Etikettarkiv: förändring

What McDonald’s can teach us about recovery

Gästinlägg av Mats Lederhausen


With all the news coverage today on financial mismanagement, I can tell you from first-hand experience that there is one company that continues to prosper amid all the chaos. And I think it is worth trying to understand why.

I have spent most of my career inside McDonald’s. First, as a crew member, peeling potatoes and flipping burgers in my native Stockholm, Sweden; then, as most McDonald’s executives, advancing through the ranks and learning the tricks of the trade through marketing, training, HR and operations. After nearly 10 years at the helm of the Swedish operations, I moved to the U.S. to assume the role of chief strategy officer.

This was a time when McDonald’s was facing its toughest headwind in the history of the company. Some of it was self-inflicted; some of it was just evolutionary. Most institutions die young, as they fail to reinvent themselves.

As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Darwin, it is important to remind ourselves that only the most adaptable species indeed survive. So it didn’t come as a real surprise that after decades of unsurpassed growth rates, even McDonald’s would stall. It happens to almost everyone. But as I studied the corporate history books, I realized that the rather short list of companies that had reinvented themselves was intimidating and certainly humbling.

At McDonald’s, we tried many things. Some might say, too many things. But at least we tried them with a sincere intention to find our “inner voice” again.

The job as chief strategist in times of rediscovery is closer to “corporate psychiatrist/philosopher” than traditional strategist. Your tools are less about spreadsheets and data and more about introspection and deep discovery. If you once were successful, chances are that somewhere in the past are also the building blocks of your future. Your job is to find whatever it was that connected you to your audience in the past and then to adjust it to be more relevant in today’s marketplace — without losing its essential connectivity.

Fortunately, there were many people wanting us to succeed. But there were also many, often loud, voices that couldn’t wait to see us fail. Perhaps, they inspired us to try harder. Few things motivate us as much as proving the cynics wrong.

What emerged out of years of hard work were two important insights. Both are simple and powerful.

The first was that there was really nothing wrong with the original premise of our business model. As our chief marketing officer at the time, Larry Light, said: “The time we need a new business model is when we believe that our customers no longer ‘Deserve a Break Today’.” Clearly, in today’s time-starved landscape, this was not the case.

The second insight was that we had confused size with success. Over time, we started to believe that one more restaurant meant “job well done.” And sooner rather than later, all our metrics, all of our incentives and all of our capital were chasing growth — the bad form of growth: growth from quantity, not quality.

As we dug in, we realized that growth must be “deserved” in order to be sustainable. As long as you are getting better, it is good to get bigger. But if you are buying size, particularly at the cost of quality, then you are on a slippery and ultimately unsustainable slope.

In 2003, we launched our new strategy, “Growth from being better.” We aligned the entire company around this very simple idea. Human and financial resources were now being directed at truly improving, not just increasing, their activities.

The rest is really history. The turnaround of McDonald’s has been a remarkable one. To many observers, it was a bit of a surprise. To others, perhaps their own worst nightmare.

To me, it has been a labor of love for a few reasons. First, McDonald’s is an important company. Its success matters to so many — particularly the hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of people who get their first job there and who learn critical skills for life. Secondly, McDonald’s is a decentralized company. It is really a system of companies — thousands of them. Most of them are small entrepreneurs who have invested their savings in a dream to be in business for themselves, but not by themselves. And finally, McDonald’s restaurants serve almost 60 million daily breaks of great value. People depend on getting food served fast. Food they can trust, and food they can afford. What’s even better, McDonald’s is committed to offering more and more healthier choices on its menu and has made significant changes to its line up of “better-for-you” choices in the past few years.

I believe there are important lessons that can be learned from the remarkable turnaround at McDonald’s.

1. How you grow matters as much as that you grow.
Our financial services industry would have benefitted from a focus on “growth by quality, not by quantity”. Clearly, the “growth at any cost” credo of some led to exactly that: any cost.

2. Changing your business model may not be needed, but belief in it is.
Start by asking yourself what business you are in and whether customers still have a need for it. If they do, commit to it — fully. At McDonald’s, we knew that people still “deserved a break today” and they were willing to let go of all other initiatives (many of them very exciting) in order to demonstrate unwavering commitment to the core business.

3. None of us is as good as all of us. It’s the system, stupid!
Large businesses, the financial system and the government are all complex systems. They are not top-down. They are colorful and integrated tapestries spun together by cultural, geographical, ethnic and historical threads. Understanding that you are leading a system, not a company or a person, is a critical insight if you want to successfully change something large. McDonald’s is extremely good at this. To some people (me included), it is a frustrating process. It takes time. It requires buy-in and plenty of patience and tolerance from everyone. It also requires adequate policing, oversight and incredibly detailed measurement systems. This is tedious work, and intimidating to those being measured. But it’s needed.

Large systems work best with a hard-wired operating system in the hub that enables innovation, entrepreneurship and decision-making in the nodes. The Internet would not have happened without HTML. The U.S. would not have prospered without the Constitution. But it is worth all the pain. And it must start with the humility that you are in the service of something larger than your own institution. As we say at BE-CAUSE — the company I founded — a purpose bigger than your product.

4. Plan your work, and work your plan.
At McDonald’s we created a “plan to win.” Some would argue that it wasn’t perfect. Perhaps it wasn’t, but we decided that it was. And we haven’t looked back. Even through tragic circumstances — losing two CEOs in less than one year due to tragic deaths — the plan stayed intact and is still central today to the focus and alignment of the organization.

So often, companies feel a need to change something for the sake of changing it. I say, “If it works, don’t change it.”


This post was originally published at LRN’s Hows Matter.

Är du räv eller igelkott?

Favorit i Repris 8 | Ursprungligen publicerad den 10 juni 2009


Räven behärskar många saker, men igelkotten behärskar en stor sak.

Det här citatet är hämtat från en vers av den grekiske poeten Archilochos, och är grundtesen i Isaiah Berlins essä ”The Hedgehog and the Fox”. Berlin menar att alla människor är antingen Rävar eller Igelkottar. Jag menar att samma gäller alla företag (och varumärken).

Isaiah Berlins essä kan sammanfattas så här;

Räven är ett listigt djur som kan hitta på en myriad komplexa strategier för att jaga Igelkotten. Dag ut och dag in smyger den kring Igelkottens bo, i väntan på det perfekta anfallsögonblicket. Rävens attribut – snabbhet, smidighet, rörlighet och intelligens – gör den till den självklare vinnaren. Igelkotten, däremot, är en sjaskig liten varelse som ser ut som en genetisk cocktail. Den vaggar fram genom sitt enkla liv, oftast sökandes efter lunch eller pysslandes med sitt bo.

Räven väntar tyst bakom en sten nära Igelkottens morgonrunda. Igelkotten, djupt försjunken i sina egna tankar, anar inget och går rakt in i fällan. ”Ha! Nu har jag dig!” tänker Räven. Han hoppar fram och rusar mot Igelkotten med blixtens hastighet. Den lille Igelkotten, som nu känner faran, ser upp mot Räven och tänker: ”Jaha. Så var det dags igen. Lär han sig aldrig?”. Igelkotten kurar ihop sig till en perfekt liten boll och spänner ut sina vassa taggar åt alla håll. Räven, som bara är ett halvt kliv från Igelkotten, uppfattar i sista ögonblicket faran, och avbryter sitt anfall. Men redan under reträtten tillbaka till sin lya börjar Räven smida på en ny anfallsplan.

Och så här håller det på, dag ut och dag in. Slaget mellan Räven och Igelkotten upprepas om och om igen, och trots att Räven är det listigare djuret vinner Igelkotten varje gång.

Isaiah Berlin använde den här fabeln för att dela in människor i två gruppar: Rävar och Igelkottar.

Rävar strävar efter många mål samtidigt, och ser världen i all dess komplexitet. De är ”splittrade och utspridda och rör sig på många plan samtidigt”, enligt Isaiah Berlin, och de integrerar aldrig sitt tänkande till ett övergripande koncept – en förenande vision.

Igelkottar strävar istället efter att förenkla en komplex värld till en enda idé – en grundprincip eller ett koncept som förenar och vägleder allt. Det spelar ingen roll hur komplex världen är, Igelkottar reducerar alla utmaningar och problem till enkla – nästan alltför förenklade – idéer. Och allt som på något sätt inte går att relatera till Igelkottsidén saknar relevans.

Princetonprofessorn Marvin Bressler har exemplifierat Isaiah Berlins tes:

Vet du vad som skiljer de människor som har haft störst inverkan på mänsklighetens utveckling från alla andra som var precis lika smarta? De var Igelkottar. Freud och det omedvetna. Darwin och det naturliga urvalet. Marx och klasskampen. Einstein och relativiteten. De förenklade en komplex värld.

Och samtidens Rävar stod vid sidan om och konstaterade: ”Bra idé, men du tog den för långt.”

Samma princip gäller alltså även företag och varumärken. Organisationer som innerligt och passionerat delar ett syfte, och som har en insikt i vad de kan bli bäst i världen på – och vad de inte kan bli bäst på – har också insett att de inte kan vara allt för alla. Dessa företag vet, kort sagt, vad deras fokus är – de har identifierat en Igelkottsidé.

Jim Collins, som bl.a. skrivit boken GOOD TO GREAT: Hur vanliga företag tar språnget till mästarklass, använder Isaiah Berlins tes som kärna i sina teorier kring varför vissa företag lyckas medan andra inte gör det. Baserat på mycket omfattande forskning konstaterar han bl.a. att i tider av snabba förändringar, är fokus på en tydlig igelkottsidé mer viktigt än någonsin:

In this era of dramatic change, we’re hit from all sides with lopsided perspectives that urge us to hold nothing sacred, to “re-engineer” and dynamite everything, to fight chaos with chaos, to battle a crazy world with total, unfettered craziness. Everybody knows that the transformations facing us — social, political, technological, economic — render obsolete the lessons of the past. Well, I submit that “everybody” is wrong. The real question is, what is the proper response to change? We certainly need new and improved business practices and organizational forms, but in a turbulent era like ours, attention to timeless fundamentals is even more important than it is in stable times.

Eller som positioneringens fader Al Ries uttryckt det:

In everything from campaigns for peanuts to campaigns for presidents, focus wins.

Avslutningsvis: Låt mig få klargöra att Igelkottar på intet sätt är dumma, om nu någon skulle tro det. Tvärt om. Igelkottar förstår att den viktigaste och djupaste insikten är enkelhet. Igelkottar ser vad som är viktigt, alltså det som faktiskt betyder något, och struntar i resten. Och det är alltså den insikten som gör Igelkottar till vinnare.

Vad är ditt företag, Räv eller Igelkott?