Quality Thinking Under Pressure
We live and work in a hectic environment. We are experiencing profound change in world affairs, in our country’s politics and government and within our industry. Ashwin Prasad at Tesco commented to The Grocer recently that “it’s never been as busy and difficult, ever.” That will strike a chord with many readers.
This rapid change and the strategic challenges that it brings, requires quality thinking from us all, in response. So as the world around us becomes more and more dizzying, what practical things can we do, to ensure that we continue to think well about our responses?
First, reduce committee style meetings. It is shocking the number of times we see good people weighed down by diaries jammed with meetings. Lockdown and Teams have not helped. With the best will in the world, energy levels and inspiration are drained as people bounce from one meeting to the next without respite. Diary discipline and finding the confidence to say no to meetings, is critical.
Second, create the right environments for thinking. Steve Jobs was said to conduct most of his important meetings walking around the hills of California. Each individual will have their own environments in which they think best, but it is unlikely to be a cramped room without natural light or sitting in the spare bedroom staring at a wall. And it won’t feature a tense or even threatening atmosphere. Getting environment and mood right is key.
Third, seek different perspectives. We can all find ourselves too close to issues and questions in our work. Sometimes it seems impossible to see the big picture behind the detail. Talking to the right people can help. Talking to customers as people (not poring over customer satisfaction numbers, important as they are). Talking to staff as people. Or consulting friends or family who are not as close to the issues. Someone with a bit of distance can help generate ideas and answers you otherwise can’t see for “snow blindness.”
Finally, prize and reward simplicity. The hardest thing in our industry is to keep it simple. For example, the recent £3 offer of “curry and a beer” in Sainsbury’s Local. The temptation to complicate the mechanics of the offer (what about Poppadums?) or to be flowery with the marketing language would be huge. Everyone is striving to add value but in doing so, they often just add complication. The best, most successful people in our industry are brilliant at keeping things simple.
The pace of change is unlikely to slow. So we need to be deliberate about how we set ourselves up to do quality thinking in response.
Jeremy Garlick is a Partner of Insight Traction, consulting with FMCG and Retail companies. He was formerly Head of Insight at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Premier Foods.