Micro-Management to Micro-Training

I was watching the Sunday Morning on CBS show yesterday and there was a segment about a Japan-based retail clothing company named Uniqlo that is one of the fastest growing brands in the world today.  As with any successful company, I tend to look at stories about them through the lens of the Seven Elements of High Performance™, and how these companies are living them.  I found it interesting that, as usual, so many of the Elements were there.

As I watched I could see a strong relationship between the company and its employees, despite the fact that a lot was expected from these employees.  The company was meticulous about how the clothing was to be displayed on the racks or on shelves, how clean and neat the store was, how customers were greeted and served.  There were even little “folding competitions” where employees timed themselves on how fast they could fold jeans and place them in a neat stack.

The company also leveraged technology to help the customer choose a color of an item.  Put an item on, step in front of a large mirror and then you were able to see the item you have on, as well as have it superimpose the other available colors for that item right over your image, so you could tell what that color would look like on you without having to hunt down and try on each color.  So you get great service from staff and technology in a great environment, yet prices are cheaper than in most other companies’ stores.   This is a high performance operation.

In the middle of the segment, right after they discussed the jeans folding and the neatness of the shelves, they shared a story about a manager working with the staff on “how to smile.”  The manager had a half-dozen or more employees standing around in a circle, and he was talking about raising the eyes, how to show their teeth, and other various tips, all the while encouraging each person to smile for him.  The employees were smiling, and you could tell that it wasn’t contrived, as in so many retail stores.  You know those stores; where the clerk looks up as if you are a distraction, forces a smile, and says “hi, welcome to…” and all the while you can tell they would rather you hadn’t walked in the door.  These employees were genuinely happy and having a good time.

The segment’s host asked one of the managers from the company if they weren’t “micro-managing” their staff by being so meticulous, and the manager replied “yes,” and then went on to say that “what builds a great business is that attention to detail.”  He is right, of course. But it really isn’t micro-management if you have a set of values that you are living by, and processes that set forth how you are going to do things, and you vehemently follow them and are constantly working with staff to train them on these things.  What becomes micro-management is when you are constantly looking over their shoulder telling them what to do while they are doing their job, rather than when you were training them to do their job.

In one of our whitepapers, Training’s Role in Achieving High Performance, we introduced the CORE Training Approach™.  It was clear that Uniqlo was following this strategy.  Their culture was about attention to detail and creating a great customer experience.  This was supported by their ongoing training by their managers regarding how clothing was folded, how it was displayed, how they smiled to customers.  In this way they combined training on their Culture (attention to detail), Operations (neat stacks on shelves at a certain distance from the edge), Relationships (how to smile and interact with customers), and Engagement (how to create an experience that the customer wants to repeat) that is ongoing and reinforced by managers on a daily basis.  If more stores and restaurants would only spend more time doing this, then perhaps shopping and dining out would be a much more enjoyable experience for more people.

Later yesterday evening I was watching a program on CNBC about the Marriott hotel chain.  In a tough industry with little margins, Marriott is one of the brands that stands out.  As I watched the show I kept seeing over and over again the kind of meticulousness that was demonstrated at Uniqlo.  This attention to detail ran across operations, from how rooms were staged, to how dinners were served, right up to where a group of front clerks were getting ready to go on shift and they were practicing their greetings to their guests.

These companies understand that training is not just something that happens in a classroom with a designated trainer, but rather something that is ongoing and reinforced, often led by the employees’ manager.  And they focus not only on what matters to the organization and its processes, but what is also important to their customers.  So, yes, micro-manage your employees by conducting micro-training with them on a regular basis.  Keep reminding them how important it is to pay attention to the details that make a difference in process and operational performance that leads to making a difference in customer experience.

This is the kind of micro-management that really is worth doing.  Teach your employees well, keep reinforcing what they have learned, and encourage them to do a great job, and then get out of the way and let them do that great job.  I think you and your customers will be very pleased with the results.

Make a Great Day!