Is your organization unintentionally slow and clumsy by design?

Hopefully, none of us intentionally develop our strategy and design our company so that we can be slow and clumsy. Yet, here is a question we must ask:

Is your organization unintentionally slow and clumsy by design?

A recent Dilbert cartoon depicted a conversation between the pointed-haired manager and Dilbert. The manager said, “Our strategy is to be nimble and agile”. Dilbert responds, “Do other companies have a strategy of being clumsy and slow?” This seems like a silly question, but is it really?

While not having an explicit strategy to be clumsy and slow, many companies, even some well know ones, have "unknowingly" become that way. This has happened most often due to an inability/unwillingness to change past decisions on strategy, organizational design, and governance as well as policies and procedures, even considering changing customer expectations and radical disruptions in their industry and marketplace.

A case in point is clearly depicted by my recent experience at a well-know, big box retailer, let’s call them “StuffMart”. Finding an offer for K-Cups on detailed as 72 cups (4 - 18 packs) for $35.99, I figured I would save time and money and went to my local StuffMart store to make this purchase. I picked up 4 -18 packs of the named product, but they were priced at $10.99 each. I expected this would easily be handled at the register like many other companies do.

Was I wrong! Over the next 20 minutes, I was passed from self-checkout to a cashier, and then customer service only to be told: “ is a different company. They have different SKUs, so we cannot match their price. It’s just not possible”. Besides clumsy and slow, it was a very frustrating customer experience for me. As far as I am concerned, there is one StuffMart and blaming company structure and policies only made it more frustrating.

So, what happened:

StuffMart's past strategy, structure, policies, incentives, and compliance-focused culture stopped their employees and managers from "doing the right thing" and delivering a satisfactory and easy customer experience.

As a result, the company lost money with me. They had to return the items I was to purchase back to the shelves, and as I still ordered online to get the bargain, they now had to pay for shipping. StuffMart is not alone in having these struggles.

What about your company? Do you make it difficult, if not impossible, for your employees to do their jobs? If yes, is it because of outdated policies, procedures, decision making rules, mindsets on how much strategy information to share with staff, and restrictions on accessing critical company and customer information?

Here are some questions to consider customers’ and then employees’ views to see if you face the same faults and challenges that Stuffmart (and does:


  • Is it difficult for your customers to work with you and have their needs met?

  • Are your customers frustrated and dissatisfied with their experiences with you?

  • Are customers not asked for their viewpoint and/or not engaged with to better understand their needs? Do you just make assumptions based on your internal point of view?


  • Is it difficult for your employees to do their jobs and provide both value and a superior experience to your customers?

  • Are employees hindered by having enforced policies and procedures, having little or no strategic insight because information is not shared with them, not having to access critical company and customer information, and/or not having decision-making authority to do what is right for the customer?

  • Do you not ask employees about their views or engage with them to better understand issues and possible solutions, instead choosing to rely solely on leadership’s internal point of view?

If you answered any of these questions affirmatively, you are not delivering the type of experience and value your customers demand and you are adversely affecting long-term company value.

Do you want to learn more about and better understand where you really are? If yes, please contact us at Twelve Oaks Advisors for a free of charge, facilitated 2-hour educational and working session. All we ask is for you and your leadership team to commit time to answer some preliminary questions and be present and engaged at the session. We promise to deliver both insights and initial value. You can learn more about us at

P.S. Stuffmart just announced effective August 1 that it hired someone to be its new Chief Customer Officer to integrate stores and e-commerce. I wish them much luck. They have a tough road ahead unless the company radically transforms its business, starting with not allowing an internal structure decision from becoming a customer-facing challenge.