Monday, February 5, 2007

Failure to fit in

Wal-Mart is in the midst of a messy divorce with Julie Roehm, the Marketing SVP it hired to lively up the brand and after a fast 10 months on the job, unceremoniously fired. Wal-Mart claims Roehm was canned for violations of company policy; Roehm claims that she was a change agent who got chewed up and spit out.

Either way, it's really just another case of Mohammad and the mountain. A successful, high-profile exec takes a job at a new company. Is it incumbent on the exec to adjust his or her style and learn to work effectively within the company or is the company supposed to change to accommodate the exec? If you have any trouble answering that question, try this one: who pays who?

It looks like the courts will end up affixing the damages in the case of Roehm vs. Wal-Mart. But, no matter what corporate craziness occurred along the road (and you can be sure there was some given Wal-Mart's skill at shooting itself in the foot) or what the final decision, it was Roehm who failed to fit in and, like many execs before her, she will bear the brunt of the loss.

By the way, it's not like fitting in at a new company requires a secret handshake that nobody will teach you. There are a couple of great books on the subject. The classic is John Gabarro's The Dynamics of Taking Charge and the other one that I like is Right from the Start by Dan Ciampa and Michael Watkins.

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