All Articles Leadership Inspiration #ASTD2011: How Sears Optical reinvented its corporate culture

#ASTD2011: How Sears Optical reinvented its corporate culture

3 min read


If you want to create corporate change, you have to engage every level of the business.  The challenge is doing that effectively.  According to Sears Optical, it’s done by identifying the root cause of the fear and resistance.

Sears was facing challenges in its retail optical locations.  Sales were down and customer complaints were rising.  While it might have been tempting to immediately implement customer service training or sales incentives, Sears devoted significant resources to research the cause of this decline.  What it determined was optical center staff viewed their positions completely differently than the company.

During the American Society for Training & Development’s 2011 International Conference & Exposition, Sears Optical shared its six-step process of changing the culture at its optical centers:

  1. Research and Analysis. Sears realized its employees wanted to do the right thing.  The challenge was to identify what exactly was the right thing for Sears.
  2. Leadership Alignment. As much as you might want to believe senior leadership teams are in perfect alignment, sometimes that’s not the case.  Changes in team members and external business factors can derail the best teams.  Sears worked with an external partner to get everyone on the same page.
  3. Cultural Reset. If an organization has to realign its values, then it’s critical to communicate that change to the workforce.  Sears made sure that employees knew about the changes, realizing that some employees might not want to commit to the new direction.
  4. Support Tools. All employee programs must align with the goals of the organization.  Sears made sure its recruiting, onboarding, customer service, and training programs were aligned.  This ensured the employees and customers received the same quality experience.
  5. Socialization. Sears Optical introduced a pilot program and tracked the results, not only in terms of customer service scores but increased revenue.  The preliminary numbers showed a positive return in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The projection is the program will yield an impact in the millions.
  6. Follow-up. The final step for Sears Optical was to incorporate the key components of the program into its performance evaluation process and train managers to coach and reinforce the values and goals set by the company.

By devoting time and resources to conducting a proper analysis, Sears Optical was able to identify the true reason for their challenges and develop a program to address the issues.

It can be very tempting to say you know what the problem is and immediately react.  This case study is a terrific example of the many reasons that analysis is necessary.  Even when you think you know the answer — do the analysis and confirm the result.  It could be worth millions.