Target responds to disgruntled employee

These are not happy times for Team Target at the headquarters in Minneapolis. On top of its failed expansion in Canada, the data breach in November, and the forced exit of the CEO, an employee at the headquarters last week went public — except for his/her name, of course — with a letter to Gawker.

Target HQ is in bad shape and in desperate need of help, direction and vision, starting from the top down. [Former CEO] Greg Steinhafel getting fired was a good step, along with the CIO being fired a few months ago, but it’s not enough.

The entire executive team with the exception of the CMO Jeff Jones needs to go. Why? Because everyone was homegrown and “Targetized” and has no concept of how to run a 21st century business. They still think it’s 1996 and you can keep throwing up Target stores and suburban moms will love them. They pay lip service to how retail is evolving but it when it comes to actually making good decisions, they do horribly.

When I started, they were so excited about getting “Buy online, pick up in store” as if that was some new invention. How many other stores have that and do it better than Target? Regular customers don’t even know about it, because people hate Target’s website. They’ve tried starting a Netflix like service, or a subscription service, but no one knows about them and they are just copycats of what other businesses are doing.

Target has no original ideas, they are just reacting to what other companies are doing and jumping the bandwagon. They have a culture that makes decision via consensus, so it takes FOREVER to make a decision and implement even the smallest change. That keeps them from being able to make the necessary changes, and they won’t ever get there without a big change in leadership and a true vision beyond “keep the doors open”.

It probably is no coincidence that the exec selected to respond to the anonymous email was chief marketing officer Jeff Jones.

On his LinkedIn blog yesterday, Jones didn’t put up a fight. “The truth hurts,” he said.

In reading this account of life at Target, I’ve gone through a range of emotions – first anger, then wondering why any team member would say what they said. And while it was difficult for me to read this account for many reasons, the reality is that our team members speaking with honesty is a gift. Because much of what they are saying is true.

While we would have preferred to have a conversation like this with the team member directly, speaking openly and honestly, and challenging norms is exactly what we need to be doing today and every day going forward.

To quote French novelist Emile Zola, “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”

But Jones delivered a message to Target employees who don’t think the company is taking “bold risks and innovating like never before.”

“If you don’t believe this,” he wrote. “If you are not reinvigorated at this very important moment in time. If you are too tired or too cynical for this work, please leave.”

(h/t: Marty Moylan)