From Firefighting to Strategic Planning: Rich James’ COE Journey at Coles

Rich and his team were eager to explore new approaches and make changes, particularly in harnessing the potential of their data. He and his team at Coles were grappling with several challenges:

  • They frequently found themselves dealing with emergencies, constantly putting out fires without a clear understanding of what they were accomplishing.
  • There was a lack of measurement and no focused improvement initiatives in place.
  • They had a vast amount of data but lacked the insights needed to make informed decisions.

They hadn’t taken significant steps to address their issues. In some ways, they had begun to accept their chaotic situation as the norm.

“ I was busting for a new way of doing things.  This was it!” Rich James.

An end to the chaos

COE provided structured methodologies that Rich and his team could apply. Here’s how they found solutions to their problems:

  • By fostering better understanding and communication between teams, they realigned with key internal customers, strengthening their relationships.
  • They worked together to create a simple, comprehensive 12-month plan that everyone could support.
  • COE introduced a structured approach to measuring demand, a practice they hadn’t engaged in before. This helped them grasp the extent of their ad hoc activities and time investments, enabling discussions that led to different, more informed decisions. 
  • They used the skills matrix to prioritise skill development and succession planning, feeding into Individual Development Plans (IDPs) in a structured manner.
  • The team learned to extract and analyse data using novel techniques, shifting from their usual focus on short-term data to a more comprehensive, long-term view. This approach discouraged overreacting to minor data fluctuations and, instead, honed in on the outliers, saving valuable time.
  • Regular Continuous Improvement (CI) sessions became a norm for Rich’s team, a practice he initially wouldn’t have believed possible. This evolution stemmed from the work they did during COE.
  • Tangible impacts followed, including improved KPIs in forecasting, stock availability, and engagement. They also achieved significant time savings by streamlining their processes.

Key Learnings

Rich recognized that he had been a key person dependency in the past, hesitant to let go. Through COE, he learned to empower his team to grow, ensuring they could function independently. If you are ready to empower your team, a call with Anita and the QBS team is the right place to start! Afterall, Rich strongly recommends the COE program to any leader. He highlights its broad yet deep approach, enabling participants to apply learning directly to their roles. COE – an unforgettable experience that transforms leadership practices.

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