Driving focused business outcome across geographically dispersed teams An external adversity is repeatedly impacting business across the country. How can the organization change its reaction and prevent it from becoming an accepted norm?
The point of context lies with individuals closest to scenario at the time of impact and diminishes as one moves away.
Facilitating individuals close to context with tools for self-creation and collaboration enhances their ability to execute on relevant solutions.
Visibility and communication of peer progress and performance drives engagement and adoption.
Technology that allows agile evolution of your initiatives with changing context keeps organizations contemporary.
An external adversity is repeatedly impacting business across the country. How can the organization change its reaction and prevent it from becoming an accepted norm?
You have an idea!
A brilliant idea that has the potential to cause a significant impact on business. However, if you are like most people, you are probably unable to get it off the ground for lack of resources and support and in all likelihood your idea will never see the light of the day. A common fate a majority of ideas meet.
This is a story of an empowered and action-oriented team that went on to achieve objectives through engaged execution of a simple but powerful idea.
Van Heusen, a Wooqer customer, is a 22-year-old premium lifestyle apparel brand with 125 consignment stores spread over 65 cities across India. Thisbrand has a rich heritage with innovations like bringing collars to shirts, ambassadors like Ronald Reagan and responsibilities like being official clothiers for the Buckingham Palace. In India, the Brand is managed by Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.
Being a Brand with a predominantly male customer base, Van Heusen couldn’t stay unaffected by the cricket craze prevalent across the nation every cricket season.With IPL starting in the year 2008, the cricket fever started getting bigger. However, with each passing year, walk-ins at retail stores fell during the IPL season as more and more customers chose to spend their evenings watching cricket, leaving malls and stores deserted. The lower walk-ins have been impacting sales leaving store staff de-motivated as they find it more and more difficult to achieve sales targets. The low sentiment led to an even bigger impact on overall sales achievement.
The crisis team, led by the Learning Manager came up with an idea, deciding to take on this challenge and do something about it.
While walk-ins were beyond their control, the team decided to do something to keep the employees in high spirits during the IPL season and not allow the negative sentiment to impact the sales. With a belief that more could be done with available walk-ins, the team set out to put a plan together to get the group motivated and engaged throughout the IPL season through sheer will to achieve.
What emerged is the possibility of converting adversity into opportunity as IPL itself became a theme to engage and motivate the team.
A small cricket contest during the year 2009 for nine stores in Mumbai, albeit, in a non-cricket season had shown that the employees were as cricket crazed as customers and both sales and engagement levels shot sharply when wickets and runs became the lingo. However, the effort required to accomplish the objectives was a deterrent for an initiative to be taken to a higher scale. With Wooqer now available as a common platform for communication and engagement with the entire network, a “Van Heusen Premier League” involving all the stores seemed feasible.
The Van Heusen Premier League is a story of a simple idea made extraordinary due to appropriate and engaged execution.
It all started with the Learning Manager dividing stores into regional teams and asking each team to choose its own name and war cry. Logos were designed for each team with the help of an employee having an artistic inclination. The regional managers captained teams and each department head at the head office was appointed as coach to a region that s/he had past ties with.
The contest was kick-started with a video announcement and a news headline on Wooqer to ensure visibility for the entire network. Each day four teams played against each other for the highest target achievement and also got points, or runs for crossing certain benchmarks. In true cricket spirit, there was a man of the match each day and a regional song was dedicated to the winning team and shared with all the teams. (A Kannada song for the day Bangalore wins and a Tamil song for the day Chennai wins).
The coaches were requested to coach and motivate their teams on the morning of each match and the area managers led their teams on the day of the match.
Understanding the Execution
What is really great about the idea of a Van Heusen Premier League is its simplicity and relevance to the audience, as well as the potential to convert an imminent threat into a viable opportunity. It resonates with the culture of the audience making acceptability a non- issue.
To achieve outcomes from the initiative, belief and contribution of the most influential team members was needed. With buy-in from the retail director and retail operations head, the idea could actually receive enough attention and bandwidth to get nurtured and thus executed.
The most commonly observed scenario across organizations is a lot of ideas getting generated with discussions just brief enough to get attention, intrigue and sustain interest, but too short to plan the execution, onus and outcome of the whole thing.In this case, however, action started immediately and against a robust end-to-end plan much before the event.
Announcements on the Wooqer website Home page started before the event to get the team engaged and warmed up to the idea.
The whole initiative was designed to be simple. Stores competed with each other on overall sales achievements to score runs. Stores played matches on days when their counterpart IPL teams played matches.
The launch happened with the entire team getting announcements through a start-off video showcased on the Wooqer Retrospective with a commentary along the lines of a cricket commentary and a news bulletin along the lines of a newspaper front page showing on the Wooqer Home page. Wooqer notifications through all convenient media including SMS ensured that the communication immediately reached the entire audience.
Every single store was aware and engaged by the time the initiative went live.
Disciplined and rich communication was the true key to the sustenance and success of this initiative.
Communication involved messages being sent across the network and even videos from stores on how they were preparing for each match shared across the Wooqer network, leading to creation of excited ranks.
Scores were published to all through the Wooqer Home page every single day to build up and sustain engagement levels.
Stories from across the network were shared with all talking about all the big and small successes being achieved all across the country.
Visibility led to IPL conversations getting replaced with VPL conversations not only at the headquarters and stores, but also at the homes of the participants.
It took serious discipline to continue and maintain communication leading to a buzz around the initiative over almost two months. Despite all odds, the score was published every single day and stories from across the network were shared with all, getting the entire network get more and more sucked into the progress of the initiative.
Without this discipline of communicating, the initiative would have probably met a completely different fate.
The flexibility to change and a constant state of evolution also characterized the initiative. What was working was built upon and what was not working was dropped along the way. With no costs that needed to be justified, or incurred on account of change, evolution was real easy.
Sharing of videos and stories from across the network was found to be working as it was igniting everyone and was built upon with the number of shared stories going to as much as 100 on a day. Regional songs played at the end of each day were found to be unfulfilling of any objective and were dropped along the way.
The excited involvement of regional managers resulted in them truly leading their teams towards better outcomes and commensurate incentivization leading to stronger engagement for all.
One of the things that really worked in the Van Heusen Premier League was the fact that the outcome being driven was a core objective for every single participant. With the VPL enhancing focus on each individual’s core KPI there was no distraction caused and the outcome got 100 percent focus from all.
The Van Heusen Premier League event helped the organization achieve three key outcomes:
Sales: A 10 percent increase in average basket size for the period, and the achievement of the highest basket size in nearly 27 months, was the single biggest revenue impact.
Engagement: The level of engagement and involvement of the entire frontline was beyond anything that the Brand had seen in the past with every single employee working towards making his/her team win. The regional managers covered up for missing sales staff at stores to help their teams achieve targets.
People did not take offs in order to not miss a match. Stories of individual success were proudly shared by all and encouraged by peers from other regions leading to bonds getting built. Stores stretched the extra mile with whatever they could do to contribute to the region’s success. Stories of heroic efforts were created every single day.
Attrition: Attrition rate at the stores fell by 50 percent over the two months that the initiative lasted, with a lot more people opting to stay back despite all other factors remaining constant. It would be interesting to see how the trend continues post the initiative.
The lessons learnt from this initiative lead to a few points worth consideration:
- How can an organization identify initiative takers and how can it equip and empower them to move from ideation towards execution?
- Under what scenarios do groups perform better than the individualsin an organizational context?
- What role can technology play in supporting management of geographically spread teams?
- Can communication define the success or failure of an initiative?
It is important for business leaders to understand the people @ point of context and provide them with enabling toolsets.
This article has been authored by the Research Desk at “Wooqer”, a Bangalore-based technology platform facilitating democratization of content creation and analytics by helping organizations create their own Private Internets.