Photo: Adaptation by Kim Bhasin
JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson, the former retail head at Apple, is a “rocket man,” writes John Bell on his blog CEO Afterlife. Bell was CEO of Kraft subsidiary Jacobs Suchard.What’s a rocket man? They’re the ones at places like Amazon, Google and Apple who can still keep innovation going despite massive size. They’re required in big business, especially when inventing “old economy” companies like JCPenney.
“The sense of urgency that drives rocket men like Ron Johnson is the cultural factor that shakes old-school passengers from the withered branches of corporate inertia,” writes Bell. “Their landing can be awfully hard.”
At JCPenney, he nuked the JCPenney C-suite, replacing his chief operating officer, chief marketing officer, chief technology officer, chief talent officer and later the chief financial officer.
Middle managers have been fired by the hundreds, and more store-level employees find themselves out of work.
But a total shift is needed to change an old economy company. “Leaders who have thrived within innovative environments hold the key,” writes Bell. “Incremental improvement isn’t an option; these leaders demand transformation.”
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