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Martini U.

Kevin O'Gorman

October 21, 2020 at 10:50:47 PM

It is rare for us to build a company strategy around a martini. Yet our first meeting with the senior team of a rapidly expanding national retailer stirred us. (Olive the rest of the puns to you).

The senior team had grave concerns about the erosion of the company’s differentiator: customer service. It appeared that as the company’s growth exploded, the founder’s message – which used to take years to instill -- was not carrying across time and space. They were unable to grasp the essence of what had changed.

As we listened, our eyes wandered to the company’s organization chart – a narrow, upside-down pyramid. Almost offhandedly, we observed that the pyramid had become a martini glass. The room fell quiet; we drew a breath and counted silently. Perhaps we had toyed too eagerly with a cherished symbol. After a few nods and murmurs, an animated discussion began about the challenges of growth. They realized the dilution of their culture as they grew rapidly could undermine the core of their strategy and brand.

The senior team took several steps to mitigate this risk. We worked with the executive team to update and refine their strategy by enlarging their input and involvement with the edges of their growth. They conducted a review of VP level executives for strong servant leadership. They reassessed the unexpected diversity of talent, expectations of customer service, and operational challenges as they moved beyond the comforts of their regional assumptions. They shed old assumptions and generated new approaches for changing circumstances.

A new regional appraisal strategy created customized versions of their culture. We co-led the company’s curriculum design effort for a new, internal university. We also secured a government grant of several million dollars to fund the university and to save 1,700 at-risk jobs in a changing climate.

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