September 30, 2020

The Lizard

A Virtual Chief Performance Officer frequently runs into a roadblock that I call "The Lizard".

I'm guessing you've run into "The Lizard" in your work.

You wonder how the heck this person ever got into a position of authority? He appears to have minimal mental capacity to balance competing ideas in his head. Maybe your analysis says that you have to have a robust pipeline of new customers to be successful, and he is a loyalty advocate. He's gonna "go binary" on you and argue that loyalty is the path to success, and he'll reject every acquisition-based argument you provide, regardless of facts. I mean, it's possible for numerous things to be truthful at the same time. You can improve customer acquisition efforts AND you can improve loyalty efforts.

The Lizard generally doesn't hold competing thoughts in his head at the same time.

The VCPO must become very, very clever dealing with somebody employing Lizard Logic (i.e. binary thinking).

The VCPO writes objectives for The Lizard that align with the binary thinking that The Lizard can handle.

The VCPO then writes objectives for everybody else, and separates accountability for succeeding at those objectives from The Lizard.

I realize this means that The Lizard might benefit from the work of other people, but that's life. Why do you want to have non-stop arguments with an individual who isn't capable of thinking beyond binary choices?

If your CEO is "The Lizard", well, you've got problems.

But if your Chief Marketing Officer is "The Lizard", well, that one is not difficult to work around. Set specific goals for the CMO that "The Lizard" agrees with philosophically, then work with everybody else to implement other ideas.

Get the data, analyze the data, then work around personalities that hold back company performance.

September 29, 2020

The Quiet Dissenter

Here's a person that you'll have to work around as a Virtual Chief Performance Officer. This person is the "Quiet Dissenter".

I'll give you an example, one I've shared on Twitter numerous times.

When I worked at Nordstrom, it was my job to author the catalog plan. I determined how much we were going to spend on catalog marketing, my team created a circulation plan for each individual catalog, the inventory team collaborated with merchandising and negotiated what they liked / didn't like about the plan, then we moved forward.

You'd think as a Vice President I'd have some clout regarding the very issue I was accountable for implementing. You'd be wrong. There were a group of individuals who were what I'd call "Quiet Dissenters".

These folks never said a word. They'd just review my work, then they'd implement whatever the heck they wanted to implement.

I learned my lesson the hard way. One of my own circulation analysts didn't follow my plan for 2.0 million in liquidations circulation for a catalog, instead selecting 2.7 million names. I didn't know she did this until a vendor mentioned the number to me. I asked her what she was doing? She pulled out a "circulation request form" she created. Are you ready for this? She offered this form to a group of "Quiet Dissenters" in the company, and they did the following:

  • They told her who to mail.
  • They told her what the circulation quantity should be.
  • She then changed the selection quantity and selection criteria based on her own whims.
I quickly learned that there were four "quiet dissenters" who were executing their own business ideas:
  • A merchandising VP.
  • A print production Manager.
  • My own Circulation Manager.
  • A paper rep from a paper company (yes, a person not even employed by Nordstrom).
I only controlled the Circulation Manager. She was fired within two weeks. If you are playing the role of a Virtual Chief Performance Officer, you need to recommend to Leadership that they eliminate the "cowboys" who do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. Now

Next, I threw down the hammer on the VP (a peer) and the Print Production Manager (who didn't report to me). This didn't go over well, and both parties ignored me at first. The VCPO should be ready for this, and should consistently advocate the same managerial advice regardless. 

It was easier to work around the print production manager. I just told him I would outsource his function to a third-party vendor (even though I had no authority to do that whatsoever) after he told me he would be "unable" to implement my plans. Unable. Riiiiiight.

A VCPO finds the roadblocks that prevent a company from performing at a high level, then helps employees create a process to work around those who create roadblocks. The "Quiet Dissenter" is a real challenge, because you have to dig deep to figure out specifically who is working behind your back to sub-optimize performance. But as a Leader, you have to get this part of plan implementation figured out. You need data analysis to prove your direction is credible, then you need the proper level of coaching to push the organization in a high-performance direction.

September 28, 2020

The Know It All

A few years ago I was asked to visit a company and present the findings of project work I recently completed.

Anybody in Consulting knows what this experience is like. You enter the building, and you make a judgment about the company based on the lobby and security procedures you are asked to follow. Heck, the very process of obtaining a badge says a lot about how willing the company is to allow your ideas "in the door".

You are escorted to a conference room. Certain people are there early, first to enjoy a bagel and cream cheese. Others are on the phone, holding impromptu meetings in front of everybody else. Frequently, there is a powerful Executive sitting front-and-center. People sheepishly hand this person documents, and s/he nods her head in approval or tells the individual the twenty-four reasons why the document is unacceptable.

You weren't hired by this person. But this is the person you are there to present to. This person is the "Know It All".

A Virtual Chief Performance Officer needs to figure out how to work around the Know-It-All.

I visited a company a few years ago where the Know-It-All was the Chief Merchandising Officer. He knew everything. He knew why marketing failed (repeatedly, in his mind). He controlled the meeting ... even though the CEO brought me in and was (in theory) leading the meeting. His merchandise was not a problem, the problem was the people in room who were not doing their job supporting him. I had data showing that his new merchandising strategy was a problem ... a big problem. He wouldn't accept facts. I'd state a fact, he'd just get louder with theory and ideas and concepts ... no proof that what he was doing was working or would ever work. If backed into a corner, he'd lie. He pointed fingers.

He'd say stuff like "I've seen people like you come and go". Great! Nice observation.

There is no reason whatsoever to argue with this person. You won't win the argument, and worse, you'll just get frustrated.

You have to work around this person.

The amazing thing is that these people are frequently NOT the CEO. They're usually a C-Level team member, and they intimidate the CEO because the CEO doesn't have the subject matter expertise the bully / know-it-all possesses.

The Chief Performance Officer needs to encourage the CEO to write acceptable goals and objectives for the know-it-all, assuming that the CEO doesn't want to fire the know-it-all (and by the way, what stops a higher-level individual from firing a belligerent subordinate???). If new merchandise is the issue, write a simple goal and objective and give the CEO a tool to manage the Chief Merchandising Officer.

Goal:  Grow sales from new merchandise by 10% in the first six months of 2021.

  • Exceeds Expectations = +15% sales growth from new merchandise in the first six months of 2021.
  • Meets Expectations = +7% to +14% growth from new merchandise in the first six months of 2021.
  • Missed Expectations = < +7% growth from new merchandise in the first six months of 2021.
If the Chief Merchandising Officer misses expectations, there must be consequences for the CMO, correct?

Make the "Know-It-All" prove s/he knows it all. Analyze new merchandise performance, demonstrate what needs to happen, write a goal that makes it clear how performance must change, and then hold the person accountable if performance does not change.

September 27, 2020

Four Personality Types You'll Have To Work Around To Be Successful

Yes, this is a broad generalization.

But part of a Virtual Chief Performance Officer role is getting employees to understand that there are factions within a company that actively block progress on doing anything new/different. These are the people you have to work around, because honestly, you are never going to convince them to do anything different.

This week, we'll talk about each personality. The personalities create friction, they hurt your performance while maximizing their performance. It doesn't really matter how effective your ideas and/or analytics are if these people stand between you and implementation. You have to work around them.

September 24, 2020

Saks Article

Here's an article that is making the rounds on Twitter this week (click here).

It's hard to know what you can "trust" on Fast Company. I sat in a meeting a few years ago where a Product Manager saw a great idea, hopped on the phone, called her assistant, and said "Contact Fast Company and get us an article about the concept." In other words, it is conceivable that somebody in PR thought it would be a great idea to have a President/CEO write an article that made the President/CEO look brilliant.

As far as Twitter was concerned, it was "Mission Accomplished". I started receiving feedback.

  • "You'll like this, it's a really nice piece of thought leadership and is spot on."
If you go back and read Hudson's Bay Company financial filings, you'll see that Saks comps were generally positive (+/- 3% or 3.5%) through 2018 and the first half of 2019 before wobbling in the six months prior to COVID devastation. But for the most part? Not bad!

That being said ... if the best you can hope for under the blueprint of the article (pre-COVID) is a two-year bump of +3.5% comps followed by wobbling and flat comps for six months, then question the blueprint.

There's a tone in the article.
  • "If you aren't as innovative as we are, the whole industry is going down because we all share traffic and you aren't holding up your end of the bargain."
This stuff is NOT EASY ... you don't take a giant retail company and just start posting +10% comps.

And internally, there are always forces that DO NOT WANT TO CHANGE. At all. They don't want to innovate. The article talks about the cycle within fashion companies of inventory management and markdowns and the drag on profitability ... well, if you've ever worked in an old-school fashion company, you know darn well that you hire people to maintain the red tape required to manage a new assortment that ultimately has to be marked-down and liquidated. You perpetuate the very dynamic you deride. That's part of the problem of trying to convert a bus to an RV while the bus is rolling down the highway at 65mph.

So, yeah, good article if you like retail theory.

If you are trying to implement the thoughts in the article, that's tough. Ask the President/CEO who wrote it. He's had five years to implement his ideas and prior to COVID he did post two years of positive comps followed by faltering / flat comps for a half-year, proving that even when you are in charge of the very strategies you advocate for an entire industry you still might not be successful.

September 23, 2020

The Next Run of the MineThatData Elite Program

These once-every-four-month runs come up quickly, don't they?

It's time for the next run of the MineThatData Elite Program! I'll run my typical metrics on your business, and, as always, I run bonus metrics on an aspect of your business. In this case, I'm going to do something unusual:

  • I'm going to provide you with a statistical model that evaluates the first-time buyers most likely to be responsive to a Welcome Program.
In other words, if you have all sorts of new customers and you want to understand "who" is likely to move forward and become a good customer, I'll tell you that (provided you offer the right product data and have reasonable channel-based data from a first order).

  • Cost for First-Time Participants = $1,800.
  • Cost for Existing Participants = $1,000.
  • Five Years of Data, One Row per Item Purchased, Through September 30, 2020.
  • Data due to me by October 15, 2020.
  • Payment due to me by October 15, 2020.
  • Analysis completed by October 31, 2020.
Contact me ( to be included in this important run of the MineThatData Elite Program!

September 22, 2020

Second New Product!!!!

Here we go with a second new product for Fall 2020:

  • COVID mucked things up in many ways. One of the key challenges is coming up with a credible plan for 2021 and beyond.
  • The Goals and Objectives project calculates the impact of COVID on your customer file. Did you improve the loyalty of your customer base? Did all of your gains come from new customers? Did your customer file fundamentally shift and now you are managing a changed brand? The Goals and Objectives project will answer these questions for you.
  • Based on what we learn, I'll share with you what your Goals and Objectives should look like for 2021. Need to grow by 20%? I'll set Objectives to get you to that point. Need "x" loyal buyers in 2021? I'll set Objectives to assist your thinking.
  • Goal/Objective setting is a big deal in a corporate environment ... used to set bonuses, used to point all employees in the right direction to yield a positive outcome. We'll strip COVID issues out from general customer inertia and set reasonable Goals and Objectives so you can have as much success in 2021 as possible.
  • Cost = $9,900.

A new product, designed to help you with our new world. Contact me right now ( for details or to get started.

P.S.:  Think of this as one component of a Virtual Chief Performance Officer project (click here). A piece. A highly actionable piece, but yes, it's part of what you get with the VCPO project.

The Lizard

A Virtual Chief Performance Officer frequently runs into a roadblock that I call "The Lizard". I'm guessing you've run in...