Sunday, February 21, 2010

Real cheese

I am not a big Domino’s Pizza fan, but just might try it again. Can you imagine taking a successful product franchise and admitting to it being unacceptable? That is what the president of Domino’s has done. Now compare that to the situation facing Toyota. In the face of clear product safety concerns, the president has yet to emerge and speak to the public. Patrick Lencioni of Business Week noted that in his February 2010 article The Power of Saying ‘We Blew It’ that the common topic is vulnerability. Note how each leader is dealing with it differently.

Different leaders deal with vulnerability in the workplace differently, too. Leaders who are open to new ideas, ask questions, allow tough discussions and allow debate build loyalty among their teams. Command and control type managers might see these traits as weak and indecisive. This might have been true long ago, but the time has gone.

Have you seen a leader successfully place him or herself in vulnerable situations? How did it turn out?


Lawrence van Rijn said...

Leaders alowing debate and hard decisions are an endangered species. Roughly 89.435% of all leaders are little more then simple Excel slaves to wither Dow / Nasdaq and at times to both. They serve the stock holders and stakeholders and noone else. When i initially claimed that this would happen in 92/93 people called me crazy. They mentioned that this would never ever happen. Roughly one decade later and over 50 Billion in corporate flushed deficit i am proven more then right. Toyota and others are for the most no different. I reckon that Japan overall has done decently well, considering that the public axe cuts harder there then in most other countries in the world. Toyota ramains a growing A brand in several countries, whilst several other proclaimed A brands. have been taken over by others. As the $$$ defenition is all that seem to count. the 'they blew it' term seems out of focus. I recon that before the quality adress goes on, there will need to be done some extensive weeding in the Dow/Nasdaq lists, and de-volving greed back to old fashion quality and service.

Unknown said...

Is the corporate 'they blew it' any different than the the politician that "did not have sexual relations with that woman"? The number of politicians that hit the headlines (either willingly or NOT) with their extra-marital affairs is far more prolific, and in many cases does not seem to damage their careers. Our leaders (corporate, political, sports) all need to be held to a higher standard, because they show society what is "acceptable behavior". Honesty, integrity, ethics, and morals is something that our leaders 'should' be respected for.

Leadership Freak said...


I think you are hitting on a major shift in business culture. The younger workforce is not into authoritarian leadership. They respond to authentic leadership.

Being authentic includes transparency about our frailties.

HBR has a useful post on authenticity at:

IN addition, I wrote about the power of what we CAN'T do in a blog titled "Waffles"

Thanks again for the good word.

Leadership Freak
Dan Rockwell

Brian Brubaker said...

I wonder if the risky move of changing a branded product made him leave his job this week?
Steve Jobs put himself in a high risk situation returning to Apple and has since then demonstrated above and beyond what a CEO should be. I think most Exec's would've taken more time off fighting through cancer, but he stayed with the company, and stood behind his product

Murillo Xavier said...

I don't think there is a rule here. I've seen several leaders placing themselves in tough situations and not getting burned, but also leaders being destroyed for taking the responsibility for small issues.
I guess it all depends on the sincerity the public perceive and the local culture.
Domino's used very moving images such as the interviews with their employees showing sadness and frustration when customers complain about their products. It was nice because they looked legit, and the American public answers very well to that kind of appeal.
A few years ago Coca Cola launched a campaign in Brazil comparing their product with Pepsi. Note that in Brazil, companies usually promote the qualities of their products without comparing them to the competition. The result of that was that the customers felt sorry for Pepsi and thought Coca Cola was too aggressive. The strategy back fired and Coca Cola lost some market share.
It is amazing how different cultures perceive the same fact in very different ways. John, try the book Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. It is fascinating, and based on your profile, I'm sure you are going to love it.
In this book, the author mentions why in the show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ the public reacts in very different ways depending on the country they have the show (Russia, France, USA). In Russia, you can't trust the answers given by the public, in USA they are usually the right answer. The explanation of the author is that the years of communism in Russia has created the cultural belief that no one is supposed to be rich, so the public usually plays against the candidate. In USA it is exactly the opposite.

Will Rinehart said...

Like the analogy John and I notice the leadership approach taken by Domino's as one of applying a lean perfection principle. Domino's understands that an organization can always be made leaner even if the initial product was a success. Lean means striving for continuous improvement with no judgement about how long it will take or how much effort. Waste removal needs to become a habit and an oppurtunity to continuously improve. This constant momentum keeps productivity ahead of the marketplace curve. Its important to remember the journey is more important then the ultimate goal of being perfect in any lean manufacturing operation. I think Toyota might have become complacent in understanding the philosophy and foundational theories of Lean Manufacturing they helped develop and create. Shows me another great case of human nature at work.

Thomas Donovan said...

Should there be stewardship, after a certain level of management is achieved?

Eric Yost said...

Tiger Woods - stay tuned the 1billion dollar man will be back before Domino's > How bout Bill Clinton? We are a forgiving country with a short memory that’s why we are so resilient - we love to believe in 2nd chances and the underdog just ask Lee Iacocca

Zachary Heskett said...

I would actually beg to differ on this topic. For the first time in the automotive industry we've seen a top-3 automotive manufacturer dedicate an ad campaign based purely on the manufacturing complications facing the company and its customers... and what the company is doing to address these issues. Ten years ago when Ford had Bridgestong tires blowing out on their Explorers, all you saw were statements and recalls. It also becomes a very sensitve matter, because Toyota is a Japanese-owned company with leadership that the American public as a whole may not be able to relate to... at least not nearly as much as a corporation headquarted here in the United States. I'm not sticking up for Toyota, because I'm sure there is more to come down the pipeline... but I do think its worth a second-look...

Kent Reynolds said...

No leader wants to be in that position, at any level of management, betting their career. In my experience middle management's lack of straight talk and honesty is what leads most companies down this path. Did no one at Toyota know there was a problem? No production or test engineers saw this long ago? Or did their culture hush the harsh reality?

CYA and norming effects squelch bad news, breeding mediocrity at best. No one stays in a job long enough to build long-term cohesiveness to the level that is needed for significant increases in quality. Where I've seen dramatic (and risky) changes have been when established talent is recruited to create "next level" qualities. (think Bob Lutz at GM)

If a leader seizes that opportunity, its as much to save themselves.

Anonymous said...


I really liked your posting, thanks for sharing. I'm hoping it's WI cheese!

Heath Davis Havlick said...

Good points here! I was particularly impressed with the recent Domino's campaign (my husband worked for them back in the day). It seemed so...vulnerable. Our instinct is to never let people see us fail. It's this Asian concept of "saving face" that may be responsible for Toyota's current situation.

Jimmy Estrada said...

Leadership is not found only in presidents or CEOs. It is found in active members of the community. When you become a valuable asset to your community is when your decisions gain more weight in the public eye. For example, I am Chapter Secretary and Programs and Events Chairperson of the Iota Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. at The College of New Jersey. Currently my chapter comprises of only 6 members including myself so everyone is a valuable member. There was an instance where I made a wrong decision on the planning of an event that was already promoted for a specific date. It was expected that the event would have attracted a very large audience. For this reason, it did not feel good to be the cause of the disappointment of many would be attendees. There was nothing that could be done so the event had to be rescheduled and thus event more time had to be put into promoting the event for the new date.

Being in the position I was in I realized that when you are wrong you are wrong. Everyone is human so no one is going to live a perfect life. It is inevitable that you will make a mistake, which is understandable. What defines your character though is how you react to your mistakes. If you never makes mistakes then great. But what I believe matters more is how you handle a situation when you are wrong. Owning up to being wrong shows that you acknowledge your mistake and that you are able to learn from it. Once that occurs you are able to take action towards improvement so that it will not happen again. This is what I did in my situation and I realized that it was the best decision I could have made.

Being a leader period comes with vulnerability. Vulnerability in the sense that everyone pays attention to you and the decisions you make.

Karl J. Jacobi said...

Mr. Bishop:
That's an interesting analogy in regards to leadership. But I know precisely what you're talking about. I see this first hand at work. My manager appears that he believes in the dictatorship method for leading and managing, in addition to being an extreme micromanager. We do work in a union environment and understand the frustrations and complexities that come about, especially when the hourly employees abuse it.

I have approximately 30 hourly employees under my supervision. I have a different methodology for leading and it's quite the opposite from my manager, and peers. And you nailed it, my manager views it as being weak and passive. However, I believe my methods are more effective and the performance of my crews show it. They trust me and know that I will engage them as much as possible in different situations. This is how we learn and grow. I believe we must possess an open mind, and having all the options on the table.

To answer your question, I believe that he will be out the door soon, as the turn-over rate amongst the hourly employees and supervisors is substantially high. Not to mention none of the workforce respects him as a manager for various reasons.

So my question to you is, how do you deal with a manager such as that? How do you diplomatically tell someone that you work for that he should perhaps reinvent his strategies for managing?

On a different note, please tell Mr. Pino I said hi. I highly doubt that he remembers me, we ran into each other back in the Army days. He took over right about the time when I left SAC.

-Karl J.

bob schaefer said...

It reminds me of:
"You can print anything you like about me, so long as you spell my name correctly". For some things, even bad publicity is good publicity. (Madonna, Paris, and now Domino's)

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