Poor WW & Coles – Hard Frustrating Unsatisfying!

Spare a moment of sympathy for executives, senior management, C-suite leaders and directors of Woolworths and Coles.

Yes, they get paid well but at what cost?

For decades they have suffered in absence of the wisdom of the ages, best summarized by legendary strategist, Sun Tzu, who said…

“Tactics without strategy is the noise you make before defeat.”

Few people at either Coles or Woollies know what strategy is; many perceive tactics to be strategies.

A flotilla of strategy-qualified executives having spun through the revolving doors of Coles and Woolworths employment, and gone again; in frustration, meeting for coffee after retrenchment, echoing the words of those who have gone before, “It’s getting worse!”

You can only be sympathetic.

The conundrum is that everyone in-charge at both companies are operational A1 players. They know their business. They understand their operations intimately They sweat over very piece of data, every report. Every fact and figure they can gouge. They slave long hours. They grapple with silos, with politics, with hidden personal agenda, with bosses who don’t communicate well and suppress initiative.

Despite their best efforts, customer satisfaction is failing. KPI’s are increasingly hard to meet. Outperforming each other is hard enough, while Aldi continues to happily erode their market share… only slowed down by Metcash’s resistance to adopting blue ocean growth opportunities and FMCG suppliers’ willingness to surrender all their margin.

Where do you go when you’ve got nowhere to go?

Now Coles is abandoned by Westfarmers with Woolworths struggling in the wake of its Big W decay, Masters flop, and other lack-lustre performance outcomes.

Both are blinkered to the reality of their merchandising philosophies and combative relationship with suppliers, and the very stoppable (but not without strategy) flow of shoppers to Aldi.

Do what you always do… Get what you’ve always gotten

It seems incredible, doesn’t it, that the power of the two giants and the operational executive talent is unable to recognise their archaic approach to their problems.

Their resistance to change is formidable. Their unwillingness to accept they are tracing the 19th Century path of the American Rail corporation and the buggy whip industry, they are as resistant to change is News Corps and Fairfax were in the 90’s, they are determined they are doing everything right when they are doing a LOT of things wrong… just like Nokia, Blockbuster, Kodak and others…

When a past CEO of Woolworths warned them to beware of the ABC’s of Corporate Cancer, Arrogance, Bureaucracy and Complacency) their response was to evict him rather than heed his advice!

The Writing is on the wall

Lots of those that know, know! The wisest stakeholders abandon ship and the millennial naive are innocently walking into the web.

Tie will tell if I am right, but anyone reading this, who can observe a trend, may be shaking their head in acknowledgement of these observations.

Poor Woollies. Poor Coles. 😦