Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Ron Johnson is now the former CEO of JC Penney. He was fired yesterday after wrecking the chain of clothing and dry goods stores. Although he did some good things, he got off on the wrong track with every day low pricing, and he was never able to recover. With his resume and record of success, one is left wondering why he made such hash of Penney. One answer is obvious. He didn't know nor care to find out much about his public. He assumed he knew what they wanted. That was the approach he took with Apple stores, which are highly successful, and it was the path that Steve Jobs took with product development at Apple. It is also the direction than many innovators have followed who realized that often the public doesn't know what it wants or needs until it sees it. But Penney's public was different, and Johnson didn't see that or denied it. Humility is a hard lesson for leaders. The board finally had enough, and now the chain is facing a prolonged period of rebuilding. It is possible that Penney never will recover. Retailers come and go. If it does disappear, Johnson's bio will be forever stained.