Monday, July 23, 2012

Ralph - Did You Listen?

Much has been said and written about the Ralph Lauren uniforms for the US Olympic team. The Internet is abuzz with comments about the poor design and where the clothing was manufactured.  Suffice it to say, there has been little said in support of either.

The decisions about design and manufacturing were ill-conceived, as Mr. Lauren now knows.  My question - where were his advisers?  Lauren did not make these decisions in a vacuum.  Did no one in his organization have concerns? 

My guess - someone or several someones thought this was a bad idea.  I also guess they kept quiet because they wanted to keep their jobs.  It's too bad.  All the bad feelings about Ralph Lauren and his company could have been avoided if there had been some real and open communication. 

For a brief period, I worked in retail. I watched meetings in which the buyers laid out the monthly ad and the operations people picked those ads apart. Because the ops attendees were counted on to find the problems, they felt comfortable voicing their concerns and opinions. Many a snafu was avoided because the ops manager questioned the lack of an expiration date on a coupon or pointed out a potential delivery problem.  Apparently the Ralph Lauren company does not have the same open forum.

If I am wrong and someone did point out the issues with the uniforms, how and why was that person overruled?  Communication is critical to the success of any venture.  The lack of communication can cause unforeseen problems that can take years for a company or a person to overcome. 

Ralph Lauren - Listen to your people.  That's why you have them, isn't it?  If they don't feel comfortable saying what they think, then look at yourself and your management style.  Now that we live and work in an environment where things go viral in seconds, having negative comments about your product be a lead story on national news is not the way to go.  Is it?

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