Magazine article Workforce Management

Take a Memo

Magazine article Workforce Management

Take a Memo

Article excerpt


IN FEBRUARY, Starbucks' chairman did something to get everyone's attention. He wrote a memo.

This wasn't just any memo. It was titled 'The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience." In it, chairman Howard Schultz, questioned whether the company's seemingly insatiable drive for growth was "watering down the Starbucks experience." He also said that "we desperately need to look into the mirror and realize it's time to get back to the core and make the changes necessary to evoke the heritage, the tradition and the passion that we all have for the true Starbucks experience."

The interesting thing about the Starbucks memo was that although it was directed to the company's top management team, it was conveniently "leaked" to The Wall Street Journal, where it not only served to enhance Schultz's reputation as a management visionary, but also gave the company a nice PR boost as well.

Last month, Dell's founder and CEO wrote his own version of the Starbucks memo, titling it "One Dell, One Focus-Simplifying IT for Our Customers." Although different from Starbucks' memo in that Dell is struggling to retain market share lost to its chief competitor, the document was similar in the way it challenged some of the company's key operating assumptions.

"The direct model has been a revolution, but is not a religion," Michael Dell wrote. For a company built on the direct sales model, this was a startling revelation. "We will continue to improve our business model, and go beyond it," he added, "to give our customers what they really need."

Like the Starbucks memo, the Dell missive was also leaked to The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. Besides challenging Dell's business model, it also took a swipe at unnamed competitors who "drive complexity and needless cost into customers' environments. These socalled 'service divisions' create a never-ending cycle of activity with unclear return on investment. We intend to break this cycle ... [and] will help customers escape the complexity trap and unlock the true potential of technology."

Beyond the obvious differences in the two companies, the Starbucks and Dell memos are similar in many ways: Both are meant to challenge the core business model and to shake up the status quo. …

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