The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is Not Just for the Home

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Marie Kondo’s topic of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been of considerable interest for several years now, and has reached a fevered pitch recently with the Netflix series under the same. The concept has clearly resonated with (and against) many in American society today, and has spurred many to at least consider their home organization habits and weaknesses. As with many in this territory, one didn’t set out to accumulate so many trinkets and items, but we lacked the energy or ruthlessness to purge.

As I reading a recent piece in Inc. about Ron Shaich, and the decisions he made to focus on the growth potential of Panera, it struck me that the lessons from Marie could just as aptly be applied to business as to my bedroom closet.

A quick snapshot of Panera, when in 1998 when Ron decided to shed three of the four divisions of the company to make room to invest in Panera. He is quoted as saying “if I had any strength, I would monetize every other asset in the company. We could take the financial resources and put it against Panera and make it grow how it needs to grow and it could reach what it was destined to become.” No doubt that move took the courage he referred to, and for Ron and Panera it paid off.

The rules are quickly and aptly applied in business:

1) Commit yourself to tidying up (your portfolio) … many are the companies that build out new skus and offerings to address the short-term asks of buyers and quickly look upon an overwhelming mountain of skus and products that are not profitably contributing to the bottom line. For Ron and team, the realization hit him on a beach in the Caribbean but from there he committed himself (and by extension the organization) to tidying up. Commit yourself to tidying up!

2) Imagine your ideal lifestyle says Marie. Be clear on the strategic targets and objectives of the brand. Getting lost in tactical share stealing exercises, while delivering short-term are destined for long-term failure. Establish the clear role of each brand and offering in the portfolio, and ensure that each are playing the role for which they were intended. In the example of Panera, Ron appreciated the long-term value (at this juncture POTENTIAL value) of Panera. He had correctly assessed its potential as a major brand, and knew that its current funding and mental and financial investment level was trapping it as a #3 player out of 4 portfolio brands as opposed to allowing to realize its fullness.

3) Finish the process … Successful rationalization in one product line or brand is not sufficient. Finish the job across the full organization to full realize the benefit of the effort. Again, tying back to the Panera example, Ron notes that this was the most difficult 18 months of his entire life as he set to enact the plan. Other executives, investors, managers, rank and file across the organization and externally questioned the legitimacy and merit of the move, but Ron persevered and it eventually paid off.

As you can see, we could continue down the list and apply the lessons to business. The objective here is not to convert Marie Kondo to a business strategist per se, but don’t lose the opportunity to apply learnings from other aspects of tidying up your life to making your business one meaningfully better and differentiated. It will be life changing.

Linda Deeken
Linda Deeken is the founder of Deeken Strategies, and an affiliate of Eddie Would Grow, where she focuses on growth strategy and activation. Previously, she was the Chief Marketing Officer of The Cambridge Group and a consultant at Oliver Wyman. She has been published in Harvard Business Review, among other publications, and has been a key contributor to several books.

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