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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • November 12, 2008
  • minute read

Starbucks: You can't put the genie back in the bottle 

Howard Schultz, the quasi-founder of Starbucks (currently in Treadmill), returned to the CEO position at the start of this year, and has since been trying to put the genie back in the bottle (in Predictable Success terms, trying to get back to Fun), even going so far as to rehire the former executives who ran the business at that earlier, ‘Fun’ time.

The problem with this strategy is simple – you can’t ‘hyperlink’ to stages in the lifecycle like that: there simply isn’t a direct path from Treadmill to Fun.

Watch as the strategy comes undone and Mr Schultz increasingly flails around to find a ‘quick hit’ that will return the company to its old culture. When that doesn’t work (and it won’t), Predictable Success principles tell us that the board will eventually – albeit reluctantly, painfully and belatedly – ask Mr Schultz to step aside. Unfortunately, by this time Starbucks will be back in Whitewater, trying to reconcile its schizophrenic identity as an organization with Treadmill structures and Fun goals.

The real answer to Starbuck’s dilemma? A return to Predictable Success (not a jump back to ‘Fun’) by a consistent but controlled re-injection of the Visionary role throughout the organization: in other words, teaching the organization how to incorporate Visionary thinking at all levels – not the return of a personalized ‘Visionary’ – not even if it is the quasi-founder.

Mr Schultz has fallen victim of the hubris of the Visionary – believing that their return, their vision, their zeal and passion can reclaim former glory days, when in fact it’s the last thing the organization needs. Instead of ‘living the vision’ and ’embodying the vision’ (as recent press articles have put it), Mr Schultz needs to teach it.


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