“Culture is the ever-present force behind an organization’s long-term success.” -JSP
As a child going to Toys “R” Us was atop my list of places to go. Watching the news report of the mega toy store giant filing for bankruptcy in 2017 made me sad. How does Toys “R” Us successfully navigate numerous changes during its 70 years fail?
One thing hampering a successful turnaround for Toys “R” Us is servicing billions of dollars in debt. You cannot continue investing in updating and stocking stores with money you don’t have. Toys “R” Us was falling behind its competitors in several areas as well as paying employees and the general upkeep and overall condition of their stores.
Mark A. Cohen says, “Toys R Us has never been able to wrap their arms around the changes necessary, and this is the inevitable outcome.”
Many experts studying the demise of Toys “R” Us point to their inability to keep pace with the ever “changing trends in consumer behavior and childhood play.”
The long-term success of any organization hinges on their ability to navigate changes and trends in the marketplace.
Develop a culture that can anticipate and navigate change
“Develop a culture that lives out the values your organization’s vision is founded on” – JSP
Many times, an organization’s executives under pressure will unwittingly implement strategies inconsistent with their vision and the long-standing practices of their employees. I believe that Toys “R” Us Executives may have lost sight of the important synergy between their original vision culture and strategy.
- When navigating change, Peter Drucker says;
- Clearly define the desired culture
- Manage that culture
- Align culture with strategy
- Lean on cultural strengths during times of change
“Companies that prioritize culture, especially when leading change typically outperform their competitors in areas such as consistent growth, improved speed, and efficiency, employee engagement and retention, customer satisfaction, and profitability.”
Many once profitable companies went the way of Toys “R” Us by moving away from the culture that supported their vision. Vision Strategy and Culture kept in proper balance is the difference between strong, vibrant, profitable companies and stalled disillusioned unprofitable ones.
Always be prepared for change and hold fast to your values
In difficult times good companies can avoid the unfortunate downward spiral of attempting too little too late by staying ahead of the curve. Anticipating changing environments and early recognition of consumer trends keeps you current.
- Strategic thinking provides vision with clear direction in times of change.
- Culture provides the environment in which vision is either fulfilled or killed.
- Vision is always married to an organization’s mission and values.
- Clear directions and expectations ensure proper, reproducible execution.
- Staying true to the values that sets you apart keeps you competitive.
Here are five ideas for managing a successful turnaround that has helped me navigate change on several occasions in my thirty-nine years of leadership.
1. Connect with your people.
Change of all kinds can make people nervous, especially when attempting to turn a struggling company around. Begin by meeting your people where they are, hear them out before implementing changes; they may have some good thoughts and ideas to offer. Keep in mind that it’s your people who are doing the work that turns things around.
2. Meet with your best influencers
Several trusted influencers can get more people on board in a week or two than you can in several months of meetings. Having several influencers listening and addressing concerns, saying the same things executive leaders are saying helps your people feel understood and validated.
3. Reiterate your company’s mission and values
- Make sure your strategy reflects your mission and your values. What can be more reassuring than holding steady to your mission and values in a time of crisis?
- All conversations and decisions public or private must demonstrate your organization’s values. Remaining positive, steady, and consistent will reassure your teams that successful change in difficult times is achievable.
4. Enable your people to be part of the solution
Good leaders can simplify the complicated, get people to focus on one thing at a time according to its priority, and produce amazing outcomes. Once you successfully include your people as part of the solution, many things will fall into place. A well thought out strategy in the hands of like-minded people pursuing a vision enables a company to navigate change.
5. Monitor and assess your progress
- Publicize the early wins, they motivate your people to keep moving forward. Wins encourage people and elevate leadership credibility.
- Monitor and assess your people; many leaders emerge during a crisis. Recognizing, developing, and equipping new leaders continues building momentum after the crisis is behind you.
“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker