Last week I did a post on Walmart's 10-year commitment to buy $250 billion in American-made goods. Walmart made the pledge in 2013, and while the company won’t reveal an exact figure, it says it is on track to meet its goal.
My take was that if you've ever hated Walmart for what they've done to local businesses, etc - you ought to reconsider if you can buy American made products at Walmart. That take generated some interesting comments related to a basic hypothesis - that people really don't care anymore where products are made.
Here's an example of a smart, well thought out comment posted along those lines:
"First I want to say that I have really enjoyed your analysis and insight into numerous business/hr topics. It is often refreshing to hear someone with business sense speak on HR topics so thank you for this service!
I understand what you mean by telling all the haters to give Walmart some respect. One point that I would like to make though is why do we care where Walmart gets there products? From a free-market perspective we couldn’t care less where the products come from as long as they meet our needs. American manufacturing jobs should not be our aim, if that means products are more expensive (unless of course the value proposition of the actual products is higher). More expensive products means that the normal shopper needs to pay more which means money cannot flow into other things. This actually can hurt both the poor who price plays a very important role in their purchases. While it might help some folks who are in manufacturing in the US, on the whole it is bad for the economy because capital is not flowing to the most productive activities. At the end of the day, in the free market, we should buy from whoever provides the best value proposition in their products. Free markets dictate that we should all do what ever we do best and trade for everything else.
I’d be curious to hear your thoughts."
So - I'll spin my answer to that a different way. The answer isn't whether you or I think that we should protect American manufacturing, it's whether Walmart can test this idea and actually make the same (or more) margin off of American-made products as offshore alternatives. If the vast majority of Americans don't care, they won't be able to make it work financially. If the majority do care (after being marketed to), Walmart should make the same or more money off those product lines.
In other words, the market decides, but you have to run a test.
That's where a Change Agile test could come in. Change Agile - brings Agile principles to your change efforts.
Change Agile is about managers engaging their teams on a team vision, project or perhaps just something that's broken - bringing their teams into the idea process to unlock the innovative powers of a team. After an idea is selected, agile suggests that you have to run tests that are as small as possible to make sure the idea you selected actually works before layering too much complexity into your solution.
So if Walmart was Change Agile, they'd run a month's worth of testing on this concept that would look like this:
- They'd start by describing their test - we believe that by labeling products as American made and pricing them in a way that delivers the same or greater margin as offshore alternatives, American products will outsell the offshore alternatives as evidenced by sales in test markets.
- Next, they'd identify 10-15 products currently in stores, and create displays that would show both American made and offshore made products side by side - with the American product clearly noted and possibly higher priced as necessary to protect the margin.
- They then would create 10-15 test stores that would represent a cross section of rural/urban and regional diversity.
- They'd market as necessary.
- The test would run for a defined period of time - let's say one month.
- They'd measure the results of the test after the time period was up.
- They'd make the decision whether to pursue/pivot/abandon the concept based on the test.
That's how you'd handle the concept via change agile. As the commenter above and others noted- the market decides. If no one cares, the test fails and Walmart can still do what it's doing for PR purposes, but by running Change Agile style tests, they'd understand what the consumer really thinks - and know whether the concept had bigger designs than good PR.
Obviously Walmart understands testing concepts. But since I'm doing some work in Change Agile, it's a good example for me to share how this could be tested using Change Agile and get all thinking about the value of running tests on concepts in your workplace - and engaging your team in those tests.