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    Published on: July 22, 2009

    Content Guy’s Note: One of our regular pleasures each of the past couple of summers has been reading about performance strategist Art Turock’s annual foray to the University of Southern California’s fantasy camp for over-the-hill-but-still-willing football players, and learning about some of the business lessons he learned there. We’re thrilled that Art again wants to share his thoughts exclusively with the MorningNewsBeat community…

    Call it the elephant in the room – a business insight that seems incredibly obvious, but nobody wants to acknowledge it.

    It took me 33 years to see it, and now I find that it is relevant to 95 percent of my business clients. And yet, I might never have seen the elephant in the room had I not taken up competitive sprinting at age 56, and participated yet again in the USC Flashback Football Camp hosted by Head Coach Pete Carroll. This, my third experience at USC, contributed to a wakeup call that leaves me with a fresh perspective for viewing performance management.

    I used to marvel at how businesses do a super job of getting people of diverse talents to perform competently in their roles. After initial job training, further development is done efficiently, cost-effectively and without disrupting work getting done. It seems like enough…

    But then I compared performance management practices in business, where competence is acceptable, to performance in sports, where competence is not an option, especially if the objective is to achieve a lengthy career or a winning record. In my seminars, I call this distinction “The Curse of Competence,” which states: Most businesses seem to be managed brilliantly for producing competent contributors, but managed miserably for developing consummate professionals. Look around the cubicles or the store where you work. Most of your team work hard and do a reasonably good job, but you would never mistake them for being experts, thought leaders or elite performers.

    By contrast, Pete Carroll’s unambiguous priority is winning football games, so anything less than elite performance is not tolerated when it comes to developing talent. Even one loss – which can result from just one blown play, or one missed block or tackle - puts USC’s goal of winning a national championship in jeopardy.

    Carroll describes his leadership role as being a lighthouse beacon, highlighting players and coaches’ adherence or divergence from the relentless focus he’s working to foster. To inspire the team’s alignment, he chooses generative language like “win forever,” “always compete,” and “practice is everything” - that depict an envisioned future.

    In stark contrast to performance management in business, Carroll’s fundamental philosophy is, “Do the things we do the best they’ve ever been done.” This standard applies to recruiting, counseling players, practicing, and developing coaches. As a case in point, USC coaches continuously improve their capabilities, so their worth in the open market grows so high the only way to retain them is by promotion. Furthermore, Coach Carroll’s commitment is to help his coaches earn their dream jobs. He invites his staff to articulate their professional goals - including when they must leave USC to fulfill their aspirations, perhaps as an NFL assistant or college head coach. Carroll orchestrates role-plays of job interviews, with the aspiring job applicant wearing a jacket and tie while a colleague plays the interviewer. The videotaped interview enables the job applicant to self-critique and gather colleagues’ feedback.

    How many companies pay that kind of attention to the goals and dreams of their employees?

    The following four contrasting descriptions illustrate the enormous difference in performance standards between USC’s “best-its-ever-been-done-culture” and acceptable business competence:

    Debriefing sales calls: When an account team completes a sales call, they exchange 10 minutes of conversation about “how do you think that went?” and bolt for the airport.

    If Coach Carroll benchmarked with that description, USC wouldn’t bother to review game films.

    Delivering sales presentations: Account executives deliver a standardized sales presentation, containing 46 bullet-laden PowerPoint slides to cover in 60 minutes, which substantially amounts to reading an outline and hoping the retail buyer doesn’t offer unique objections.

    By that standard, USC would script their entire 40+ plays of offensive game plan and execute them in sequence. The quarterback couldn’t improvise at the line of scrimmage to counter an opponent’s unanticipated response.

    Meeting preparation: Most preparation for key customer meetings gets done at the 11th hour, with little dress rehearsal to refine the presentation or the team’s coordination. Winging it is the norm.

    USC’s version of winging it would amount to passing out the game plan on Friday night, telling players to review it in their hotel, and walking through the plays on Saturday morning only hours before kickoff.

    Employee training: Seasoned customer service people are reluctant to role-play challenging customer situations, contending, “Roles plays are unnecessary because I have real life experience.”

    Imagine Coach Carroll saying, “Upperclassmen, forget about practicing the plays. You’ve already run them in games.”

    I could come up with dozens more examples. What business managers consider acceptable, football coaches would find to be absurd.

    Now, anyone who argues that USC has plentiful practice time while business always needs to get work done doesn’t realize NCAA rules limit weekly workouts to eight hours in the off-season, and 20 hours in season, with game day counting as three hours. Most business professionals work 50-60 hour weeks and still can’t squeeze in even one hour to practice.

    To develop your own capacity to spot massive improvement opportunities, take on the generative question the USC staff repeatedly inquires into: If our team was to perform this activity the best it’s ever been done, how would our proficiency look?

    While you can apply this generative question to every facet of your business, focus first on the core competencies integral to the success of your business model. One of USC’s core competencies is in staging practices. Extraordinary practices contribute to game day performances and draw blue chip players with the hunger to improve, which in turn, puts fans in the seats and elicits booster donations.

    When it comes to a business’s core competencies that drive sustainable success, competence is not an option. To be the low price leader, Walmart strives to be second to none in distribution competencies, at the same time, tolerating being adept (yet, to be fair, improving) when it comes to the retail experience. To drive sales per square foot, Whole Foods must transcend competitors in store design, while its proficiency in distribution lags behind.

    As an elite performance strategist, my core competence is developing a thought leader perspective relevant to my customers’ pressing issues. Exposure to seemingly irrelevant fields helps deconstruct my ingrained and unexamined industry viewpoint, and triggers my imagination to translate original insights to my customers. MNB readers, here’s my one sentence summation of this article: Be fascinated with discovering the gap between your organization’s competent performance and your imagination’s version of “the best it’s ever been done.”

    Who knows what elephants you will find in your rooms?

    If you would like an excerpt from Art Turock’s upcoming book featuring the section on USC entitled, “This Isn’t Intramurals?” E-mail or call 425-814-3038. If you’d like to talk with Art about your insights from sports or other fields and their business applications, he enthusiastically welcomes an enlightening conversation.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    New data from the Taylor Nelson Sofres World Panel says that in the most recent quarter, Tesco’s share of the UK grocery market dropped to 30.8 percent from 30.9 percent during the same period a year ago – a small drop, to be sure, but consistent with persistent market share decreases that the company has been experiencing over the past few years.

    Walmart’s Asda Group, on the other hand, saw its market share grow from 16.7 percent to 17 percent in the most recent quarter compared to a year ago, while Sainsbury’s market share went from 15.7 percent to 16 percent. And, according to the numbers, William Morrison Supermarkets’ market share went from 11.2 percent to 11.6 percent.

    The Taylor Nelson Sofres World Panel also says that the UK’s three discount grocers – Aldi, Lidl and Netto – together account for a 6.1 percent market share, compared to six percent a year ago.
    KC's View:
    This last paragraph is worth noting since Aldi has told the Times of London that it is aiming for a 10 percent market share there and plans to build another 1,000 stores to get there.

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    More details have emerged about Barnes & Noble’s intention to challenge Amazon in the e-book business. Yesterday, it was reported that in addition to opening an e-bookstore with more than 700,000 titles, the company also will see an e-book reader from a company called Plastic Logic that is described by Fast Company as perhaps being a “decent competitor” to Amazon’s Kindle.

    In addition, Fast Company writes, “Its e-bookstore will have over 700,000 titles, more than twice that of Amazon, with best-seller prices at around $10. And the company's pulled off a deal with Google to enable its users to download Google's 500,000 public text library for free too. That means B&N is offering close to one million more texts than Amazon does to its Kindle users. And they're not just being made available on the Plastic Logic e-reader either--B&N have iPhone, BlackBerry and PC software on the way too.

    “All of which makes the story very very interesting indeed--Barnes and Noble really is taking the fight to Amazon with its plans. Since Amazon's credited with stealing much of the custom from bricks and mortar bookstores, it's practically the only way physical bookstores can react. And the stores may even have one big advantage over Amazon: Picking up and handling the attractive Plastic Logic device in the store could certainly sell more units than ogling pictures of the Kindle on Amazon.”
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    Dow Jones reports that Walmart plans to continue its ban on beef from the northern Brazilian state of Para, a ban that was instituted after Greenpeace charged “that Brazilian meatpackers were buying beef from deforested areas of the Amazon region,” according to the story.

    Walmart has been joined in the ban by Carrefour and Brazilian chain Pao de Acucar.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    Bloomberg reports that two French bottled water suppliers, Evian and Danone-owned Volvic, have said that they want half their bottles to be made of recycled plastic by the end of next year as a way of reducing environmental impact … and, as it happens, respond to a small but growing activists’ movement calling for a ban on plastic water bottles. This movement was given a boost recently when the Australian town of Bundanoon banned the sale of such bottles.
    KC's View:
    Said it before, and I’ll say it again. Every bottled beverage manufacturer ought to be preparing for the possibility that this “ban the plastic bottle” movement could get real traction…and that they could get banned altogether. It may not happen, but as Von Clausewitz warned, one should prepare for what the enemy can do, not what he might do.”

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    Ad Week reports on a new study from Information Resources Inc. (IRI) suggests that “while other segments have struggled, the recession has not played a huge a role in baby-boomer food-purchasing decisions. More than three-quarters of the group, born between 1946-64, maintained their spending on necessity items, and 85 percent continued to make unplanned purchases. This makes the group, which represents half of all total U.S. spending, a $50 billion growth opportunity for consumer packaged-goods companies, per the report.”

    • The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Kroger’s Columbus, Ohio, division is funding a food safety hotline, partnering with Ohio State University and the Center for Innovative Food Technology, students of which will answer the phones.

    • The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Costco is on schedule to open its first Australian store, in Melbourne, on August 17, with a $60 membership fee. A second store is on the drawing board for Sydney, and then Costco says it will decide whether to expand further.

    The climate is not expected to be especially friendly to Costco, since, as the paper writes, “The Washington-based retailer enters a market where Woolworths and Wesfarmers' Coles unit control almost three-quarters of retail grocery sales.”

    • Target announced that it will open 23 stores simultaneously this Sunday – four general merchandise stores, 17 stores with an expanded food selection, and two SuperTarget units.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    • Starbucks yesterday reported a third quarter profit of $151.5 million, compared to a loss of $6.7 million during the same period a year ago. Q3 sales were down 6.6 percent compared to a year ago, to $2.4 billion.

    The company said that the profit was a result of reduced labor and dairy costs, and said that it has increased its savings target for this year to $550 million, from the previously estimated $520 million.

    • Coca-Cola Co. said yesterday that it had Q2 earnings of $2.04 billion, up from $1.42 billion during the same period a year ago. Second quarter sales were down nine percent to $8.27 billion.

    • PepsiCo said this morning that its second quarter profit was down two percent to $1.66 billion, on Q2 sales that were off three percent to $10.59 billion.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    • Price Chopper Supermarkets/Golub Corporation announced today that Shelley Florence, the company’s Director of Associate Relations/Retail, has been promoted to the position of Vice President of Associate Relations.

    The company also announced that Andrew White, a Regional Perishable Merchandising Specialist, has been promoted to the position of Zone Director.

    And, Chester Pennacchia, the company’s Manager of Construction, has been promoted to the position of Director of Construction.

    • Stater Bros. Markets announced that Dave Harris, a partner with the accounting firm of Soren McAdam Christenson, has been named vice president - finance.
    KC's View:

    Published on: July 22, 2009

    Responding to yesterday’s piece about a Forbes article about the “locavore myth,” MNB user Elizabeth Archerd wrote:

    Forbes must have assigned a vegetarian writer to the locavore article.

    Meat production does not require so much as an ounce of grain. Feeding grain to meat animals is a relatively recent development and pretty much a failed experiment. Progressive producers are returning to grass-based meat production which is good for the animals, soil and water, and produces a superior product. Soil depletion can be stopped and reversed by fattening beef, pigs, chickens and lambs on pasture.

    Another MNB user wrote:

    Under "Puncturing The Locavore Balloon (July 21)," you describe a Forbes piece that discussed the complexities of calculating the carbon footprint of food production and conclude that "What this story how difficult it is for consumers to do the right thing, or at least understand exactly what the right thing is."

    But in the final paragraph of your description, you note that "Finally, Forbes reports, one of the best ways in which consumers can reduce carbon footprints is to stop eating meat: 'No matter how you slice it, it takes more energy to bring meat, as opposed to plants, to the table.'" What's so complicated about that?

    Cutting meat out of one’s diet seems a little complicated to me (though I admit to be a carnivore). But I do think it is fair to say that consumers are confused about what socially responsible eating means.

    And another MNB user chimed in:

    The Forbes article was talking tactically…and missed the point by not thinking strategically…as you always say…

    The concept is to eat foods that are not only healthy, but also safe, while at the same time grown and distributed in the most sustainable model possible (economically, humanely, humanly and environmentally)

    The “Natural Foods Movement” (the sixties) became affixed to the “New American Food Economy” (recognizing connections between healthy soils, healthy foods, healthy communities, and a healthy human society) and then we began learning that “Food choices have consequences” (Pollen et al) and CPG brands began marketing natural. Consequently, a larger and larger segment of our population understands healthy eating…

    Locavore, like all the other terms associated with this movement, is just a term that hopefully gets people to think…about their food purchase…not a dogmatic approach to buying food.

    And MNB user Rosemary Fifield wrote:

    I really don't think there is a right thing any more, and the sad thing is, my attitude is the result of all this tiresome input from both sides. I've been buying local for as long as I can remember because I can question the farmer, baker, etc. personally about how something was produced; it keeps the money in the local economy; I want my local farms and farm families to stay intact; and the food tastes better and retains its nutritional quality because it's fresh. At this point I no longer agonize over whether it's better to buy a New England apple or a New Zealand apple. I live in New England and so does the orchardist who grew the apple. That's good enough for me.

    I have to be honest. I didn’t know that the guy who owns the orchard is called an “orchardist.” I learn something every day…

    We had a piece yesterday about Aldi’s UK growth, which prompted one MNB user to write:

    For those of us that have been in the food business for many many years we should take note of Aldi. Note that they are not only a global player but the largest. Just as many did when the first Price club opened (I was there) and blew them off, Aldi should not be blown off either. Watching them add 100 stores in Texas, Florida and in the UK companies need to wake up and take them for real. Their Store Brand program not only fits the customers, but is one of the best (many of their supplier are Walmart's Great Value suppliers). They done an outstanding job of teasing the customer with general merchandise items and being seasonally correct as well.

    Two years ago while visiting with a UK retailer I asked the very most senior leader if he could take me to an Aldi. His comment was, I could if I knew where one was," their not our competition"... We did find one and man they were busy, too bad he still didn't ands hasn't taken them seriously.

    As retailers keep trying to get the next customer (cause their marketing team says they should) they continue to walk way from customers and allow the Aldi's and Dollar General stores to have this business.

    MNB took note yesterday of a Chicago Tribune story saying that Walmart “plans to hold a farmers market on Saturday at the vacant site where it wants to build its second Chicago store, as it steps up pressure on the city to allow it to expand. The truckloads of fresh fruits and vegetables, supplied by Wal-Mart vendors…”

    One MNB user wrote:

    Is this a "farmers market" they're having, or an open air produce market? Since it's being supplied by Walmart vendors, I would think it's not going to be small truck farmers selling their product from the backs of their pickups.

    Finally, we got a lot of email yesterday responding to Michael Sansolo’s column about the importance of loving your customer.

    But my two favorites were these…

    One MNB user wrote:

    I’ll have what he’s having.


    And MNB user Sue DeRemer wrote:

    This is why I read MorningNewsBeat.

    And why we have so much fun writing it.
    KC's View: