Why Walmart Cut Staff to Become More Agile
When you think of an agile team, a small, tight-knit group often comes to mind. In order to effectively collaborate and incorporate frequent reassessment of tasks, members of a team need to not only trust one another, but also be able to effectively communicate and work as one.
That task grows in difficulty significantly when an organization is the size of, say, Walmart. The world’s largest retailer just laid off 450 workers at its headquarters in order to become a more agile business, and it joins major names like Amazon as corporations trim the fat to compete in a fast-moving marketplace.
The overall Walmart HQ team stands at around 18,000 employees, so 450 people is a significant chunk for this Bentonville, Arkansas, community to lose. This is the greatest number of workers to be cut since 2009, during the US recession.
Why make such a shift, though? According to a memo sent around to Walmart employees, the company needs to move at a faster rate. With so many consumers choosing to shop online and other organizations already moving at a fast pace, this was a move Walmart felt was necessary.
“Our customers are changing. Retail is changing and we must change," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote in the memo, via the The Associated Press. "We need to become a more agile company that can easily adapt to shifting customer demand."
Can it work for Walmart, though? Streaming service Netflix had to adapt in its steady climb to prominence by turning to agile, automation, and DevOps to achieve proper security and keep pace with demand. So, there are examples of big companies finding success when focusing on agility.
LeadingAgile cofounder and CEO Mike Cottmeyer has his own thoughts on not only agile transformation, but how big businesses should handle it.
“I’m a big believer that agile culture and agile practices are essential for long term, sustainable organizational agility,” Cottmeyer writes. “That said, I don’t think you can train your way into it and I don’t think you can believe your way into it."
He continues, "In most large organizations, bottom up is not an option without leadership acting from the top.”
Walmart might not end up calling itself a fully agile company, but it is trying to become faster to compete with the changing business landscape. It has to adapt to continue to grow, and in this day and age, growth often comes from downscaling.