Leadership Lessons From the Unusual Story of Market Basket

An Uplifting Corporate Story

We often read stories about corporate greed, about slimy executives, about profits at the expense of people. These stories grab headlines because they hit a nerve and fuel anger. I have never read a story quite like We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business where employees and customers joined together to demand the return of a fired CEO.

The story may be unique, but it offers powerful lessons and insight into the changing nature of how we view corporations and what we expect as employees.

I recently spoke with the authors, Daniel Korschun and Grant Welker, about this story.

 

Loyalty is Demonstrated Every Day

This story has so many powerful lessons. One of those is about loyalty. What does the We Are Market Basket teach us about loyalty?

Arthur T. and much of the senior management team have been extraordinarily successful at engendering loyalty. But loyalty at this company tends to be viewed as a two-way street. Employees – they call themselves associates – we speak with tell us that they feel loyal to the company and top management because they feel a loyalty to them from that top management. So what we see at Market Basket is people who are reaffirming their commitment to each other over time. The result is these very strong bonds we see. The lesson for managers is that you can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself. You’re not going to gain loyalty just by changing the pay or the job responsibilities; it’s something that has to be demonstrated every day.

 

“You can’t expect loyalty without making a sacrifice yourself.”

 

A Respect for Others

Why did Arthur T. inspire such passion and loyalty?

Arthur T. is beloved as the CEO largely because he gives all associates, customers, and vendors respect. He says explicitly that no one person is special at the company, and from what we’ve seen he walks the walk.

But it’s also important to point out his place in the protest. Bringing back Arthur T. was the central demand of protesters, but in our view, they were fighting to save the company’s culture. Reinstating Arthur T. became the critical step in making sure that this New England institution continued to serve those who have known it for years, and sometimes for generations.

Market Basket 

A Lesson for Boards and Corporate Leaders

What does the Market Basket experience teach boards of directors?

Most business schools today teach that the fiduciary responsibility of directors is to look after the interests of shareholders. However, this idea is simply not supported by the corporate code in Massachusetts and many other states. The code states explicitly that the board is to be a steward of the corporation, which includes customers, employees, shareholders, and others. We need to hold our boards to this higher standard.

Leadership lesson: A corporation’s duties extend beyond shareholders to the broader community.

 

A Commitment to the Community

How to Transform Your Business With Program Management

Running a successful corporate program will call on almost every leadership principle you can imagine. From defining the problem to measuring success, leaders emerge through the process. In fact, I personally promoted a leader based on the leadership traits I witnessed during such a change project.

Satish Subramanian is a Principal at M Squared Consulting, a SolomonEdwards company. He has over 25 years of experience in technology consulting and advises companies on business transformation. His new book, Transforming Business with Program Management provides the necessary steps to ensure solid program management. I recently asked him about his work.

 

“Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.” -C. Fitchner

 

Success Starts Upfront 

“Success starts upfront” is all about problem definition.  I have seen this numerous times in organizations. One of the most egregious examples was when it was clear the group was working on two very different problems.  Neither side even realized it until months into it.  Why is defining the problem so important?  Would you share an example from your work?

The problem definition step is a critical one in the early stages of the business transformation journey.  This step ensures the problem is well understood and agreed upon by stakeholders prior to expending significant organizational resources for a long period to solve it. It positions the transformational change program for success, facilitates the delivery of agreed strategic objectives, and realizes the transformational vision.

One example is that of a well-known biotech company that outsourced its finance, accounting, and payroll functions to an off-shore location as part of a strategic initiative to reduce cost.  In hindsight, the organization realized it should have redesigned the business processes to overcome significant process gaps and then consider outsourcing. The inadequate upfront definition of the problem resulted in the goal of cost reduction not getting met in the designated time frames.

 

“No matter how good the team, if we’re not solving the right problem, the project fails.” –Woody Williams

 

What’s your definition of program management?

Program management is the alignment and integration of multiple dimensions (strategy, people, process, technology, structure, and measurement) to execute organization transformation strategies, deliver the transformed future state, and achieve the desired business outcomes.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -Larry Elder

 

Would you share the program management life cycle phases?

Program management life cycle is the four-phase approach to drive a business transformation program from start to finish.  This life cycle enables and sustains business transformation by articulating vision, developing an integrated transformation program plan, driving the plan, removing execution barriers, delivering planned business outcomes, and realizing business benefits.  The illustration highlights the four phases and the eight processes that constitute the program management life cycle.

The four phases are:

  • Phase One – Set the stage
  • Phase Two – Decide what to do
  • Phase Three – Make it happen
  • Phase Four – Make it stick

 

Copyright 2015 by Satish P Subramanian Copyright 2015 by Satish P Subramanian; Used by Permission

 

5 Leadership Traits for High Performance

This is a guest post by Eric Lowitt. Eric is the author of The Collaboration Economy and an advisor to entrepreneurial CEOs worldwide. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Want to Lead Your Company to High Performance? Change How You Lead.

Growing up in the 1980s, I viewed Jack Welch as a model of the ideal CEO.  Tough minded, wildly successful, and more than a touch human, Welch provided inspiration for millions looking to go from rags to riches.  While Jack Welch the man deserves to be revered, his most often cited management mantras require a second look.  Here’s why and what your company should do instead.

Be number one or number two in your market, or exit the business.

Fire the employees in the bottom ten percent of performance every year.

The CEO mandate is to maximize shareholder value.

These three management principles were the core of GE’s management system two decades ago.  A massive number of books were written on GE management practices; hundreds of thousands of business students studied to emulate Welch and his business actions.

The opportunity to connect around a shared purpose is needed more than ever.

Times have changed.  For companies to access resources – environmental and human – they need to provide significant value to the local communities from where these resources come. As a result, companies are no longer able to control their corporate destinies.  Now they must work with these local communities and other stakeholders to access the resources they need to prosper in perpetuity.

So what are the leadership traits these companies’ executives – and any entrepreneur interested in growing her company – need to embrace to outperform their competition today, tomorrow, and in the coming decades?

  1. Seeing your leadership position as a privilege, not a right
  2. Serving as activist-in-chief for your constituents
  3. Operating in a time frame longer than tenure
  4. Believing in and relying on partnerships
  5. Feeding constructive discontent

Seeing your leadership position as a privilege, not a right

Twenty-first-century CEOs are keenly aware that their role comes with great responsibility. Rather than view their remit as “maximize shareholder value,” they realize that it is to serve their stakeholders’ best interests.  As John Replogle, CEO of consumer goods company Seventh Generation explained,

The difference [between CEOs operating with twentieth- versus twenty-first-century mind-sets] starts with how we view our position. Understanding how you view your position as CEO informs where you put your emphasis. I approach my role as CEO as one of privilege, responsibility, and stewardship.

While some CEOs emphasize the creation of shareholder value, my view leads me to emphasize actions and investments that further Seventh Generation’s mission.

Serving as activist-in-chief for your constituents