initial communication and integration plans stipulated. This proved valuable for validating accounting requirements.
Another challenge stemmed from Wal-Mart Brasil’s geographically dispersed stakeholders; its three
business units each have their own freight management processes. It was important not to impose a
one-size-fits-all solution, so Mr. Corrêa spent time
talking with stakeholders in each unit. His team
ultimately created a freight-management process
that used a single tool, sharing the same database.
At the end of the project, payment errors on freight
shipments were reduced by 90 percent—freeing
up resources to better serve customers during the
A Ramadan Risk
In-store projects can deliver big benefits as well.
At global organizations, success can flow from
understanding the nuances of each region’s
holiday customs—and knowing when it might be
worth nudging people in a new direction. Jonathan
Thoms, country co-worker care center manager,
IKEA, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, learned this last year
when he suggested keeping his store open during
the day throughout Ramadan.
Traditionally, most retailers in Saudi
Arabia are open only at night during
the monthlong Muslim holiday, which
is marked by fasting from sunrise to
sunset. But with IKEA setting aggressive
sales goals for Saudi Arabia last year, Mr.
Thoms, then a sales manager, decided to
propose a project to change the norm.
Grocery stores remain open throughout
the day during Ramadan so people can
buy food for the evening meal, known
as iftar, which brings family and friends
together to break their fast. Three or four
months before the holiday began, Mr.
Thoms proposed that the IKEA store in
Jeddah should also open for shoppers
looking to buy pots, pans or cutlery.
This is where stakeholder management
skills came in handy. The store’s local
managers resisted, saying that employees wouldn’t
be willing to work before sundown. They also said
Mr. Thoms didn’t understand the local culture of
customers. “It was already a negative vibe in the
meeting room with the local managers,” he said.
Based on the managers’ feedback, the store management team decided to make the new daytime
shifts voluntary. Many employees were willing
to work during the day, if it was their choice to.
Slowly but surely, local store managers bought into
The next challenge involved food: At sundown
the IKEA store would need to feed not only its
own employees but also customers. So the store’s
restaurant manager contracted with an airline
food supplier to provide boxed meals that could
be served to several thousand customers in just 40
minutes. “By having a super-low-cost iftar meal,
people stayed in the store and shopped,” he says.
The benefits to the organization were resounding:
The store broke sales records. This year, the other
two IKEA stores in Saudi Arabia also opened during
the day. Mr. Thoms’ main lesson learned? To win
over critics, “listen, empathize and probe for suggestions that will give employees options. And don’t
accept the naysayers’ excuses.” —Amy Merrick
To win over
and probe for
that will give
—Jonathan Thoms, IKEA,
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Wal-Mart store in
Brazil. Below, IKEA in