Remove the 5 key roadblocks to global retail investment programs

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Customer Experience, Distributed Teams, Leadership, Marketing Procurement, Point of Purchase, Retail Fixtures, Shopper Marketing, Supply Chain | No Comments

In Marketing one of the hardest things to achieve is consistency of brand execution across multiple markets. This is especially true when the presentation of your brand in physical retail outlets is a very important part of your marketing mix.

The role of Marketing is to emotionally connect your brand with the customer. From one country to another, customer needs and expectations will vary. Combining this with different cultures, beliefs, language, etc. it is clear that brand engagement needs to be customised. Then add the different retail landscapes into the mix and the level of complexity changes again.

This creates the so called “perfect storm” for local markets to go their own way and shun any attempts by the global brand teams to establish a coordinated and synergistic approach to retail investment. Does this sound familiar?

“The three rules of marketing; everyone has an opinion, every opinion is different and every opinion is right”

So what are the main barriers facing global and regional teams who are trying to implement regional programs and how do you overcome them? Here are the five main roadblocks, that we are sure you will have heard of before:

1.The centre doesn’t understand my market

Regional retail investment programs often fail before they are started. The reason is that not enough data and corresponding insights have been gathered to ensure there is a clear understanding of the differing retail environments that are to be invested in. It is imperative therefore that this weakness is addressed. Consider undertaking retail outlet assessments and using augmented reality tools to test how certain concepts may work across markets.

“Collective wisdom will always outshine individual judgement. This has never been truer than in shopper marketing.”

2.”This program won’t work in my market”

The challenge is that the focus for the program ends up on the materials being designed. Each market looks at the materials being proposed in context of their own retail landscape and this is when they see issues. The focus needs to be switched to desired outcomes. The objective is all about delivering the most compelling and immersive experience possible to the customer to influence purchase behaviour. Develop a Purchase Decision Journey that connects every touch point into a consistent retail experience for key outlet types. If everyone can become aligned around the journey and the desired outcomes, then gaining commitment to the regional program is so much easier.

3.”There is no ability to customise the materials”

In many cases, materials are designed without a clear definition of their exact role from the customer’s perspective. This also impacts the way they are deployed. In addition, materials are often looked at in isolation of each other. Establish a retail investment kit for each specific outlet type. Build in customisation so that materials can be “flexed” to deliver a specific customer experience that meets specific brand, product or outlet objectives. This will remove the need for many local markets to have unique alterations.

4.”I can source it cheaper”

Invariably, when this position is put forward, it is more often than not a comparison of apples and oranges. The materials being compared are not to the same specification.

For an objective like-for-like assessment to be undertaken of the various potential sources of supply, there is a need for accurate and full availability of technical specifications. If a full technical specification is not available, then this claim has absolutely no validation.

5.”I need to buy locally”

Having a local source of supply is usually put forward for two reasons; lower cost and speed of response. Once you have full technical specifications you need to engage with a supplier who can provide full flexibility on supply. A supplier who can provide a supply chain model that meets the local market needs and can be adapted as requirements change. You need a supplier who can arrange offshore production (for lowest cost), local manufacture or a combination of the two.

“For a regional retail investment program to succeed, you need to switch the focus from the materials being developed to the customer experiences that you wish to deliver.”

So in summary, the format for running regional retail investment programs has to be fundamentally adapted to include the following 5 key criteria:

  1. Market insights on the differing retail environments
  2. A clear and aligned Purchase Decision Journey for each outlet type
  3. Customisable retail outlet investment kits
  4. Detailed technical specifications for every item
  5. A flexible supply model that can support offshore and local sourcing

By following these principles, many of the challenges of implementing regional or even global retail investment programs can be removed.

If you would like more information on how LeanPie can transform your shopper experience supply chain, please feel free to contact David at

Undervalue decision-making at your peril

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Distributed Teams, Leadership, Marketing Procurement, Productivity, Shopper Marketing, Supply Chain | One Comment


When the topic of decision-making comes up, it is often a debate on how does one make the right decisions, rather than the wrong ones. However, this focus completely undermines the fact that for a decision to be of any value it has to be implemented successfully.

Decision-making in corporations is complex and fundamentally if the process is not conducted in the right way there can be severe repercussions for the potential value that is created. The most obvious issues include:

  • Lack of participation leading to substantial delays in reaching a decision
  • Lack of ownership in the decision leading to a lack of team engagement and productivity
  • Lack of commitment in implementing a decision leading to fragmentation, misalignment and poorer outcomes

So how does one go about establishing the right conditions for team decision-making to be optimal? I believe consideration should be focused on the following areas:

  1. Establish team working
  2. Understand the objective
  3. Identify the challenges
  4. Build insights
  5. Consider all options
  6. Ensure alignment on identified solution
  7. Test and validate to build confidence and commitment
  8. Focus and implement


Leading a team requires key leadership skills and it is very important to establish clarity on how the decision-making process will be conducted. Different nationalities have different ways of reaching decisions and this can be quite alarming when it is not familiar. It is also essential that the approach to decision-making is highly democratic in respect that everyone has a voice, every voice is equal and every voice is listened to. Here is a link to another blog titled “Procurement and the challenge of distributed teams” that provides some considerations for creating a high performance team.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Michael Jordan, Retired American Professional Basketball Player


The most usual case is that members of the team may have different objectives or different perspectives on the same objectives, so you need to start with a clear Core Purpose. Once the end goal (destination) is set it becomes easier to develop and agree on a strategy to get there. It is the outcome that is important, rather than the process by which that outcome is reached.


Define the problems, challenges and barriers to success. Be honest. Once you have identified these, you will be able to ignore distractions and focus on working to resolve and overcome the identified impediments. Identifying and addressing primary constraints are the single biggest reason why change does not happen and why team initiatives do not succeed.

“A problem well-defined is a problem half solved.” John Dewey


The better informed the team, the easier it will be to remove subjectivity and to make insightful decisions. There are generally three rules in business when it comes to decision-making, in an environment when goals are not clear and information is scant at best:

  1. Everyone has an opinion
  2. Every opinion if different
  3. Every opinion is right

Very simply the more insightful the debate, the easier it is to reach agreement.

“Collective Wisdom outshines individual judgment.” Vineet Nayar, Author Employees First, Customers Second


Consider all points of view and recommendations. The approach needs to be inclusive to promote and encourage all team members to fully participate. The best way forward often comes from the most unexpected source. Each recommendation should be treated equally and with respect.


It is crucial that each individual team member is engaged and that their agreement is provided. I have been in corporations where I attended a presentation and as I did not question the position, my silence was taken as tacit agreement. This is not acceptable. Everyone needs to voice their full agreement in an open and collaborative way.

“My opinion, my conviction, gains immensely in strength and sureness the minute a second mind has adopted it.” Novalis (1772 – 1801), German Author and Philosopher


Risk and the fear of failure can motivate some team members to withdraw their full agreement. This needs to be addressed and the best way to do this is to test the agreed hypothesis and to work through this to create validated learnings. This not only ensures you have found the best solution but it further motivates commitment, builds confidence and ensures the entire team’s full focus and support is provided.


When a team is participating in a single programme, it is likely that all team members will have differing priorities and tasks so it is important that roles and responsibilities are well-defined. In addition, having made a decision, there is no value in questioning the decision. The best possible decision has been made and the team should focus on implementing it to the best of their ability. It may turn out that a better decision could have been made, but you will never know until you act.

“When a team outgrows individual performance and learns team confidence, excellency becomes a reality.”  Joe Paterno (1926 – ), American College Football Coach

Decision-making is often an integral part of a change management programme and therefore another useful guide for this is Growth River’s Seven Principles for Team Effectiveness:

  1. Inspired by purpose (well-defined clear goal or desired outcome)
  2. Focused on a shared journey (detailed process for achievement)
  3. Accountable and collaborative mindset
  4. Right skills in the right roles
  5. Strong and clear interdependencies, reinforcing team agreements
  6. Advocating strategies from a customer value perspective
  7. Laser focused on implementation that resolves primary constraints for the highest impact and return on investment (ROI)

The process of effective decision-making lies at the heart of why many companies find it challenging to run successful pan-regional programmes. This is especially true in complex areas like shopper marketing where very different retail landscapes are coupled with consumers with different needs, expectations, languages and cultures. In these cases, it is imperative that a clear and intentional process is created that will guide decision-making for all stakeholders in a fair, equitable and clear way.

Procurement and the challenge of distributed teams

By | Business Complexity, Culture, Distributed Teams, Leadership, Marketing Procurement | No Comments

workplace 1200

Procurement has to work in a complex, matrix environment. In many cases they will need to engage with colleagues in different functions, different offices, different countries and often different time zones. This distributed structure brings significant challenges. There is not only distance created by physical location but there is also distance in levels of alignment, engagement and degree of cooperation.

For a procurement leader to be successful they have to develop people skills that enable them to lessen the impact of distance and to be able to create highly collaborative team working.

The following provides some insights and recommendations as to how a team leader can overcome the lack of co-location in order to build a highly productive team.

Align to the core purpose

  • Convey, share and build understanding for the company’s core purpose
  • Direct team energy towards business unit and corporate goals
  • Demonstrate how the team’s work supports the overall company strategy
  • Share executive dashboards
  • Regularly review company performance and key priorities

Ensure team balance

  • Create a culture based on a “team of one”
  • Leader to show support for all teams equally, irrespective of role, location or other factors
  • Mitigate any power bias by ensuring that all parties are able and willing to contribute fully, irrespective of other factors
  • Identify and share the key behaviors that you would like everyone to adopt

Get to know everyone

  • Understand cultural and ethical differences of all team members by talking openly about their individual beliefs
  • Be culturally sensitive
  • Encourage informal interactions between colleagues and discussions on non-work related matters so people can get to know each other

Build personal relationships

  • Build personal relationships (not just work relationships) with colleagues
  • Meet informally and spontaneously to foster friendship
  • Celebrate birthdays etc.

Engage frequently

  • Ensure frequent engagement but avoid being disruptive
  • Set aside a core hour per day, where there are no formal meetings, to encourage spontaneous interactions
  • Convey how individual and team contributions matter
  • Involve team in important strategic decisions

Find unstructured moments

  • Encourage people to have unstructured moments where they can talk about things away from work
  • Build in these moments to formal meetings
  • Encourage people to share constraints and to ask questions on items that are not directly related to the meeting

Encourage feedback

  • Encourage feedback, especially in regard to routine communications and interactions to make sure current approach works for everyone
  • Use videoconferencing to help promote more transparency and openness
  • Help build awareness on how the team works and how the various parties are seen by each other

Promote diversity of views

  • Encourage different viewpoints about the team’s tasks and also about the process by which the tasks get done
  • Frame these meetings as brainstorming meetings so people are happier to contribute diverse ideas
  • Use the 5 Why’s questioning to get to the heart of the matter
  • Solicit each team member’s views on each topic often starting with those who have the least status or experience

Use language wisely

  • When speaking, acknowledge and respect the language fluency of others
  • Seek confirmation that you have been understood
  • Summarize by rephrasing others’ statements for further clarification or emphasis
  • Monitor the frequency of less fluent speakers to ensure that they are contributing
  • Ensure less fluent speakers ask for confirmation on what they have conveyed and to also notify the speaker when they have not understood something

Support inclusion and diversity

  • Keep track of who isn’t and who is contributing
  • Actively encourage the dominant team members to engage the others for their input

Continuously learn

  • Ask a lot of questions before drawing conclusions
  • Probe to ascertain any potential challenges or needs for additional resources
  • Use questions and answers as a means of building strong two-way engagements between team members
  • By positioning yourself as someone who seek to learn, you will empower and motivate other team members to contribute more
  • When everyone is a teacher and a learner, team members will take on more responsibility for the development of the team as a whole
  • Leaders need to focus on facilitation rather than instruction

Focus on team outcomes

  • Build a culture that is committed to reaching a group consensus
  • No one way is right, allow the team to find its own way

Share information and reinforce messages

  • Follow-up meetings with a summary of agreed actions
  • Meeting summary helps reinforce acceptance of ideas and can be used for gaining written endorsement when required
  • Meeting organizers should communicate through multiple platforms to ensure that meeting outcomes are understood and acted upon

Lead by example

  • Team members will follow the leader’s example in using communication technology
  • Team leaders should adopt a flexible approach that has a strong appreciation for diversity of ideas

Consider type of engagement

  • Use teleconferencing and videoconferencing to enable real-time (instant) conversations
  • Videoconferencing enables rich communication in which both context and emotion can be perceived
  • Consider time zones when considering how to engage, so there is limited disruption to team members personal lives
  • Only use delayed communication like E‑mail when other members are unavailable. In general, evidence suggests that most companies over rely on delayed communication. A recent Forrester survey of nearly 10,000 information workers in 17 countries showed that 94% of employees report using e‑mail, but only 33% ever participate in desktop videoconferencing with a mere 25% use room-based videoconferencing

Leaders that understand and can overcome the impact that a distributed structure has on team working will dramatically increase the contribution that they can make to the business. This is even more significant for Procurement Leaders where the level of spend under control has a direct correlation with the ability to create value.