Passion + Process

Scott Francis
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Great interview of Ron Johnson, the new JC Penney CEO, by Seattle Times… In it, Ron pointed out the stores he admires – Whole Foods and Starbucks, and why:
Q. Other than Apple, which stores do you admire? A. I admire lots of stores. Whole Foods is a great store. I just like their passion for food. It shows up in everything they do. It shows up in their packaging, their presentation and their employees. Starbucks. It truly has created a community. As I travel around the world, I just know that if I go to Starbucks I will have a great experience.
He’s right -Whole Foods is almost the sale of groceries art form.  Starbucks has an incredibly consistent experience.  These are two companies with a very strong process culture.  Ron focuses on the end result (the store experience), but it is deeper than that –  these companies also go deep into their supply chain and understand the origins of everything they’re selling (and then use their buying power to influence the supply chain).  When you motivate that process-focus with a passion for the product (organic food, or coffee), the results seem to be much better than passion without process, or process without passion.  It is almost impossible to tell whether process-focus led to a designed-in passion for food and coffee (to achieve the desired result) or whether passion for the food/coffee drove the focus on process in order to achieve the goal.  But the two together are a powerful tool for a big company to drive excellence. Another part got my attention:
Q. What ideals have you embraced from Steve Jobs? A. The importance of doing everything you do to your very best. And that the journey is the reward. If you do things well one at a time, you end up in a really good place. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Control the things you can.
The Apple approach to building a relationship with the customer starts with doing each of the little things really well.  Being a retailer, perhaps “each of the little things” doesn’t start with designing product, but for sure JC Penney has to be looking at design of stores, pricing, brand presentation, and customer service.  I have such a negative opinion of the JC Penney brand, that it is hard for me to imagine shopping there for any reason, for any product.  Literally, it is hard to conceive. Yet reading this interview, I’m rooting for Ron.  He gets it.  If anyone can turn this around, he can.  But I’d be more inclined to shop there if the name were changed to “Ron Johnson’s” instead of JC Penney. Getting introspective for a moment – is your organization getting better, one thing at a time?  Are you prioritizing to address the most important things first – but without forgetting about the little things?  Are you distracted by trying to do or change too many things at once? Are you marrying passion and process and following where that leads you in your business?