Tuesday, January 27, 2009

You can't talk your way out of something you behaved your way into

Open the pantry in just about any home in America and it's likely there's a can of Campbell's Soup in there somewhere.

In fact, according to this article, "the typical American home has six cans of Campbell's in the pantry."

But when Douglas Conant took over as CEO of Campbell's in 2001, "it had no clear direction."

So Conant set a goal to "take a 'bad' company and lift its performance to 'extraordinary' by the end of one decade — that's by 2011."

His plan was focused on action. As Conant puts it:

"You can't talk your way out of something you behaved your way into."

He began by clearing his roster. "In his first three years, 300 of the company's top 350 leaders were replaced — 150 from within and 150 from outside."

This article from BusinessWeek describes Conant's penchant for reading:

"A devout reader of leadership tomes, Conant has scores of books in his office on shelves and piled up in corners. He keeps extra copies on hand to share with colleagues, and he started an executive book club for top brass. The cerebral Conant devours the words of everyone from President Abraham Lincoln to World War II General George S. Patton to management guru Stephen Covey. And he drops Leo Tolstoy quotes into conversations.

"I'm obsessed with getting new insights," he says. "I recently read a book about Patton, and he was an obsessive reader. It's really the only way to learn."

So how's he done?

According to the article, "turning Campbell around has not been simple, and is not a done deal. Last year, Campbell far outperformed the stock market."

BusinessWeek put it this way:

"Conant... has transformed Campbell from a beleaguered old brand rumored to be on the auction block to one of the food industry's best performers."