve added in padding/wiggle room.  We pad, wiggle, buffer and provide slack all the time because we fear not hitting our mark.  Fear, drives inaccuracies.  If we were more understanding of mistakes and took into account context and intent, we might just become more accurate.  And, isn’t that what we’re all striving for?

At The End Of The Day It Comes Down To Human Capital

Time ran a very interesting article about Wal*Mart’s new initiative called “Project Impact.” Sounds cool and somewhat ominous, huh?  So what is “Project Impact?”  Well according to time it boils down to 3 things:

  1. One goal of Project Impact is cleaner, less cluttered stores that will improve the shopping experience.
  2. Another is friendlier customer service.
  3. A third: home in on categories where the competition can be killed.

The first goal makes sense.  Where as Target’s store environment are friendly, open, and inviting, Wal*Mart’s are dingy, dark, and down right scary.  I can’t tell you if making the stores less cluttered will lead to more sales, but it makes sense.

The third goal is a pure prioritization move.  Essentially, why put money and effort behind business units and categories that aren’t in your sweet spot?  Instead focus on areas where you can excel.

So let’s focus on the goal #2; friendlier customer service.  It’s sorta funny when you think about it.  You can optimize your shipping, choose cheaper suppliers, update the store layout, and even decrease the pricing.  But, none of that matters if the in-store experience is underwhelming.  And the biggest contributor to the in-store experience is the people.  But, nobody ever wants to invest in people.

Think about it.  How often have you recommended a program to a client only to be told, “well, we’d love to do it, but we can’t ask the people on the floor to do that.”  It happens all the time.  To really make the customer service friendlier you’re going to need new people.  Why you ask?  Because, changing the personality of people is nearly impossible.  Either you’re friendly or you’re not.  Seriously.  There’s a reason Target has an entire behavior profile driven set of testing that all employees have to pass before being hired.  It’s so they can get a person who embodies the Fast, Fun and Friendly mantra that is the Target culture.

When you’re corporate culture is “VALUE” are you really going to get people who are top notch performers that are excited to come to work every day?  Well given that Wal*Mart has made it a priority to have friendlier customer service, I’d say no.

Make no mistake, the most important asset is human capital.  You can have a great business plan, killer advertising and operational excellence, but if you don’t have the right people in place to carry out your vision, you’ll lose every single time.  Maybe it’s time we start investing a little bit more into human capital from the beginning.