What a public relations nightmare! A big corporation attacks the revenue stream of a distinguished not-for-profit community group…that represents decency, the American way and little girls? Oh, good one. It looked almost like Wal-Mart had decided on a potlatch destruction of goodwill and social capital. "Goodwill? Goodwill? We don't need no stinking goodwill." (As Bob Sutton points out, Wal-Mart is an organization that proves to be increasingly goodwill intensive. Someday its going to need goodwill the way aluminum smelting needs power.)
Now, surely several people inside the corporation took a look at this and thought, "Ok, this is a really bad idea." Nobody needs a Chief Culture Officer to spot an idea as bad as this. No, the reason Wal-Mart needs a CCO is because it needed someone inside the corporation with enough power to intercede.
Bad decisions in the corporate world take on a certain momentum. People start to say, "well, if lots of others think it's a good idea, who am I to object?" It's almost as if a consensus begins to form around the bad idea, and allowing it to pass more swiftly through the intestinal track on its way into the world. (Sorry about the metaphor.)
Wal-Mart needs someone in the C-suite that culturally sophisticated employees could reach out to. It needs someone in the C-Suite who can hear the whistle blowers blowing.
Harquail. C.V. 2009. Wal-Mart Knocks Off the Girls Scouts. Authentic Organizations. August 3. here.
McCracken, Grant. 2009. Chief Culture Officer. New York: Basic Books. Available for pre-order from Basic Books here.
Sutton, Bob. 2009. Wal-Mart and Girl Scout Cookies: Thin-Minty Gate. Work Matters. August 13. here.