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Discovery Driven Planning: Learning from failures and disappointments at Lululemon

I was browsing through this week’s edition of Business Week when I ran across a great story as part of their 50 fast-growth companies series.  The story is about Lululemon, a retailer that has grown in the high double (and even triple) digits, and had an initial public offering last year that raised $344 milion.  It focuses with incredible emphasis on the right products for doing yoga, and has built a great business model including converting yoga instructors in local communities before setting up shop there.

What caught my eye in reading the article was a note about how their new CEO plans to keep herself informed and aware of what’s going on.  One practice is that all employees (right up to the CEO) are required to spend at least eight hours a month working in their stores—my readers will know that I’ve blogged before about how companies unintentially isolate their CEO’s from information that could be vital to making decisions.  So the incoming CEO of this outfit literally gets on her hands and knees and hems yoga pants!

The other practice that I thought was really insightful was to regularly have breakfast with regular employees and ask them the question “What’s the most idiotic thing we did in the last 60 days?”  Imagine if you had all that self-correcting, in-the-moment insight going right to the top in your companies—it sure might stop a lot of mistakes while they are still little.

Such practices are completely in the spirit of discovery driven planning – recognize the reality versus your assumptions about it, fess up and make changes while there is still time. 

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