Ownership and collective excellence
Imet Suresh when I had gone to meet my designer friend at his store. Sipping coffee and waiting for my friend to turn up I sat watching Suresh dress a mannequin. What began as an idle observation soon turned into an engrossed absorption of what he was doing. Somehow by putting in all his energy and passion into what he was doing, he had managed to subconsciously force me into attention and compel me into watching what he was doing. It was the beginning of a fascinated experience of looking at someone doing something and loving every minute of it. Suresh was of course oblivious to my watching him, caught as he was in his work. I let the minutes fly, glad that my friend was late. When Suresh paused in his work I grabbed the opportunity to converse and that’s how I knew his name and little details of his life, like the fact that he was from a small town and was in fact a tailor and an artist. The need to earn his livelihood brought him to the metro and to the shop floor of a leading apparels brand where my friend worked. Suresh was drawn to the job of mannequin dressing because he said, he liked to “infuse life into something inanimate and watch the magic of it doing its trick.” Well, aside from succinctly summing up his job, which anyone else in his place would have described in a more mundane manner, Suresh reflected a pride that was reassuring to see in this day and age when a job is just treated just as it connotes—a job and nothing more. Imagine if every store had a Suresh in all the departments, what a marvelous outcome it would be. We don’t need a life coach to tell us that when we do something we love, we make a great job of it! So Suresh was obviously very good at his job. When my friend finally came, I asked him about Suresh and shared my whole thought process that unfolded as I watched Suresh. My friend was not surprised. He smiled and said, “Well, we were lucky to find Suresh. And in fact he was our starting point. Because from that moment we decided that we had to find more Suresh’s or create them!” Now, that got me curious. “How do you create them”? I asked him. “It’s like this,” my friend explained, “Very often it’s not just money that drives people. There are many who want to feel that they make a difference to the place they are working in. By sharing our vision with each one of our store staff and telling them, ‘with every customer you greet, every speck of dust you wipe away in the store, every angle in which you place the merchandise you are contributing to the brand vision, you are making the store an experience worth cherishing’ we had made everyone accountable for what they were doing.” In effect what my friend and his colleagues were doing was to create a sense of ownership among all in the retail organization – right from those in the lowest rung of the hierarchy to the top management. And this managed to create a whole culture of excellence. Well, it works -- the store is one of the top selling outlets for the brand. You get the point? Some of the stores we have featured in this issue do speak of this kind of excellence I have mentioned and of creating a whole experience. Read on.