Would You Pay $5 to Browse?

Saw this story on Business Insider about a specialty food store in Brisbane, Australia, and thought it worth sharing.

The fee exists to stop people from “showrooming” — which occurs when a customer looks at items in a physical store, then makes the purchase online.

The sign assures that you’ll have the five dollars deducted from the final purchase price, so you’ll get your money back if you buy something.

Well that’s one to do it, I suppose.

Let’s think about this from the storekeeper’s side.  There is a cost associated with maintaining a storefront and paying the employees.  In this setup, the only ones paying a surcharge are those who don’t buy anything.  Of course, that also means you have to make up your mind in one trip, I imagine.  And woe upon those who need to go back to the car for something, I guess.  No word on if there is a bouncer at the door checking IDs.

When we talk about culture change and incentives, we have to think about unintended consequences.  Where might this action lead?  Less traffic, the ire of people around the world (who aren’t likely to shop there, honestly), and the loss of goodwill from consumers.

But what else might happen?  Loads of people talking about your store online?  Check.  Reduced traffic, letting the shopkeeper focus on the real customers so as to give them exceptional service and attention?  Yup.  The establishment of a personal relationship, which is likely to grant “friend of the store” status at some point so the regulars don’t pay the surcharge and are made to feel extra-special?  Indeed.

Yes, it’s an untraditional approach.  That doesn’t make it wrong.  Let’s be honest, those most offended by this are the least likely to buy something in the store to begin with.  So the question that must be asked is whether the cost of alienating those shoppers is greater than the value of better service to the “real” customers walking through the door.  And apparently the answer here is no.

Just because people don’t like the approach doesn’t make it wrong.  If anything, it makes it brave.  And that, on some level, should be commended.

Changing of the Guard

An interesting development coming out of the 2012 Republican National Convention.  The “big stars” of the past (Bush, Cheney, Palin, etc.) are not planning to speak, nor are they planning to attend.  The minds behind the Romney campaign have decided to move forward rather than look back.  Via Yahoo! News

The idea is to portray a competent, forward-looking party—and that has translated into leaving out a recent president and vice president, some tea party stars, and most of the Republicans who only months ago were fighting Romney for the nomination. The absent former rivals include Rep. Michele Bachmann, who won the Iowa straw poll in 2011; former pizza magnate Herman Cain, who once led national polls during the primary race; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, viewed as a juggernaut before he ran; and retiring Rep. Ron Paul, who is getting a video tribute but no live address.


From a change management perspective, it makes total sense.  Focus on the future.  Look ahead rather than at the failures (real or perceived) of the past.  Accentuate the positives.  Eliminate the negatives.  Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.

There is no denying that the GOP had a great run at the start of the century, though history has recoiled on them a bit.  Rather than try to hang onto the past, they sweep it away and hope for better out of the next cycle.  Ironically, it’s right out of the Karl Rove playbook, the man who bult much of that success.  It’s an interesting example of revisionist history by those who wrote it the first time.

It’s also brilliant.

The beauty of US politics, I think, it the ability of each side to constantly proclaim themselves as an agent of change, regardless of their track record.  Romney will claim that the Obama administration has failed, and we need a change in the POTUS chair to fix things.  Obama’s team will claim that they are still the party of change, and they are finally making some headway.  Parallell posturing of the exact same message.  Amazing, isn’t it?

The problem would be if the GOP marched the old guard up onto the stage to proclaim themselves “change agents.”  Can’t be done.  So instead, you set them aside, limit them to fundraising (which I understand they do very well), and let the leaders of the new message take to the spotlight. It’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but a great way to signal a shift.

Too often in the workplace, the leaders don’t change, even if the message does.  It is hard to believe in a real changing of direction if the person selling it to you want telling you something radically different last month.  It leads to stagnation, inertia and a loss of credibility.  Yet rarely in our development discussions do we talk about being the champion or leader of change.  It’s an important role, and one that can not only develop people, but support success in important projects.

Don’t be afraid to pull your big hitters out of the batter’s box. Sometimes, letting someone else take a few cuts can make all the difference.


Accountability and the NFL

Work rules are weird.  We talk a lot about culture, but rarely go after behaviors that build the wrong kind of culture.  Especially if those behaviors are perpetrated by high performers.  Have a sales manager who is killing his number, but close to 100% turnover in the process?  Maybe you overlook the damage he does to the “ditch diggers” on the way to higher revenue.  A high performing executive that verbally abuses his assistant in front of others?  Unless a lawsuit is coming your way, you might let it slide.  We all know the stories.  So it is nice when someone publicly holds a star accountable for their actions.  When it is a pro sports team, it’s that much more interesting.  From ESPN:

[DeSean] Jackson won’t play after he missed a team meeting on Saturday morning, a team source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Jackson, a two-time Pro Bowl pick, is the [Philadelphia Eagle’s] second-leading receiver with 29 catches for 503 yards and two touchdowns this season. Jackson had 110 catches for 2,223 yards and 15 TDs as a receiver the last two years and already owns the franchise record with four punt returns for scores.

There is some dispute over the benching.  His agent claims it is part of contract negotiations.  The team says this was the “final straw” in a series of behaviors.  Whatever the case, the Eagles were without one of their top players, and lost another in Jeremy Maclin to an injury early in the game.  Maclin came back, but the Eagles lost to Arizona 21-17.

How much have you put up with from a star player?  Or a borderline player, for that matter.  If you don’t hold people accountable, you can’t protect your culture.  And that, in itself, will build the culture for you.  Just not the one you are probably looking for.

Fear and Loathing in HR

From Monday’s Lean Blog:

“Many workplaces are effectively crippled by fear, including hospitals (or some might say “especially hospitals”). Hospitals are notorious for having “name, blame, and shame” cultures. Dr. Deming wouldn’t have liked that.”

I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Demming since I first read about him.  He and Peter Drucker shaped my management philosophy more than anyone else I never met.  One of his core beliefs around managing people is that performance reviews are waste, and we should allow those in our organization the freedom to experiment, fail, learn, and experiment some more.  Simple but brilliant.  I think that’s how I define genius.

Anyway, this post, centered around the work environment at Facebook, talks about the importance of environment on success.  Taking it back to our world, what is the perception of HR in your organization?  Are you the person to whom others go for help, or are you the bouncer that escorts people out of the building?  Do you help build the business plans and talk about talent development, or do you force managers to fill out performance reviews once a year, just because they should?

HR is in position to impact not just who works in your organization, but how they work, what their support system looks like, and how their career is shaped.  This can’t be done if you are wallowing in waste and bloated processes.  You have to lean out your work, eliminate bottlenecks and paperwork, and give people what they need to perform.  Then you can work on changing the environment, the culture, and the future.

Of Engagement Surveys

My organization recently released the results of our annual survey.  Good participation rates, decent scores, though down in some areas.  Given the last year included a lot of internal shuffling, not to mention some position cutting, it shouldn’t be a surprise.  The results include a slight dip in overall morale and engagement.  Slight, but nothing drastic.

Survey results are reported out at the highest level, but then drilled down by business leader to create action plans and hold discussion on how to improve scores.  These things are planned regardless of the results.  Overall, I applaud the intent behind this work.

What the survey doesn’t reflect is the trauma that people go through in a year of this nature.  I’ve seen hushed conversations in corners when the leader met. I’ve seen teammates fighting back tears at their desk after someone else is let go.  I’ve seen rifts between employees and management that quietly fester, but are never vocalized.  How do we address something like that?  Dr. Demming would point to the respect for people that was at the center of his work, and tell us that must be the center of our work.  Easier said than done in the economic turmoil through which we’ve come.  Hopefully we’ve learned from it, and can begin working our way back.

Diversity vs. Inclusion

Worked with a team last week to brainstorm policies that promote inclusion. The discussion went in an unexpected (but very interesting) direction. But the question we first dealt with was the difference between inclusion and diversity.

Diversity is generally seen as compliance with US requirements along the lines of Affirmative Action Planning, or about making sure you recruit and hire people of different backgrounds and ethnicity.

Inclusion, as we discussed it, is more about making sure all those disparate and “diverse” individuals are turned into a truly blended workforce, and are able to work together as a unit. On a macro scale, it is about everyone understanding the direction of the company and how each business unit contributes. At a more micro level, its about how each individual plays a role in getting there.

How does your organization define diversity and/or inclusion? Are you making progress on both fronts, or do regulatory requirements alone drive your actions?

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