My belief is that right action happens in the right time. The right unifying purpose will inspire right action on every level of the organization. Speed matters but not for the sake of speed.
In contrast, machine thinking is our enemy! Getting things done to get things done is the enemy of creativity. And creativity is the enemy of stagnation. Choose sides!
Have you been a Whole Foods customer? Were you a satisfied and delighted customer (Whole Foods values a bunch of things, of which one is to satisfy and delight you). How about Amazon? I have been a customer of both companies for a few decades now and want to share my personal experience with each and how this has mirrored their growth. John Mackey, CEO and founder of Whole Foods, has a real passion for his creation. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has masterfully unified his company around an enduring belief he coined ‘First Day’. This simple and brilliant obsession, is alive and well in much of the Amazon culture, so I’m told, and my experience as a consumer suggests this is true. Why? The business since Day 1 has been about me. Their vision is to be the earth’s most customer centric company.
Why, you may ask, am I bringing up these two companies? For one, Amazon recently purchased Whole Foods. And, Whole Foods lost it’s way over time while Amazon continues to thrive. So what happened to Whole Foods? I know some of the dysfunction that grew over time through passionate employees sharing their experiences. Unfortunately, John Mackey believes the opposite of what my friends experienced. He thinks the company valued its employees over the customer and this played a part in their decline. And these employees lived a very different experience. The company they all felt committed to in the early years didn’t exist any longer. My shopping experience followed the story my friends shared. As a customer in the 90’s, I enjoyed going to the store as much as I did shopping there. The culture unfortunately shifted over time. It was no longer an experience and other grocers expanded into this space with a better price and experience. Contrary to what Mackey says, they turned into a machine thinking business that devalued people; both their employee and customer.
To be fair, most businesses scale poorly because they don’t have enduring vision that can unify a large dispersed workforce. In the absence of this visionary call to action, and an easy set of values or operating expectations, companies scale by adding more and more rules with less and less autonomy to make adaptive smart business decisions. Increased layers of management to inspect for consistency and ensure everyone is doing their job. Eventually the customer becomes a nuisance because they are no longer a part of the conversation. Everyone is too busy covering their ass to care. Talented people leave and tired people stay in fear of losing their job. I call this machine thinking and Bezos calls this Day 2.
Why do two businesses, both with real market value, end up in extremely different places? Leadership! Vision! This may seem out of place when looking at the two founder CEO’s side by side. Mackey seems to have an authentic drive to do well by doing good. In the beginning years his voice inspired the troops. But he didn’t have an enduring vision that scaled. Bezos was and has always been relentlessly focused, and never lost track of his vision. Here is his Day 1 shareholder letter – Required reading!
The more people solving for the best customer experience creates the best customer experience. The less people solving for the best customer experience means less satisfied customers. Pretty simple.