Archie Norman’s approach to leading Asda out of disaster followed very closely to Heifetz & Laurie’s five principles of leadership, in which “the first task in adaptation is to spot the challenge and identify its implications for the organization” (Learning to Lead). Archie’s case study had similarities to the example of Koedijk’s struggles with KPMG. Both companies recognized that people from different departments were unwilling to collaborate with each other and this was embedded as a company norm. When this happens, people will work against each other to promote their own ideas rather than working together and collectively agreeing on the best one. Archie began his tenure by identifying the adaptive challenge to his entire company. “In speech after speech, to employees as well as investors, Norman laid out the details of what he referred to as Asda’ ‘darkest moment.’ He ignored frequent advise that he soften his blunt message of ‘gloom and doom.’” (Archie Norman at ASDA). As a result of his honesty to the company, they were now made aware that they even had a problem. Asda could not begin moving forward to work towards a solution if they didn’t realize an adaptive challenge was present in the first place.
After identifying the adaptive challenges of Asda, Archie regulated the company’s stress through clear and consistent communication. As the leader, Archie had a responsibility to make sure people understood why changes were occurring and what was expected out of everyone moving forward. “A key leadership task is to keep people’s attention and responsibility focused on the tough questions through a sustained period of disequilibrium during which they learned to achieve a better way of operating, i.e., a new adaptation” (Learning to Lead). During Archie’s first six months, he had all of his top management take residence at a hotel and they would have discussions every night on the new vision for Asda. These discussions were based on a collective agreement of what they identified as the adaptive challenge, which was the stove-piped functional culture that hindered any collaborative efforts. As a result of these focused conversations, they were able to come up with the renewal process that would eventually be implemented throughout their 205 stores.
Once the distress was regulated, it was important for Archie to maintain disciplined attention on the central issues that were identified and keep Asda’s pulse on it. Otherwise, the company’s collaborative efforts can become fragmented and steered away as people become preoccupied with secondary concerns. In order to keep the entire company on track, Archie’s top team “provided guidance to the renewal process in three forms: a statement of corporate strategy, an articulation of company values, and a blue-print for what came to be known as the Asda Way of Working” (Archie Norman at ASDA). After the strategy and culture change, Archie knew that by putting everything down in writing, those changes would always be there to go back and reference. It would remain the constant despite whatever issue or situation was being dealt with. Those three written guides served as the foundation for Asda and gave the company consistency as it grew and as people accepted the adaptive changes.
The implementation of Asda’s new changes would not succeed if Archie