Best Buy is generally not talked about as an exemplar of lean. (It’s best known for its Results Only Work Environment; read about ROWE here and here.) But yesterday’s WSJ article on Best Buy shows that the company certainly understands some of the key principles.
Respect for people? Check.
Brian Dunn, the current COO and CEO-designate, who has spent 24 years climbing the company’s ranks, believes that the best retail innovations come from front-line workers. Brad Anderson, the current CEO, says that
Brian’s particular gift is that he is genuinely interested in the blue-shirts as people, and they can tell. What that gives you that a lot of leaders miss, is that you understand what is happening in an organization on a more granular level.
Dunn understands that Best Buy’s competitive strength lies with its workers:
“Wal-Mart is trying to copy us,” Mr. Dunn, who had visited some of Wal-Mart’s new prototype stores in Arkansas days earlier, told the store managers’ conference. “But there is one thing nobody can copy, and it’s this,” he said, grabbing a Best Buy employee who was wearing one of the company’s blue polo shirts.
“Genchi genbutsu?” Check.
Before he succeeds Mr. Anderson, he has embarked on a tour of stores in search of inspiration for his remodeling plans, which he sees as a way to differentiate Best Buy from competitors such as Wal-Mart and Amazon.com.
Dunn says that to compete with those behemoths, “you have to go where the rubber meets the road.” And that’s the gemba.
When stories about AIG executives feeding at the bonus trough batter you like a polo mallet to the head, it’s reassuring to know that there are still some executives who get it. And it doesn’t require Gary Hamel’s “management moonshot” to realize that front-line employees really do have some valuable business ideas.
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