The Retail Management Formula: A Navigational Guide To Consistently Effective Retail management by Jon Dario Last annotated on January 29, 2016
- The Uniqueness of Retail Management
Retail corporate strategy is only as good as the implementation of that strategy on the front lines.
- The key to effectiveness
The point is that being the absolute best at one skill, even one of the skills that is most closely tied to maximum earnings, was not nearly as effective as being solid in all three of the critical skills. Retail managers who are consistently good at all the most important skills will outperform managers who are great, maybe even superior, at just one or two of the most important skills.
Effective Retail Mngmnt = (Clear vision of targeted expectations + Mngmt steps used + Mngr’s use of time) X Mngr’s character
A manager who has a clear vision of the expectations she is managing to, uses a planned and consistent series of steps to communicate, train, and enforce those expectations, and plans and uses her time well will achieve the highest levels of execution from the team. The effectiveness of those skills will be magnified (or reduced) by the personal values and characteristics of the manager.
- Retail Management Pyramid: Organizing the expectations
By having clear expectations and priorities, a manager achieves two important things. First, the manager’s team members know what is expected of them and can adapt their actions and behaviors accordingly. Second, the manager has a guide for how she should spend time in her store or stores and what actions she needs to take in order to improve her business.
The practical theory behind the Pyramid is that the items at the bottom are the ones that are most critical to the successful operation of the business. The first step to creating a Pyramid is to list all the tactics and expectations that are targeted for the business. It’s important to be comprehensive in this initial listing. At this point, do not worry about putting the list into any sort of order. Most retail situations will work well by grouping the list into the categories of “Business Basics,” “Customer Interactions,” and “Advanced Business Development.” Now we must prioritize the individual items within each of the three categories.
The point is that in building a Pyramid, it is critical to go through the right process and truly identify the things that are most important to your specific business.
1. It serves as a communication tool to the entire team by telling them exactly what is expected and how the expectations rank in terms of priority order.
2. It becomes the manager’s guide for what he does when visiting a store and the manager’s guide for how he prioritizes time and efforts.
3. It becomes senior management’s tool for assessing the quality of implementation in the store, and therefore for assessing the effectiveness of the manager.
The next step we need to take is to list all the separate, detailed expectations that exist within each box of the Pyramid. If there is the possibility of legitimate debate over whether a particular expectation has been met or not, it probably means that the expectation needs to be more objectively written. The full list of expectations should be kept to one single-sided piece of paper. An important benefit of doing so is that anything longer will be hard for members of the team to absorb and remember. We must add a section for “Previous Action Plan Items.”
it will be very supportive to pull together in one place all documentation, including training materials, process charts, tracking tools, and so forth, for each expectation on the list. Give the Pyramid, the one-page expectation list, and the support kit (or link to the support kit) to the entire team, and they will have a wonderful road map to successful implementation. there must be some way to use the Pyramid to evaluate performance of the team and to evaluate the store against the expectations that have been established. The best way to do this is to assign point values to the expectations on the Pyramid. It is not necessary for every Pyramid box to have a different number of points. For example, there might be several boxes worth ten points each. Most Pyramid boxes should receive a range of point values to reflect a range of possible performance levels. There are likely to be some boxes that are not worthy of receiving “great” credit. For example, there may be no discernible difference between “solid” staff scheduling and “great” staff scheduling. In these cases, simply leave off the highest point value. Regardless of nuances of allocating the points, the net result should be that every store can be scored by the manager, and every store visit by senior management can be scored the same way.
The use of an objective evaluative tool such as the one we have created will enable senior leaders or managers themselves to quantify their performance in a tangible way other than by only looking at sales results. Another option is to use “red,” “yellow,” and “green” to represent “unacceptable,” “marginal,” and “satisfactory” levels of performance on each section of the Pyramid. There are some legitimate reasons why a manager’s process of “doing the Pyramid” might get interrupted. managers must constantly go through all boxes of the Pyramid again and again. the manager repeatedly walks a figure eight around the store. While walking, the manager continuously scans for each element of the Pyramid, thinking about them in the order that they appear on the Pyramid. managers must exercise judgment in the amount of time they dedicate to each part of the Pyramid as they do their figure eights or store visits. This concept can be visually represented on our Pyramid diagram by assuming that the height of the Pyramid boxes represents the amount of time to be spent on each box. although time might be reduced because of a good track record of performance, no item in the Pyramid can ever be completely ignored and passed over.
Actions will fall into one of the following three buckets:
1. Just fix it now: This is for actions that are so small they require little time and effort (such as a sign that is out of place) or actions so important they cannot be delayed at all
2. Fix it later: This is for actions that will require a bit more time or effort but are not so complex as to require extensive planning.
3. Action plan: This is for actions that do require more extensive thought and planning.
Steps to Creating a Retail Management Pyramid
1. Make a list of all important business tactics:
a. Be comprehensive—do not leave out any important expectations.
2. Sort the items in the list into one of three categories:
a. Most fundamental tactics—“Business Basics.”
b. More complex, high impact tactics—“Customer Interactions.”
c. Most complex or lower impact tactics—“Advanced Business Development.”
3. Prioritize the items within each of the three categories.
4. Check the logic of the Pyramid.
5. List the very specific and detailed expectations that are associated with each tactic in the Pyramid:
a. Be objective—each expectation should be able to be evaluated with a yes or no answer.
b. The entire list should be limited to one page.
c. Add “Previous Action Items” to the list.
6. Create a packet of support materials to go along with all the tactics and expectations in the Pyramid.
7. Assign point values to each tactic in the Pyramid: a. Assign a potential range to each tactic to represent scores for “great,” “solid,” “marginal,” and “unacceptable” performances.
8. Begin “going through the Pyramid” on each store visit.
9. List action items based on gaps versus expectations that are identified while going through the Pyramid:
a. Fix it now.
b. Fix it later.
c. Action plan.
4. Retail Management Process: Idea to Implementation
We need to ensure that the initial message is not only communicated but also understood and retained. Then we need to ensure that the recipients of the message are motivated to implement it on their own, and we need to ensure that they are properly taught how to implement it. This requires a whole process, not just a single communication.
communicate it in a number of ways. The most comprehensive communication will be delivered verbally to the group, followed up with a written message, and then followed up again with a one-on-one conversation with each associate.
Just because a manager has gotten a message across effectively does not mean that every associate has “bought into” the message.
Retail is about creating habits. The more effort it takes for them to remember what they have to do, the less likely it is that they will do it, regardless of their desire or intentions.
1. Most associates want to do the right thing. It’s human nature for people to want to succeed.
2. If associates are consistently failing to implement expected behaviors, it is the manager’s fault, not the associates’ fault.
The Retail Management Process consists of the following steps:
Step 1 Communicate the expectations.
Step 2 Gain commitment.
Step 3 Practice, practice, practice.
Step 4 Observe, diagnose, coach.
Step 5 Inspect and track progress.
Step 6 Apply consequences.
Step 1: Communicate the Expectations
In order to satisfy the retention style of every member of the team, expectations should be communicated at least two times in two different ways. There must be a general communication to the entire team so that every associate receives exactly the same message. Then there must be a one-on-one follow-up with each associate. the team is more likely to follow the manager’s actions than the words, so it’s possible that the real message being heard is exactly the opposite of the intended message.
Step 2: Gain Commitment
It is one thing for associates to hear and understand a message and quite another for them to buy into the message and be committed to implementing it. The first key to gaining commitment from associates is to explain why the expected behavior is important. This explanation of “why” is most powerful when it can be communicated as a “win” for all parties. simply ask associates how they feel about the expectation. When asked, most associates who have not bought in will give indication of their lack of commitment.
Step 3: Practice, Practice, Practice
Every new skill requires practice in order to be perfected. Usually, the best approach is to progress from practice in a completely safe environment to practice in a real-life environment. The ideal involvement of a manager in a retail environment is in the form of role-plays with associates who are learning new skills. If there is one big downside of using this incremental coaching process (which I commonly call “coaching in bits”), it is that it can take quite a bit longer than simply doing one run-through and giving a comprehensive list of things to correct. But if you measure time as how long it takes to help
Step 4: Observe, Diagnose, Coach
If a manager observes an associate successfully performing the new skill several times with several different customers, it is safe for the manager to expect the associate to perform that skill with all or most customers from that point forward. The manager can at that time certify the associate as “trained.” The objective should be to have this after-the-interaction coaching look and feel as much like the coaching received during practice as possible. The most important point about the above scenario is that if performance gaps are identified in the observe, diagnose, coach phase, the managers do not leap forward in the Retail Management Process toward consequences, but instead revert backward under the assumption that they didn’t do one of the first three steps effectively. Even after associates are certified as “trained” on a skill, it doesn’t mean they are finished learning about that skill, and it doesn’t mean that they will automatically perform that skill satisfactorily forever after.
Step 5: I Inspect and Track Progress
The tracking step is divided into two distinct but equally important elements—tracking employee progress through the Management Process and tracking progress toward the end goal of the Management Process. Instead of entering a single check mark, we are going to enter three marks, each of which represents a different step in the Management Process. When a manager clearly communicates the expectation to an associate and has confirmed that the associate buys into the expectation, she will enter a slash in the appropriate box. When the manager has observed the associate perform the behavior successfully several times in a practice environment, she will enter a backslash in the appropriate box (which, along with the first slash, will form an X in the box).
When the manager observes the associate perform the expected behavior successfully several times in a live environment, she will enter an O in the appropriate box, encircling the X already there. An employee is not “trained” until they have received “Circle X Status.” Rewards can be given to associates for achieving “Circle X Status” on initiatives within a certain time frame, and failure to sustain expected performance after achieving “Circle X Status” can be cause for disciplinary action. it’s equally important to also track the associates’ progress toward the goal when the manager isn’t directly observing or even present. As associates get better and better with their implementation It is important to communicate results to associates. A highly effective method for communicating individual results is through publicly posted regular ranking charts. Such charts are most effective when all associates are listed and the list is sorted with top performers shown at the top of the chart and bottom performers at the bottom of the chart.
Step 6: Apply Consequences
Bottom performers who see those at the top being positively rewarded will hopefully feel the desire to step it up in order to receive similar rewards. On the flip side, top performers who are not recognized and do not see that any negative consequences are applied to bottom performers may lose their motivation and allow their performance to decline. When it comes to negative consequences, the goal is not to discipline the associate. The goal is to turn around the associate’s behavior and help the associate become successful.
The Retail Management Process
Key Principle #1: Most associates want to do the right thing.
Key Principle #2: If associates are consistently failing to implement expected behaviors, it is the manager’s fault, not the associates’ fault.
1. Communicate the expectations.
2. Gain commitment.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
4. Observe, diagnose, coach.
5. Inspect and track results.
6. Apply consequences.
The Tool: Training Roster Example
- The Retail Management Food Chain: Defining Roles & optimizing time
two big problems that occur frequently in challenging retail environments. First, managers are constantly losing sight of their primary role and are doing the job of somebody in a lower position on the organization chart.
Second, managers are letting the day control them instead of controlling their own time. the manager must spend the majority of his forty-five hours per week doing activities associated with the Retail Management Process. The concept behind the Retail Management Food Chain is that the primary role of each level of management is to assess, coach, and develop the skills of the layer immediately below it on the organization chart. the effectiveness of a manager can best be judged by assessing the performance of the people he is managing. The more logical and thoughtful the manager is about those decisions, the more control she will have over their day.
There are four keys to being able to get the most out of the time available in a day:
1. Understand the categories of tasks that must be accomplished, the detailed tasks within each category, and what time of day they are best accomplished.
2. Establish routines that will streamline the administrative tasks and maximize time for management tasks.
3. Allow time for unexpected curveballs.
4. Schedule the day by blocking off and documenting time for each category of tasks.
We’ll establish three categories of tasks, and these categories should capture everything that a manager might possibly do in a day. Let’s set a target of 70 percent of the day devoted to “Management,” 10–20 percent devoted to “Administrative,” and 10–20 percent devoted to “Implementation.” Now that we know the activities we must repeatedly accomplish, we know how frequently we must accomplish them, and we know when the best time is for each activity, we are ready to build our schedule of routines. The next step is to build everything into a schedule. I learned it from somebody who worked for me rather than somebody who managed me.
The Retail Management Food Chain
In summary, the most important lessons from this chapter are the following:
1. Managers must ensure they remain in their proper role and not fall into the trap of doing the job of a position lower on the Retail Management Food Chain.
2. Each manager’s primary role is to assess, coach, and develop the skills of the employees immediately below them in the organizational chart.
3. Remember that the amount of time which a manager has available in a week is not limited to his own forty-plus hours but rather is the product of his total team’s FTE times forty hours.
There are four keys to getting the most out of the time available in a day and a week:
1. Understand the categories of tasks, the specific activities within each category, and the best time of day to complete each activity.
⚪ Administrative activities – target 10-20% of available time in the week
⚪ Management activities – target 60-70% of available time in the week
⚪ Implementation activities – target 10-20% of available time in the week
2. Establish routines by grouping like activities together and establishing set schedules.
3. Allow time in the schedule for unexpected surprises.
4. Block out the schedule in the calendar or organizational tool of choice.
- Retail Management Character
In summary, there are three important reasons that Retail Manager Character serves as a “multiplier” in the Retail Management Formula:
1. Character makes the difference between a manager simply going through the motions and truly being effective.
2. Character has direct impact on the level of engagement of the employees.
3. Character of the manager tends to be adopted by the employees.
There is no one “best” set of manager characteristics since there can be significant overlap between definitions and it is at least partially determined by organizational culture. That said, a good starting point list of manager characteristics is… • Caring • Responsible • Focused • Relentless • Farsighted • Courageous
No matter which characteristics are selected or how they are defined, it is important that they be clearly communicated so the entire organization knows which ones are most valued.
A well-understood and documented list of characteristics which are most valued by the organization can be used in many ways, including…
• As a manager self-assessment tool • As a recruiting, interviewing, and hiring guide • As a resource for providing positive and constructive feedback • As a foundation for building individual development plans • As a base for a recognition and reward program
- The Retail Store visits
Three Goals of Store Visits:
1. Objectively assess the store’s performance.
2. Make decisions and build action plans to positively impact the business in the short term.
3. Develop the manager’s and team’s skills in a way that provides positive impact over the long term.
Five Parts to Store Visits:
1. Pre-visit Preparation
a. Review relevant business reports.
b. Review past visit reports and past action plans.
c. Set agenda, timing, and context for the visit.
d. Identify any needs the manager has from the visit.
e. Obtain a pre-visit self-assessment from the manager.
2. Observation and Assessment
a. Ask specific questions rather than hypothetical ones.
b. Show me; don’t tell me.
c. Get the real scoop from the troops.
d. Be predictable.
e. Keep digging until you get to the root.
f. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
g. Do your best “Columbo” impression.
h. Be aware of the “Big Boss” effect.
i. Know when to say “when.”
3. Visit Summary
b. Obtain manager’s self-assessment of how the visit went.
c. Give a general tone for the visit:
i. Assess team’s performance relative to defined standards.
ii. Assess team’s performance relative to realistic expectations.
d. Give two to four headlines about the visit.
4. Action Plan Creation
a. Create punch-list to-do items.
b. Be specific with expectations and deadlines.
c. Build an appropriate mix of manager participation into the action plan.
d. Provide good documentation of the action plan.
e. Use the Retail Management Process.
5. Post-Visit Follow-Up
b. Monitor relevant reports for signs of impact and improvement; start doing this immediately after the visit.
c. Conduct a subsequent on-site visit; do this as soon after the action plan due date as possible.
Be sure to use a good mix of scheduled announced visits and unscheduled surprise visits.
- Conclusion: The Retail Management Formula:
Initial Implementation Plan
⚪ Read the book The Retail Management Formula
⚪ Create your Retail Management Pyramid
⚪ List all expectations and tactics.
⚪ Group expectations and tactics into just three “buckets.”
⚪ Prioritize the three groups.
⚪ Prioritize the expectations within each group.
⚪ Draw the Pyramid so it can be used as a communication tool with team members.
⚪ List all detailed expectations that relate to each box on the Pyramid (keep list to one page).
⚪ Create, assemble, or read support packet for all the items on the Pyramid.
⚪ Create a Pyramid evaluation tool with point values.
⚪ Develop expertise with the Retail Management Process
⚪ Identify a particular skill or project for which to apply the process.
⚪ Write out a complete plan for how the six steps of the Process will be used.
⚪ Carry out the plan.
⚪ Create a training roster to be used with your team going forward.
⚪ Establish your Retail Management Food Chain
⚪ Document your high-level role.
⚪ List all administrative and managerial activities that you must regularly perform.
⚪ Identify the desired or required frequency for all listed activities.
⚪ Determine the best time for you to perform each of the activities.
⚪ Turn the list of activities into routines by grouping items together.
⚪ Schedule blocks of time for routines; schedule “implementation” time.
⚪ Build a “Characteristics We Value” program
⚪ Establish the characteristics you will expect from yourself and from your team.
⚪ List specific descriptions for each of the characteristics.
⚪ Communicate the characteristics and descriptions to your team.
⚪ Create a routine for nomination and recognition of associates according to the characteristics.