Retail has become a highly data-intensive industry, and with high sales and high product movement, the holiday season is especially intensive. There is no greater test to a store’s operations than the holidays. The National Retail Foundation found the holidays exceeded their estimated 154 million shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend and 156 million on Super Saturday.1
Since the holidays are huge performance generators for retail, they require year-round planning and preparation with the goal of hitting higher targets than the year before. Corporate giants like Walmart are prepped and ready to hit the road with their first holiday deals by November 1st.2 However, as companies start planning for future sales, they first should look back. Meaning, they should invest time in the all-important post-mortem analysis, looking into what went well and what needs work.
Post-mortems happen at all levels of the company, but one of the most important is between district managers and store managers. At this level, you get to drill into the data and turn data analysis into actionable store plans for the year to come.
Unfortunately, post-mortem meetings get a bad rep as “a waste of time” because teams are split and apprehensive to share when the data isn’t glowing with high targets. Like with most successful projects, companies will need to coach their teams to use a framework that makes talking through the hard questions easier. Share these tips with your teams before their next post-mortem to help them stay productive during collaborations.
Tips for Better Post Mortem Meetings: Turn Data into Action
1. Share a Growth Mindset
No one wants to take share in bad news. People are quick to play hot potato with the responsibility when sales figures and goals aren’t as pretty as they should be. Not only is this a waste of time, it also makes people apprehensive about their input.
To avoid the blame game, you need to discuss their expectations for the meeting at its onset. Let it be known that the purpose of the post-mortem meeting is to help stores become more successful. Remind them that these meetings are growth opportunities that allow stores to better manage their resources and boost sales.
2. Establish Clearly Defined Roles
Post-mortem meetings become stressful when discussions lack a structure and no one has a clue of how their role will contribute to future outcomes. You will want to make sure that everyone at the meeting leaves with an understanding of what they’re doing and how they’ll do. Otherwise, important tasks falling to the wayside with members saying, “I thought that was so-and-so’s job” at the next collaboration.
Encourage your team to establish a leader at the start of post-mortem meetings. This way, all their questions are answered and conversations will stay on track of the big picture: Turning data into workable actions. You’ll want to make sure that all members have a clear understanding of:
- How their role contributed to the results of the data.
- How their role will be used in carrying out the proposed action plan.
When the meeting is over, A and B should be different for some of the members. Working for clarity in these roles will ensure that everyone understands their new responsibilities, keeping them accountable.
3. Don’t Fear Conflict, Manage It
Rarely do collaborations not have conflict. Post-mortem meetings are no exception. Especially when the goal is to overcome challenges found in distribution and sales. However, conflict can be constructive.
Dr. Stephen Covey is a leader in using conflict to find mutual solutions, as he founded the six paradigms of human interaction. According to Dr. Covey, conflict is used effectively when all parties share an equal concern about their own interests and the interests of the others.3 In other words, everyone at the meeting should feel like the data used during the discussion will lead to a “win/win” scenario for everyone involved.
4. Open the Floor for a Follow-Up
It’s one thing to have a plan on paper. It’s another when the plan is put into action and unforeseen challenge spring to life. At the end of the post-mortem meeting, you should offer yourself as an “open door” to help achieve goals. This will keep everyone accountable and boost morale for the next post mortem meeting.
The most important thing to remember when hosting a post mortem meeting is to actively seek out a mutual benefit. District and store managers are both working for the same end goal: More sales. Although their responsibilities and tasks are different, they’re both directly affected by the success or shortcomings of the other. Use these tips to find that mutual benefit and turn opportunity into real value.
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1. Ana S. “156 Million Americans Plan to Shop on Super Saturday”. National Retail Federation. https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/156-million-americans-plan-shop-super-saturday ↩
2. “Walmart Unveils Holiday Plans: Invests in Pickup, Introduces Holiday Helpers”. Walmart. http://news.walmart.com/2016/10/27/walmart-unveils-holiday-plans-invests-in-pickup-introduces-holiday-helpers ↩
3. Dory Reeves, Management Skills for Effective Planners (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 71. ↩