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Clueless at the Top: The Attitude That Is Sinking Best Buy

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The new Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly, has a plan to save the company. But apparently that plan is “everyone work harder.”
That’s the subtext of a piece from the Star Tribune. Columnist Lee Schaefer writes:

…about 600 district and territory managers and other staffers, with hundreds more from headquarters, jumped into stores for a 10-day push that closed the fiscal year that just ended.

It was a big effort, but Best Buy did not bother with a project name. No acronym or clever tag line.

“We called it ‘all hands on deck,’?” said Shawn Score, who was appointed head of U.S. retail last fall. “We tried to keep it so simple you could just get it.”


“All hands on deck” is a nautical term which means “due to an immediate, ship-wide life-threatening crisis, crew members who are not currently working must report in to help save everyone.”

That might make sense if Best Buy were a ship at sea running along peacefully when suddenly an enemy vessel or a huge storm strikes and everyone on could be killed within the hour.

But the problems at Best Buy are not like a calamity on the ocean. The company has been struggling for years. In this case, “all hands on deck” seems to actually be an implied “we’ve decided the problem is that you were not working hard enough in the past, so now you’re going to work all the time.”

All Hands on Deck

© Flickr user Flawka

The lunacy of this idea is illustrated by CEO Hubert Joly ‘s own words, as quoted in the article: “This is a time when we all need to be mobilized as a team [and] work toward our vision…”

Are there times at which the company doesn’t need to be mobilized as a team? Are there periods during which it is not important to work toward a shared vision?

What matters at any organization is results. Best Buy clearly must rethink their business model, but this effort should be through a renewed emphasis on finding out what works best, not on demanding that people simply work more.

A wise captain will call for “all hands on deck” in those precious minutes where it makes sense to sacrifice the sleep and well-being of most of the crew to keep everyone alive. But a wise leader knows that you cannot sustain “all hands on deck” for much longer than a single battle or a single nasty storm.

Weary sailors fail in their duties. Overburdened crews abandon their posts. Angry mariners desert their ships. They evolve from dutiful seaman into vengeful mutineers.

If Best Buy aims to sail successfully into uncharted waters, they should consider the impact of their choices on their people.

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Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter is a workflow and productivity expert. He is a nationally known speaker on topics related to personal productivity, corporate efficiency and employee engagement. Robby is the founder of AccelaWork, a company which provides speakers and consultants to a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, regional non-profits, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. Robby has written numerous articles for national magazines and has over one hundred published pieces. He is also the author of several books, including Failure: The Secret to Success. He has also been interviewed by international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal. Robby’s newest book is The Battle For Your Email Inbox.
Robby Slaughter


This is a headline for an anti-announcement.
Robby Slaughter
Robby Slaughter

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