Home Depot’s “Culture Change” Offensive

Home Depot Logo

Not long after Home Depot‘s Bob Nardelli unleashed his silly PR offensive designed to get him more money (see the post here), he managed to get someone to whip up an article designed to show he reads management articles too.

The Harvard Business Review‘s Ram Charan wrote a puff piece on “Home Depot’s Blueprint for Culture Change” in the April 2006 issue. I’d love to give you a link to the article, but the HBR is subscription only content (you can, however buy this article for $6 here).

This article is PR work at it’s finest. Sure the HBR requires there to be some real content, and even perhaps some kind of learning about how to do thou likewise. But the miracle here is the stench of spin. You can smell it in the lead in:

Deep, lasting culture change requires an integrated approach that remodels a company’s social systems. The leadership team of Home Depot employed a remarkable set of tools to do that.

The remarkable set of tools was “boot camp”. See my blog entry on that here.

But, to be fair there are some really interesting ideas in the article about how to catalog change, and monitor what is happening. The problem is, it didn’t work at HD. And I know why.

This culture change didn’t “take” because it didn’t go deep enough.

This culture change didn’t “take” because it didn’t go deep enough. It was decided by the top 17 executives at an offsite meeting. It was rolled out in a “huge event” to another 1,800 more. But Home Depot has over 345,000 employees in over 2,000 stores. That means fewer than one-half of 1% of the employees even got briefed on this big change. And 0.005% of the employees had input. No wonder they hate the required Monday morning “BobCasts”.

Bob, sir, forgive me, but even in the military you have to explain things to people, get their buy-in, heck even consider that private’s opinion. This fancy “culture change” ain’t working, and no amount of force-feeding’s going to make it work. But you don’t care, you’re off to the bank.

PS – The author, Ram is to be forgiven — he was the consultant working on the project for HD. He’s just trying to get a little PR for himself. You can be sure he didn’t get anything like Bob’s pay package