retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday's MNB included an email from a 15-year Supervalu employee who, while guardedly optimistic about new CEO Wayne Sales, was less than complimentary about senior execs Janel Haugarth and Tim Lowe.

Which led MNB user Tom Herman to write:

I think the comments about Janel Haugarth were way off base.  I no longer work for Supervalu, but worked directly for Janel as well as worked alongside her for many years.  I can tell you first hand that Janel is one of the brightest and most committed people I have ever worked with.  Although she had limited experience on the retail side, she has worked with successful retailers and deeply understands the business.  She was asked to move over to retail merchandising all the while working under Craig Herkert.  I have absolutely nothing good to say about Craig.  The only thing I can fault Janel for is sticking with Craig, but she was both committed and deeply vested in the company she help build.  Supervalu may not be a great fit for her right now, but she would make a fine CEO!

As I said yesterday in this space ... To be honest, I've never before heard a bad word about Janel Haugarth, and there are folks who think very highly of Tim Lowe. I've certainly never heard either of them described as "clueless."

I was a little uncertain about posting that email - it struck me as a bit personal - but decided to because it illustrates the depth of feeling in some quarters of Supervalu. People like Janel Haugarth and Tim Lowe, assuming they stick around, have a big job in front of them. Earning the loyalty of people who work for them is an important component of that job.

Regarding Supervalu's broader troubles and the many emails that we've posted here about the company, the old CEO and the new CEO, Wayne Sales, one MNB user wrote:

I hope Mr. Sales reads MorningNewsBeat.

There is some excellent information for him to consider. His team sure seems willing to help him if he requests their help. Time to step away from the board room for a few weeks, Mr. Sales.

From your lips...

I wrote yesterday in several places that in an world where fundamental changes are taking place, incremental action almost never suffices.

MNB user Ken Wagar disagreed:

You are the last person in the world I would want to debate regarding word usage or forward thinking slogans but I have real issues with your new mantra of “In a world where fundamental changes are taking place, incremental action almost never suffices.” I think a closer inspection of the rapid and fundamental changes we see in the world are rather a result of almost constant, regular and frequent incremental actions!

Very few things including business models are created from whole cloth, rather they are incubated, hatched and develop over time incrementally. Granted their DNA or the vision that helped them develop in the egg may have been a “new” vision but they incrementally develop into a growing and sustainable business. We have been through 4 models of I-Phone because of incremental advancements, 3 models of iPad, Amazon has grown through a continuing series of incremental actions etc, etc. The problem as I see it is that most companies don’t initiate a continuous series of incremental actions, they fail to change on a constant and regular basis and instead stop and rest or believe they have done enough and then they unfortunately begin to incrementally fail.

The fact is that Supervalu’s purchase of Albertson’s was bold and anything but incremental and in fact was designed to be transformational. However the thinking, the strategy, the vision and the due diligence were all a disaster.

I think the reality is that “In a world where fundamental changes are taking place almost constant incremental actions backed by a clear vision of a customer relevant experience is almost always required.

Just MHO.

I get your point, and it is a good one.

I guess I would suggest two things.

One is that while you are right that companies like Apple and Amazon continue to excel because of incremental changes and improvements, they are able to do so because at the beginning of the process, they made a fundamental leap. Apple recognized that consumers were changing in a way that made the iPod, iPhone and iPad relevant; Amazon recognized that the internet was going to change the way people shop. So they both created fundamentally new business models, which they then could build on to create sustainable enterprises.

Second, my premise depends on the fact that the fundamental insight that a business has is both good and correct. If they make a fundamental business change based on a flawed reading of where consumers are going, then all bets are off.

Fair enough?
KC's View: