Published on: February 6, 2013Sources at Delhaize America have provided MNB with the copy of a memo circulated yesterday by the company's new president/CEO, Roland Smith, in which he informs employees about further but still-to-be-announced organizational cuts that build on a series of layoffs announced earlier this year.
The text of the memo follows:
"On January 11, I sent you a note that outlined significant changes to our officer-level structure and committed to announcing further changes in our organization by mid February. Since that time, the entire officer team has worked diligently and quickly to build a Delhaize America (DA) organization that is both effective in achieving our goals and as efficient as possible. Today, I’d like to begin the process of sharing this new structure with you.
"Our new organizational structure above the store manager level will have almost 500 fewer positions, including the elimination of 150 open positions. A reduction of this magnitude required hundreds of difficult decisions, especially in light of the impact these decisions will have on many of our capable and long-tenured associates. Please know that all of these moves were carefully considered and made with the ultimate goal of serving our customers, growing our business, and creating shareholder value.
"Between now and next Tuesday, your supervisor will speak with you directly regarding the impact our new organizational structure will have on you. Many of you will hear that your responsibilities will not change, some will learn about new opportunities and challenges, and some will hear the difficult news that you will be departing the organization. I realize that you may have been anxiously awaiting this news and that potentially waiting another week to learn more may seem like a long time. However, I want to assure you that we’re moving as quickly as possible with this process while still taking the time necessary to ensure our associates are treated with dignity and respect.
"I appreciate that the next week will be emotionally difficult, as these decisions will have a profound and personal impact. I also know that these organizational changes may be hard to understand and accept. However, please understand that the DA Officer Team and I firmly believe that this new structure and team of talented associates are the foundation for DA’s future success.
"By the middle of next week, I will send you additional information that will provide much greater detail about our new organizational structure and dates for upcoming town hall-style meetings.
"I sincerely appreciate your hard work and continued support during a difficult time, and am confident that the future for Delhaize America is very bright."
- KC's View:
I gather, just from the email I've already received, that there are folks who saw this email as simply ratcheting up the anxiety levels at the various Delhaize chains, as everybody waits to be a) called into the office, and b) informed whether or not they've been voted off the island. This has to be an really tough time in the company, and I really feel for these people, many of whom have devoted years, even decades, to the company.
But while Roland Smith's email may seem a little cold-blooded, I actually want to give him credit for being as honest and forthright as he could be under the circumstances. And that's no small thing.
I used to work at a trade magazine where the guys at the top would let people go, then hold meetings to tell the remaining bodies that we'd turned the corner and that there would be no more layoffs, and then, of course, there would be more layoffs and another town meeting. It got to the point where the company's leaders had no credibility - the joke was that we could always tell when they were lying, because they'd be moving their lips.
Listen, I don't know how you do what Delhaize America is doing in a humane and painless way. I don't think it is possible. But I do think that it would be worse if people started being called into offices for reasons unknown, except that reasons pretty quickly would become known, and there inevitably would be rumors and speculation and tears and anger and a bad situation would be made worse.
There are some folks who are really going to hate this movie metaphor, but I think, painful as it is, that this reference works. I am reminded of the movie 127 Hours, the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a hiker who, while trekking through a remote Utah canyon, is trapped when his arm is caught under a boulder and finally has to cut off his own arm in order to escape. Tough stuff, painful to watch, and there are moments when I had to avert my eyes ... and yet, as I wrote at the time, 127 Hours ends up being an enormously powerful, life affirming movie.
I'm sure that in many ways, Smith sees Delhaize America as being trapped in a paradigm from which there is only one escape. The solution is radical, but when he (and his bosses at Delhaize headquarters back in Belgium) review their options, I'm sure they think that if the business is to survive and sustain itself, there is only one real way to go.
I've been laid off more than a few time sin my life. In my heart, I feel the pain of the folks at Delhaize America who will be getting bad news over the coming week. But the situation is dire, and options, apparently, are limited.