Thursday, 29 January 2015

When the head office tail wags the dog

I've worked for and with quite a few big name UK High Street retailers. A really interesting g dynamic of these organisations is the relationship between the head office function and the stores. I usually find that the quality of this relationship will in part determine the smoothness of any transitions and the success of the organisation.

I'll illustrate with a few examples. I worked for one big name who valued the relationship between head office and their stores. In this company, every person who worked in the head office or field had to work for ten days a year in a store. This was from the CEO down. So there were times when, as a store manager, I had the operations director bringing in my delivery and filling my shelves. This created an environment where you were calling up someone from head office and you knew the face, and they knew what you experience in store.

Another big name retailer had a completely different idea of the relationship between head office and the stores. If a head office functioned emailed a request for information from stores then these were to be answered to the same business day. If a store requested information from a head office department, they were allowed up to 2 weeks to reply, and usually took up the full time, often to reply that they will look into it and get back to the store. This started the 2 week click ticking again! All of this have e the stores the impression that head office functions were all powerful and completely untouchable. This created a disparity in the organisation and this filtered through to customers on occasions.

Another big name, my last of this blog, had regional offices rather than one big head office function. This created some regional differences between stores but the proximity of the big regional offices to the store network created a much closer feel. The stores were very close to each head office function - human resources, payroll, facilities, etc so they had faces to names and people they actually knew to contact about any issues.

In all, the relationships need to function properly to ensure issues are resolved efficiently and that there is a feeling amongst the organisation that everyone is pulling together to achieve the same goals. In addition to the head office people working in stores, the first example today held events throughout the year to involve stores and head office. Picnics, exhibitions, conferences and the like. The whole feel was that we were all working for the same company - unfortunately that is often a rare thing.

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