There is no shortage of business bestsellers, insightful white-papers and Harvard Business Review articles regaling us with multi-point programs to drive successful growth strategies. Consultants abound–including this guy–pushing clever frameworks to guide your brand to the corporate promised land.
Best demonstrated practices. Core capabilities. Disruptive innovation. Business process re-engineering. We’ve heard it all.
Yet despite an abundance of knowing, there is a paucity of doing. The same companies with the same access to the same information–employing high quality, well-intentioned executives–get widely (and sometimes wildly) different results.
Having spent more than a decade working in omni-channel retail driving customer-centric growth initiatives, I’m often asked which company is the leader in this space. I usually say Nordstrom.
I led strategy and multi-channel marketing at Neiman Marcus during the time Nordstrom began investing in customer-centricity and cross-channel integration. So I can spout chapter and verse about the differences between our approaches and all the opportunities we missed. But with Neiman’s announcement this week of their new customer-centric organization (better late than never!) there are a few key things to point out:
- Neiman’s has a lot of catching up to do
- We knew the same things Nordstrom knew when they aggressively committed to their strategy nearly a decade ago
- Nordstrom acted, we (mostly) watched.
We can quibble about some of the facts and the differences in our relative situations, but when it comes down to why they are the leader and Neiman’s–and plenty of others–are playing catching up, it comes down to this:
- Nordstrom had a CEO who fundamentally believed in the vision and who committed to going beyond short-term pressures and strict ROI calculations
- They went all in.
In a world that moves faster and faster all the time, organizations are really left with two core strategic options: Wait and see or go all in. Most choose the former and end up going out of business or stuck in the muddling middle.
Going all in doesn’t mean investing with reckless abandon or rolling the dice. Most all in companies do plenty of testing and learning. But testing with a view toward scaling up or moving on is a sign of commitment and strength not uncertainty and weakness.
Going all in must start at the top, with an executive who is wired to say yes. An all in strategy is fraught with risk. Mistakes will be made. You need a boss who has your back.
Going all in necessarily requires a supportive culture, but without complete organizational commitment it’s not nearly enough.
Going all in doesn’t pre-suppose a journey without bumps in the road. All in companies know how to fail better.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast?
Commitment eats strategy for lunch, dinner and a late night snack.