Sunday, August 21, 2011

« Onward » by Howard SCHULTZ, with Joanne GORDON

This book was recommended to me by award-winning HR blogger Ron THOMAS. You should definitely check out his Strategy Focused HR blog if you haven't already.

After being Starbucks Coffee's CEO for many years, Howard SCHULTZ at one point stepped aside to become chairman. But when, in 2007, he realized that the company was sort of losing its soul, obsessed with growth and short-term metrics, he returned as CEO.

The book tells how he put in place what he called a “transformation agenda”, an ambitious program that would allow Starbucks to survive the economic crisis and to start developing again.

SCHULTZ offers a detailed account of the operations, that included:
  • Redefining Starbucks' mission statement
  • Organizing a huge event in New Orleans, gathering thousands of Starbucks managers
  • Fixing bug problems in the supply chain system
  • Closing stores, laying off people
  • Changing the corporate leadership team
  • Innovating in new products and coffee machines
  • Focusing on the company's core values: a love for coffee and a deep commitment mainly to the community, to coffee producers in poor countries and to the employees' healthcare system

One good thing about the book is that it tells the successes, but also the hesitations and the failures that SCHULTZ had to face.

How is this book useful to HR practitioners?

Reading this book was a real pleasure, as fascinating as reading a good novel. I learned a lot about:
  • Great leadership and internal communication good practices
  • How big international companies work and make decisions
  • How a mission statement and the definition of a company's core values can go well beyond rhetoric and be placed at the center of a company's change management strategy

The book also shows us how difficult it can be for a great leader to find a successor: what will happen when Howard SCHULTZ has to step aside for good?


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