Monday, 23 February 2015

Opinion, even fact, can be best judged by debate in retail

I am firmly of the belief that reading expands the mind, and I generally get something out if every book I read. I've just finished a short book on the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's called Thirteen Days and was written by Robert F. Kennedy. The book itself is quite factual and it isn't until I reached the conclusions after the crisis was over that I thought of practical applications towards business. In the chapter "Some of the things we learned..." Robert Kennedy stated that he felt it of significant importance during the crisis that there were different points of view throughout the process. The group of people that sat together to deliberate and report back to the President (the ex comm group) had people from different backgrounds and had different ideas on how to handle the crisis. Robert Kennedy believes that from this group, the right decisions and course of action was achieved because "opinion, even fact, can be best judged by conflict, by debate." He even goes so far as to say that this lack of conflict was part of the failure of an earlier Kennedy administration operation in Cuba - the Bay of Pigs invasion.

In terms of the way this can bring about lessons for business for me, is as far as business decisions are made. Too often one part if the business makes decisions that affect other parts of the business without consulting them. Taking the time to have different viewpoints and for this to provide the opportunity for the decision to be debated can only be healthy. I liken this to the coalition government we have had in this country for nearly the last five years. Although we don't 100% what has happened behind the closed doors of government, it appears from the outside that each party have had to agree on policy. In many cases this has resulted in policy being adapted to keep both parties happy - and for the common good of the country.

The book also reminds me of another book I read fairly recently, called Why Your Boss Is Programmed to Be a Dictator: A Book for Anyone Who Has a Boss or Is a Boss by Chetan Dhruve. It's well worth a read and in one chapter he tells about the mistakes made in the run up to the invasion of Iraq because the military's advisers told their boss (President George W. Bush) what they thought he wanted to hear. More debate would probably have resulted in a different course of action and many fewer lives lost.

Lessons for retail in my eyes will include a level of store representation in head office decisions that affect stores for larger organisations. These decisions may have implications for stores that weren't envisaged but someone from store level can ask these questions and point out these potential issues. This will also have the added advantages that the walls between stores and head office are broken down and that stores have a buy-in involvement in the process.

For smaller retailers, as I know many of my readers are, it can mean involving all of your team and ideally some of your customers in the decision making process. Having this discussion and listening to any dissenting voices before finalising a decision can help you to think of the things you may have missed in your own and to refine the decision so it works best for your team and customers alike.

Not everything can be bought on the High Street

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