What comes to mind when you hear the name Sam Walton? No, I’m not talking about recent visuals like giant superstores, falling prices, or a smiley face. I’m talking about the Sam Walton of old … the traditional baseball hat and tie, the down-home wisdom, and that old pick-up truck he drove from store to store to support his employees and customers. Those were the good old days of hard work and basic principles.
Sam Walton and his family built an empire that today rules the retail industry worldwide and sees little or nothing that will stifle that growth and success in the near future.
However, that empire started with one store, a few dedicated employees and a man who knew how to inspire, teach and lead his employees. He established goals and knew what he had to do to reach them. He also knew how to convey those special talents to his staff and he did so regularly.
One of the first and most effective principles he established within the culture destined for growth and supremacy was very basic indeed. It was introduced to his employees as E.T.D.T. … an acronym created to remind everyone to “Eliminate The Dumb Things.”
A new employee—a bit unclear of the battle cry—once asked Sam what a “dumb” thing was. Sam’s answer was clear and precise: “A dumb thing is anything that impedes our progress, the progress of our customers or vendors.” He went on to explain “anything” might be a policy, procedure, rule, regulation, process, strategy, idea, tool, etc.
Sam went on to say: “If and when you see a dumb thing, bring it to our attention, explain how and why it’s impeding progress, and suggest a better way to do it.” That’s how he achieved critical employee involvement, received many more suggestions than any of his competitors, reached tremendous customer satisfaction levels, and grew to be larger, more productive and more profitable than his next ten competitors combined.
It’s interesting to note that leaders in every field of endeavor seem to encourage the respect and support of the “basics.” Tom Peters, famed author and consultant, says: “The older I get, the less boring the ‘basics’ become!” Maybe more of us should consider that revelation. It does have a successful track record.
Would your organization benefit by a greater focus on the concept of “E.T.D.T.”?