Tag Archives: Sam Walton

How Not to Make Decisions

Nancy Newbee is the newest trainee for LOCO (Large Old Company) Inc. She was hired because she is bright, articulate, well-educated and motivated. She is in her second week of training.

Her orders include: “We’ll teach you all you need to know. Sammy Supervisor will monitor your every action and coordinate your training. Don’t take a step without his clearance. When he’s busy, just read through the procedures manual.”

Nancy is already frustrated by this training process but is committed to following the rules.

Upon arriving at work today, Nancy discovers the kitchen is on fire! As instructed, she rushes to Sammy Supervisor. Interrupting him, she says, “There’s a major problem!”

Sammy is obviously disturbed by this interruption in his routine. He tells her, “Nancy, my schedule will not allow me to work with you until this afternoon. Go back to the conference room and continue studying the procedures.”

“But, Mr. Supervisor, this is a major problem!” Nancy pleads.

“But nothing! I’m busy. We’ll discuss it this afternoon. If it can’t wait, go see the department head,” Sammy responds.

Nancy rushes to the office of Billy Big and shouts, “Mr. Big, we have a major problem, and Mr. Sammy said to see you!” Mr. Big states politely, “I’m busy now,” all the while wondering why Sammy Supervisor hires these excitable airheads.

“But, Mr. Big, the building…” Nancy interrupts.

“Nancy, see my secretary for an appointment or call maintenance if it’s a building problem,” Mr. Big says impatiently, thinking, “Where does Sammy find these characters?”

Near panic, Nancy calls maintenance. The line is busy. As a last resort, Nancy calls Ruth Radar, the senior secretary in the accounting department. Everyone has told her that Ruth really runs this place. She can get anything done.

“Ruth Radar, how may I help you?” is the response on the phone.

“Miss Radar, this is Nancy, the new trainee. The building is on fire! What should I do?” shouts Nancy through her tears.

“Nancy, call 911!” Ruth says.

Now, of course this is a ridiculous example… or is it?

See also: How We’re Wired to Make Bad Decisions  

Assuming you are the boss, try this eight-question test:

  1. In your business, do you hire the best and brightest and then instruct them not to think, act or do anything during their training, except as you tell them to do?
  2. Do you promise training and, instead, substitute reading of procedure manuals?
  3. Do you create barriers to communication, interaction and effectiveness by scheduling the new employees’ problems and inquiries to accommodate the busy schedules of your other personnel?
  4. Do you and your staff ignore what new employees are saying?
  5. Is the process more important than the result? Does the urgent get in the way of the important?
  6. Do layers of bureaucracy between you, your employees and customers interfere with contact, communications and results?
  7. Is “Ruth Radar” running your shop?
  8. Do you have any fires burning in your office?

If you answered “no” to all of these questions, congratulations!

Now go back and look at the questions again. The perfect business would have eight “no” answers, but very few businesses are perfect. If you are like LOCO, our large old company, you might be so far out of touch with your trainees, employees and customers that you won’t hear about a “fire” until it starts to burn your desk.

Look back at IBM, GM and Sears in the late 1980s. These were  the kings of their respective jungles. Yet all of these leaders nearly burned to the ground. Many thousands of employees were terminated, profits were ended and stock values fell. If you would have talked to any of these terminated employees, you would have learned that the fire had burned for a long time and that many people had tried to sound the alarm.

Remember the large old insurance companies that are no longer here: Continental, Reliance, etc. Did their independent agents smell the smoke? Did the leadership of these carriers ignore the alarm?

Sam Walton, who had reasonable success in business during his lifetime, once said, “There is only one boss — the customer. Customers can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending their money somewhere else.”

Walton was right. In your business, do you or Nancy have the most direct contact with the customer — the ultimate boss? If Nancy has the most contact, is she adequately trained, motivated and monitored? Is she providing feedback? Are you listening?

Take a minute to draw a picture of your organization. Now, draw a frame around your picture. Does this frame create a pyramid? Are you, as the boss, at the pinnacle? Are Nancy and her fellow trainees at the base? Is it prudent to have the least experienced personnel closest to the customers?

Your organization was formed to meet the needs of customers. You exist to serve these same customers. Where are these customers in the organizational chart? Did you “forget” to draw them into the picture? How much distance is there between you (as boss) and the customers?

Does this pyramid model facilitate the free flow of information between you and the customers, or does it buffer you from the real thoughts and feelings of the real boss (the customer)? In your business, is the customer and his problem seen as an interruption of the work or as the very reason for your existence?

If you had to downsize your company, where would the cuts be made? At the top, middle or bottom of the pyramid? Are the people in the hierarchy of the pyramid there because they did or can do more for the consumer, or were they pushed up by the people they hired to support them? Is your company fat or lean?

See also: How Basis for Buying Decisions Is Changing  

If your employees answered all the above questions, would they agree with you? If your customers were asked, what would they say? If your customers voted tomorrow, who would be retained? Who would be fired?

Think about it!

Do you dare ask?

Why Your Customer Research Is Flawed

U.S. pollsters got quite a surprise in the early morning hours of Nov. 9, 2016.

That’s when it became apparent that their sophisticated voter research had completely failed to predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.  Longtime Republican political strategist Mike Murphy went so far as to assert that “data died” that night.

Yes, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was a highly visible casualty for data-driven research, but far from the only one.

In 1985, Coca-Cola announced the rollout of “New Coke,” an updated formulation of the venerable soft drink, designed to appeal to changing consumer tastes.

In launching the new formula, the company cited research indicating that taste was the primary driver behind the brand’s market share slide. The firm also pointed to blind taste tests that indicated that a majority of consumers favored New Coke over its predecessor (and over Pepsi).

As it turns out, the research pointed Coca-Cola in the wrong direction. Three months after rolling the revised formulation out, the company acknowledged widespread public discontent and returned the original Coke to store shelves. New Coke was killed in 2002.

See also: 5 Key Customer Experience Trends  

What went wrong? One thing that Coca-Cola failed to account for was the emotional dimension of consumer buying behavior. Even if people said they preferred New Coke in taste tests, many had an emotional attachment to the original formula that – outside of the research bubble – superseded their rational judgment on taste.

This is why an overreliance on traditional research methods (i.e., asking customers what they want or like) can lead a company astray. Surveys and questionnaires do a poor job of accounting for the emotional considerations that drive customer behavior.

As behavioral science has clearly demonstrated, it’s those emotional considerations that often exert the strongest influence on individual decision-making. (As renowned psychologist Daniel Kahneman has described it, “the emotional tail wags the rational dog.”)

Post-mortems on the 2016 election polling have also referred to the emotional “blind spot” of traditional research methods. Evans Witt, president of the National Council on Public Polls, highlighted this issue to NPR, noting that “polls do a poor job with emotion/enthusiasm/commitment”; that may have been an important behavioral influence on what was a very polarized electorate.

There’s another reason, though, why traditional question-based customer research can mislead, and it comes down to this simple truth: There’s a big difference between what customers say and what customers do.

Wal-Mart found this out the hard way in 2009 when it launched a store redesign effort dubbed Project Impact.

The company had conducted customer surveys, which indicated that shoppers didn’t like Wal-Mart’s cluttered, dimly lit stores. They wanted cleaner, more streamlined layouts.

Project Impact sought to deliver on this apparent customer preference by de-cluttering the store – removing endcaps, widening aisles and improving navigability.

Even the store’s famed “Action Alley,” the main corridor separating departments, wasn’t immune to the changes. Traditionally dotted with palettes piled high with fast-selling items, Action Alley was cleared out by Project Impact, opening up sight lines across the entire store.

It all sounded like a good idea… until same-store sales started to plummet. The reason? To streamline the store layout, Wal-Mart had to eliminate, by some estimates, 15% of its store inventory. When customers could no longer find their favorite brand at Wal-Mart, they went elsewhere to pick it up – and shifted their shopping to competing stores that offered a wider product selection.

In addition, it turns out that Action Alley – while perhaps contributing to store clutter – also triggered a lot of impulse buys among Wal-Mart shoppers. When Action Alley disappeared, so did a lot of sales.

Since its founding by Sam Walton in the 1960s, Wal-Mart’s strategy had always centered on offering low prices and a wide selection (“Stack ‘em high, watch ‘em fly,” as Sam liked to say).

Sam apparently knew his customers better than the company’s modern researchers, because it turns out people shop at Wal-Mart for – you guessed it – value and selection. Shoppers might have said they wanted a clutter-free store – but in reality, the clutter was part of the appeal for them, feeding into their hunt for great deals and impulse purchases.

What could Wal-Mart have done differently? Instead of just asking customers what they wanted, they should have observed them in action, navigating the store and making purchases. They should have spoken to shoppers one-on-one, to better understand what shaped their purchase behavior once they stepped foot into a Wal-Mart.

It’s precisely this type of context and nuance that traditional customer research methods miss – because what customers say they want is sometimes quite different from what they actually value.

Indeed, that which the customer values the most may also be the thing that’s hardest for them to articulate. Hence the mismatch between what people say and what people do.

See also: Are You Ready for the New Customer?  

Traditional customer research has merit, but its precision is often oversold. To steer your business in the right direction, don’t just look at the data, look at your customers.

Immerse yourself in their experience and observe them in their natural habitat – because that’s where you’ll find the priceless insights about how to better serve them.

This article first ran on WaterRemarks, the official blog of Watermark Consulting.

The 5 Personal Persuasion Styles

Can you imagine a world where everyone was inspired to go to work? Do you inspire your team to greatness as a leader, or are you one of those leaders who are quite comfortable with your staff coming to work every day without any sense of purpose? The No. 1 problem facing many organizations today is leadership.

A Simon Sinek YouTube video titled “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” tells the story of a group of Marines that came under heavy fire from three sides in an ambush in Afghanistan, when one Capt. William D. Swenson repeatedly ran into the line of fire to bring injured men to safety and saved at least a dozen lives. A GoPro on one of the medics captured Swenson and a comrade carrying a wounded Marine to a helicopter for evacuation. After putting the man down, Swenson gave him a kiss on the forehead and then ran back into the kill zone.

I said to myself, wow, if a man is willing to give his life for me, I will follow him to the ends of the earth. (Swenson received the Medal of Honor.)

While a business environment is obviously not a war zone, even though we sometimes use war as an analogy, the sort of deep-seated love that Swenson showed needs to be present in a workplace, and it is missing in many organization today. People don’t feel safe, and they do not believe their leaders will have their backs when they are in the line of fire.

The greats of leadership have a persuasion style that allows them to sell their ideas and inspire people to follow their vision. One of the most critical skills in the repertoire of any leader is the power to inspire and influence people by their words and actions rather than coercion.

See also: How High-Performing Salespeople Persuade  

In a fascinating book, The Art of Woo, Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, the authors discuss five different leadership personality approaches to persuasion: Driver, Commander, Promoter, Chess Player and Advocate. Some people are comfortable using three or four of these styles, while others prefer to play only one or two.

This book draws from many other brilliant authors and expertly highlights the value of authenticity and self-awareness in your ability to persuade and influence. The book says you need to make two basic choices: Are you other-oriented or self-oriented? (In other words, are you going to tailor your messages for your audience, or are you going to make unmodified announcements rather than spin them for each audience?) And, will you be loud or quiet?

The book then goes through five styles; one of the keys to great leadership is understanding your unique persuasion style. While you are reading, consider your present environment, your employees, values, etc. and ascertain which communication approach is best aligned to your natural persuasive leadership personality.

Driver (Higher Volume and Self-Oriented Perspective)

According to Shell and Moussa, when individuals are high-volume and prefer to announce their perspective without a lot of adjustment for their audience, other people are likely to experience them as demanding. They can be overly one-dimensional and prefer to persuade people by saying things like “Do this my way, the right way or you can hit the highway.”

I remember working as a plumber’s assistant in my younger days, and all the employees called the founder of the company Frank Sinatra — because he liked everything his way.

But if drivers are dedicated to the organization mission, they can be effective persuaders. The book mentions former Intel CEO Andy Groves, who personified a high-volume, self-oriented CEO and was hugely successful.

Grove kept a wooden bat near his chair. One day, just after a meeting had gotten started, several executives slipped into their seats. Grove fell silent at their arrival, then grabbed the bat, slammed it onto the table, and shouted, “I don’t ever, ever want to be in a meeting with this group that doesn’t start and end when it is scheduled!” Intel was subsequently famous for on-time meetings.

See also: Should You Use a Coach/Mentor?  

Grove wasn’t a nut; he was very aware about his communication style and the culture he wanted to create at Intel.

Commander (Low Volume and Self-Oriented)

A commander speaks from a position of quiet confidence and authority, using expertise combined with finesse to make a point in an understated way. The book highlighted J.P. Morgan as someone who conducted himself from a position of quiet confidence and credibility.

You don’t have to be an aggressive Driver when you want people to know exactly what you think. Indeed, a quiet, understated demeanor can often be much more efficient. People listen. The Commander keeps his counsel and puts a premium on maintaining as much control over decisions as possible.

In a financial panic in 1895, Morgan played the Commander with finesse, saving both America and his financial empire from a fiscal catastrophe.

The Promoter (Higher Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

Promoters are outgoing, optimistic and assertive. They are friendly. When played well, this role features a gift for gaining and maintaining a wide circle of relationships. The CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, immediately comes to mind.

During his 17 years at Xerox, where he became the youngest divisional president, he was assigned to turn around the Puerto Rican unit, which was ranked 64th out of 64 divisions in the world. The following year, that same division was No. 1 in the world.

When asked about the spectacular turnaround, Bill McDermott said that he listened to the people, because they know why things aren’t working. McDermott said people told him two things:

  1. They wanted a vision, so they could be inspired when they came to work.
  2. The staff wanted their holiday party back.

When the division went from 64th to 1st in the world, they got their holiday party back, at the Old San Juan Hotel.

The Chess Player (Lower Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)

The Chess Player style involved plotting a set of moves that brings about the desired outcome. Leaders with this type of personality prefer to operate in more intimate settings, quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scenes. A Chess Player is an effective strategist who is less extroverted than the Promoter but shares with the Promoter a keen interest in what makes other people tick.

Shell and Moussa point to John D. Rockefeller. In 1865, Rockefeller wanted to end a partnership with four men, but the firm could be dissolved only if all the partners consented.

Rockefeller went to work behind the scenes, lining up support from some banks. When he got the support required, Rockefeller provoked a quarrel over an oil industry investment and quietly extracted himself from the unsavory business partnership. If Rockefeller was more prone to a driver personality, he may have engaged his partners in a shouting match or threatened litigation, demanding they release him so he could follow his dreams. However, Rockefeller took the path of the Chess Player by carefully plotting a set of moves behind the scenes.

The Advocate – Moderate Volume and a Balance Between Self-Oriented and Other-Oriented Perspectives.

The Advocate uses a full range of tools to get her points across. The Advocate strives for balance — persistence without shouting, being mindful of the audience without losing perspective. A classic example used in the book is the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton.

Walton visited one of his stores and noticed someone at the front greeting customers. Walton was fascinated with the idea and told his team that all the stores should have greeters. Now, Walton could have simply ordered people to do what he wanted. But he was seldom the Driver that Andy Grove was and instead relied on a more moderate combination of vision, persistence, relationships and reason to get people to see things his way.

There was a lot of conflict over this new initiative, and Walton went to lengths to explain why this greeters program would be good for the company. He let the debate go on in an attempt to fully explore all the ideas. After 18 months of discussion and experiment, Wal-Mart finally adopted the practice company-wide.

Walton did not dictate or say things to his executives such as “Don’t you trust my judgment?” or “Don’t you think I know a thing or two about what is good for Wal-Mart?” Instead, Walton sold his vision, and his team eventually brought into the concept.

As a leader, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in persuasion. You need to understand your preferred communication channels, and likewise, you must take into consideration the dynamics of your environment, your organizational values, culture, people, etc.

Some companies are fierce guardians of their business values, and if there is a misalignment it can cause havoc within the company. For example, you cannot be an Andy Grove in a culture that promotes family values, teamwork, collaboration, etc. The culture is completely different.

See also: Systematic Approach to Digital Strategy  

Woo-based persuasion is all about aligning interest, values and relationship as people find it easier to say yes rather than no. Regardless of your personality, when your team trusts you, when you figure out which channels of communication your counterparts are best attuned to, your will gain tremendous credibility within your company.

My personal persuasion style is more of a Chess Player. I prefer to quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scene. What is your personal persuasion style?

Are You Ready for the Next Disaster?

If you’re raking ashes in California or ripping out sheetrock and carpets in Louisiana (where I live), you are disaster-wise. We grow through adversity. If you have never lived through a disaster, you are probably – with all due respect – dumb, fat and happy. This article is written with one intent – to make you think about the unthinkable. The more willing you are to consider a worst case, the more likely you’ll be able to deal with it when it occurs.

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was once asked the secret to his success. He replied, “Good decisions.” He was then asked how he made good decisions. His answer was, “Experience.” When asked for the source of his experience, he said, “Bad decisions.”

There is “wisdom in scar tissue,” learning that “souls don’t grow in the sunshine.” We rarely learn anything when we think we know it all!

“Talking about bulls is not the same thing as being in the bull ring.” (Spanish Proverb)

Reality is the facts. Perception is how we see the facts. These can be worlds apart or very much aligned. Your challenge is to recognize the difference. To change perception, you merely need to look at the facts differently. To change the facts, we must intervene with physical force, money, time, energy, etc.

As you consider the scenarios that follow, try to be honest. State the facts (circumstances) and how you would address these right now. Ten questions/scenarios are offered. Answer honestly. If 6 out of 10 answers suggest you’re ready, I’d suggest your preparedness is above average. You pass the quiz.

Once you complete the process, you will not be better prepared for a disaster but you may be motivated to prepare better. The final exam is completed as you arrive at a safe place following evacuation of your home or your business is restored and operational following a loss.

See also: A Real Checklist for Real Disasters  

In the movie Patton, the general said, “In the face of war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” I believe that true disasters are the same.

Your readiness:

1. People – Who are you responsible for and responsible to? If the local nuclear power plant melts down and all must evacuate immediately, who in your circle of responsibility (children, spouse, parents, employees, etc.) must you help? How can you coordinate their escape? Remember that Friday p.m. traffic is a pleasure compared with evacuation of communities that might move at 0 to 10 mph, if at all?

2. Necessities (food, drink, medication, toiletries, etc.) – Do you have a week or more of food at home or your office if you are forced to shelter in place? If the evacuation process takes days, do you have what you need packed in your vehicle?

3. Emotional readiness – Evacuations are never easy. Have you and your spouse or your staff thought through the challenge of dealing with and living through a crisis? If not, should you be thinking through the process and challenges while hoping your plan is never needed. In disasters, proactive is better than reactive. Reason has more benefit than emotion. Both will be part of the process – the ideal is balance.

4. Destination – If you are leaving here, you must get to there. If you are in a herd of evacuees heading west, “west” can be hundreds of miles away. Place and money matter. Knowing these are available makes the process run smoother. If you have a predetermined place where you can establish a safe haven, let everyone know, so you can meet. If you have the resources and can find living and work space for yourself and your family and your team, rent what you can. Place will be at a premium or not available at all in disasters.

5. Transportation – Who needs a ride? Who has a ride? Assume “mass transit” will be “mass chaos.” Understand that gas stations may not be open, so filling up may not be possible. Keep your cars near full – fill up tonight. Don’t plan to do it in the a.m.

6. Communication – Effective communication is most important in disasters whether it is at the evacuation end or the recovery end or somewhere in between. Communication is the negotiation of meaning. iPhones, the internet, the telephone, social media, e-mail, the spoken word, etc. are tools for communication. Often in crisis, many tools for communication do not work are or are not available for days or weeks. 

Do you and your family or you and your organizational team have a communications plan to ensure that you can ultimately connect with each other after the worst has occurred? Perhaps have each individual have a list of all needed cell numbers and e-mail addresses and passwords. In the short term, your “e” and “i” tools may not work. Paper still has value.  

See also: Realities of Post-Disaster Data Recovery  

Identify a person/place miles away that can be the central contact or gathering point for all being forced out because of the disaster. This might be a family member of friend, willing to be called once by each member of your group and capture and share the information necessary to facilitate connection and reunion.

7. Evacuation – Look before you leap: Know your alternatives. What may be the most comfortable route west (or east, north or south) may not be workable in chaos. Bring a map. You may not able to access GPS. Gas, food, rest rooms and a place to sleep make the trip more bearable. Think through your options.

Your marketplace and organization:

8. Marketplace and team awareness and readiness – Once the levees break, the neighborhood is on fire or the 24th inch of rain falls, it is too late to prepare your organization, your distributors, suppliers and clients for trouble. Trouble is here. Deal with it.

Clients deal with you, and you solicit prospects, based on a value proposition to help them when they need it. Your problems are not their problems. Your needs are not their needs. When the world is working according to plan, doing what you promised or meeting and exceeding expectations is easy. When fires are burning, flood waters rising and the community is evacuating (think New Orleans immediately post-Katrina), it is too late to get prepared or to prepare your clients for troubles ahead. Readiness is differentiation!

Tomorrow, plan what is necessary to give your clients and staff access to information needed, even if the world is broken. In the industry’s equivalent of the Dark Ages, we would post the names and numbers of carrier claims offices and locations on the agency windows as we evacuated for higher ground.

After Katrina and Rita and the collapse of the electrical and e-structure of our world, that approach was still an effective tool. Remember that your website may go down. Electricity may be off for a month. If your cell phones fail, they are only as good as a paper weight. One friend found his sister-in-law’s cellphone (with a different area code) worked after Katrina had shut down his own phones. Whoever communicates best – before, during and after a disaster – wins!

9. Chaos/combat – Remember the chaos in the post-Katrina world in New Orleans. Those agencies and teams that evacuated didn’t leave the chaos behind when they left New Orleans. They had to relocate and build a temporary operation for their own safety and sanity and to serve their clients (who were in yet-to-be-determined places) and deal with their own losses/problems.

Many of these folks had lost family members, homes, cars and most of their worldly possessions. They were wanderers – hurting. Nonetheless they had to be there for their clients and their fellow team members. Who they were before the storm may not be who they are after their crisis (loss). The storm changed everything.

Some of your best workers may not be able to do what they did in the good times. Others who may have been suspect before become star storm troopers in the chaos. All are human and need support from and to offer support to each other. Bob (a friend and New Orleans agency owner who evacuated to Baton Rouge for many weeks) told me one thing he had never considered before Katrina was the need for a group hug/cry. He said, “Several times a day – we’d stop working and hug each other and have a good cry and then get back to work.”

Your systems are robotic; your team is made up of living, breathing, feeling and hurting individuals who can do so much but all have a breaking point. Don’t cross it.

10. Contingencies – Many agencies work like a Swiss watch – a very effective process. Unfortunately, you must build, maintain and sustain a living system. Every day, you’ll discover something new, something different, something you didn’t plan for – you must adapt. As you process and progress, ask yourself and each other: What now? What else? What next?

See also: New Regulation After a Disaster: More Harm Than Good?

In closing, I’ll flash back to one of the most memorable days in my life. It was October 1962. I was a high school sophomore. The U. S. and Russian navies were facing off over nuclear weapons in Cuba.
Coach Blanco was sitting on top his desk. He told us, “Boys, if I get off this desk and crawl under it, you do the same. That means I’ve seen a mushroom cloud.” We had regularly prepared for such disasters with “Atomic Bond Drills” (crawling under our desks). Obviously, such a plan would not work.

What is offered here is not a plan that will work, but it is a plan that I hope will get you thinking and acting. Find a better way. Do more than crawl under your desk.

Remember, some day soon the “merchant of misery” may visit your town. BE PREPARED!

Change at the ‘Speed of Life!’

In my career, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words on change. I was preparing another article for your consideration, when three articles, one invoice and one memory made my ramblings about speed unnecessary. Consider the following, then decide – is the market being transformed?

  1. The memory – In 1978, I represented the Famex Insurance Program through Fireman’s Fund. This was a property and casualty offering to GM’s dealers throughout the country. In those days, the No. 1 concern of GM and her dealers was that GM would reach 65% market share, and then Uncle Sam would break up “Mother GM” into Cadillac, GMC, Olds, Pontiac and Chevrolet. That fear was, of course, never realized. Back in the ’70s, the fantasy of GM was that she was invincible. Today, the bankruptcy of GM is reality…. Too big to fail is BS.
  2. The first article: Fast Company (November 2015) – “Hot Sauce U.S.A.,” by Elizabeth Segran. “Where once was Tabasco, there is now sriracha, gochujang and more. What the condiment aisle says about American consumers….While Tabasco accounts for 18% of the hot sauce market, there are now hundreds of varieties available in the U.S. – from Tapatio to Texas Pete – and more than a few of them with foreign roots.” Once, a “local” company controlled the hot sauce market worldwide — today, the global market is served by a much more diverse group of pepper pickers and processors. (In the name of full disclosure, I live within 10 miles of Avery Island, LA, the home of Tabasco. I love Tabasco and was able to enjoy this delicacy in every town I visited in Europe during my year [1972] of service with the Army in Germany.)
  3. The second article: The Week (Oct. 30, 2015) – “Issue of the Week: Walmart’s Wobbly Empire. “What would Sam Walton think if he were alive to see Walmart today?” Brian Sozzi asked. The founder of the behemoth would probably be shocked to see that his pioneering profit formula – low operating costs and extra-discounted prices – is now virtually impossible to maintain. “Walmart understands the challenges it faces, but its decline may be practically inevitable,” David Graham said in theAtlantic.com.
  4. The third article: The Week (Nov. 13, 2015) – Editor’s Letter. “I recently had one of those ‘welcome to the future’ moments that you think only happen in sci-fi movies and dystopian novels. I’d agree over email to get coffee with a friend of a friend, and he cc’ed his personal assistant, Amy, to set up a mutually convenient date. Amy and I emailed back and forth to find an available time slot. She was efficient and gracious, considerate of my schedule constraints and so polite in her responses that, with the meeting arranged, I began typing a brief thank you. Then I glanced at her e-mail signature. There, written in small type, it read ‘powered by artificial intelligence.’ That’s when it hit me: Amy wasn’t actually human. She was an algorithm. I’d been corresponding with a machine all along and hadn’t even realized it.”
  5. The invoice – Wired magazine. I received my 4th reminder to renew my subscription. The cover price for one year was $143.76. “Your special low renewal rate” was $20, plus a “second subscription to your friend for free.” I’m guessing the mailing costs alone for one year exceed the $20 price to me. Wired is a good magazine. I’ve enjoyed it. But in today’s easy access world I’m oversubscribed and under read.

Should we be Wired, too? Because competition and technology will allow innovators to deliver what we sell at a price below our costs? Is it now time to reinvent our organizations to compete in the world as it will be?

In closing, I acknowledge Bob Dylan, one of the first modern-day philosophers, who saw and spoke to the world of change. Our parents thought Dylan was a “flake” or a “fad.” In retrospect, he was right, and they were wrong. Ours is a world being transformed. Suggestions of incremental change are BS!

“The Times They Are A-Changin'” – Bob Dylan (1964)

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.