This has been a concept I have worked on for about 9 months. After some practice with stores and corporate offices, I have found a few people who love the concept. What people particularly like about this concept is the clarity, ownership, shared values, communication, and continuous improvement synergy it fosters.
I call it the “Corporate-Store Sandbox.” It fosters a leadership understanding between corporate and retail entities and empowers a symbiotic relationship. Essentially it is a play area where leaders can function at their best in places where corporate-to-store tensions arise. Hopefully the drawing is self-explanatory, but here is short real life situation that best describes why the sandbox is important.
Donald, a Store Manager for TYME Stores, and a Corporate Senior Director, Raymond began working together on a significant rework of a key customer strategy. Both were excited about the opportunity but both had unique perspectives on the new idea. Raymond at TYME was known for generating key growth strategies and loved to solve problems. Donald, one of the Senior Store Managers enjoyed working with Raymond and felt he delivered great strategic thinking however felt Raymond was disconnected from the reality at a number of stores with whom Donald would collaborate. In the early stages of this relationship there was great tension between the Corporate and Store relationship, but over time the sandbox concept created clarity of relationship and understanding that diminished the tensions. The sandbox, for the two high-performers, gave clarity in 4 areas:
- Understanding decision rights. Donald and Raymond now have a clear understanding where decision rights land. Outside of the sandbox corporate decides in collaboration with stores, but on the inside of the sandbox store to store relationships own best practices that equip, train, develop, and communicate to their people. In the sandbox and outside of the sandbox are areas where TYME works together not independently of each other. But depending on where things land decision rights will land with that group.
- Rules of engagement where tensions arise. Often in corporate-to-store meetings there was tension in the room and moments where each group had difficulty speaking out appropriately. This was primarily due to not understanding what type of voice was required of them in meetings. Without this clarity the “outspoken leaders” would often control the atmosphere and the “conflict avoidant” did not speak out. The sandbox gave both Donald and Raymond and their peers ways to identify and be empowered through the tensions.
- Language for effective meeting discussion. Raymond today uses the sandbox in meetings help staff understand which issue they are currently tackling. He actually brings the agreed upon sandbox to the meeting, and as they work on strategy he points on the drawing to which item they are discussing. This simple activity now guides the language and discussion since the surrounding values, goals, and win become safe parameters to the expectations and contribution of the meeting. Those who wish to take the conversation beyond the boundaries of the sandbox are simply asked to save their contribution for different meetings where the relevant conversation can be had. This helps our corporate employees and store employees to understand their place and needed response during the meeting.
- Less drift by empowering people. The sandbox also give clarity to moments when drift can happen. Drift happens everyday in every business including TYME, but the key is to lessen the impact and empower people to keep their eyes on the drift. The sandbox helps to empower all employees to identify drift and address it on the spot.
There is much more to this concept, but I have found this useful on many levels.