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When I am preparing CFOs who want to move into the CEO position, one of the essential topics I educate them on is strategy – choosing the strategy, executing the strategy, and measuring the strategy. This recent NPR story about retailer J.C. Penney got me thinking about when a company needs to change the strategy. J.C. Penney dumped CEO Ron Johnson after only 18 months on the job, and after only 18 months into a 3 year plan. I don’t usually advocate abandoning a plan or strategy after only 18 months, but in this case, the root of the problem came during the planning process. If the new pricing strategy alienated customers, it was the wrong strategy. Listen to the customers. They are the ones spending money in the stores. What do they want? What were the metrics elected to measure the new pricing strategy? Focusing on profits instead of customers meant they drove away both customers AND profits.

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