The Alamo Syndrome

The Alamo Syndrome: When you are asked to buy into or engage in something that you know with 100% certainty will not work you see a line drawn in the sand giving you two options. One would be to stay and fail. The other to walk away with an uncertain outcome. Both are bad choices.

Are You Saying That You Can’t Do It?

It seems to be an often asked question in retail. That question is asked from someone that seldom visits a store and someone that knows nothing about the region where your store is located. They may be sitting at a desk with no idea of what your store looks like or where it is located. No plan should be a one size fits all. It should contain a measure of flexibility and fluidity.

Should communication and strategy trickle down management? The directive is sent down to the stores. It is a simple plan, a safe plan. It takes much of its body from last year and maybe the year before. The directive takes no risk. It is far from innovative. It is written in stone and is in no way fluid. They call it JLP just like the picture. Let’s execute this plan and great things will happen. Let’s do it.

Several weeks into the plan sales are down; the plan isn’t working. It is time to step back re-evaluate and recover from the disaster. Down comes the email for the dreaded conference call. Feedback is asked for and given. Silence!!!! White noise, the sound of crickets, here it comes. So are you saying that you can’t do this?

The whole district gave feedback. Ideas came from seasoned managers that had been with the company for many years, actionable ideas, things that we could implement now, today. The silence went on forever. It was not a friendly silence. It was one that held anger, revenge, hell hounds barking in the distant silence.

The regional manager finally spoke. It is not the plan. You will use the plan and no variations from the plan will be accepted. We all slide down that dark hole of uncertainty and fear. We knew to execute the plan was to fail and to adjust the plan to our stores was a fast track to the soup line.

That year many managers resigned, some just walked out the door. Some failed to meet the goals. Some of us said no to failure and took the experience and knowledge we had developed over the years and we were successful for that fourth quarter.

After the first of the year, I received a private call from my regional and was asked if I had reviewed the Q1 plan for the New Year. The question that I feared came when asked if I was on board with the initiative. I answered that I had reviewed it and most of it was great but several areas were not actionable and that goals were set without any actionable plan to get there. After several suggestions were given and many questions were asked the question came. Are you saying you can’t do it? The silence once again grew unbearable until I finally said I am not saying that I can’t do this. I am saying like Jim Bowie said to Davy Crockett at the Alamo, we can do this. Of course, we all know what happened there.

Point Of View:

Communication should not be trickle down. Open communication both ways is essential for successful planning and execution of anything that happens in a store.

The managers and staff in a store are frontline people. If provided with an engaging culture they will and can provide information and ideas that hold great value.

While the need to have a cohesive plan is completely reasonable it should also be fluid enough that changes can be made based on driving a store’s business. What works in the Northwest demographic doesn’t necessarily work in the Southern demographic.

Relationships should be built across the board so that planners understand the needs of the store and store managers can understand the needs of the planners. Collaboration means people working together, sharing ideas and feedback for a common purpose and result.

Lastly, have a compelling way that this communication will take place. Take your seasoned managers and people from different areas of corporate and form an advisory board. They work. I was on one and it was very effective in resolving the types of situations I described in this post.

As a side note, I did serve on an advisory board for that company for several years. We solved many problems with communication, branding and seasonal directives. We had people from corporate work in stores and managers work at corporate.   The company hired a new CEO a few years later and he was not familiar with the type of retail stores we were and changed the brand of the company. Within two years of the new CEO’s hiring the company folded.


Larry Tyler
Larry Tyler
Awaken the possibilities … then unleash them. After 55 years of successful retail management, I have returned to my passion of writing. I write Poetry, Storytelling, and Short Stories. As a child, I grew up on front porch storytelling. I would sit and listen to my Dad and his brothers tell these great stories that were captivating, and I always wanted to hear more. I wanted to experience the things they talked about. I started writing at a young age and reading everything I could get my hands on. At twelve years old I started a storytelling group and several of my friends became writers or poets. At 16 I hopped box cars and worked the tobacco fields, orange groves, picked cotton, and spent many nights around a campfire listing to life stories. Someone once asked me why I wrote. It consumes an amazing amount of time and I assure you it is not going to make me rich. I write so that my children can touch and feel my words telling of the ones that came before us and the stories they told me. These are the chronicles of our family and even though they come from my childhood memories and are deeply rooted in a child’s remembrance at least they may feel what it was like in the time before them and cherish the things the elders left behind. I am a Columnist & Featured Contributor, BIZCATALYST360 and I have The Writers Café, a group on LinkedIn that features Poets, Writers, Artists, Photographers, and Musicians . On Facebook I have two groups and one page; Dirt Road Storytelling, From Abandoned To Rescue Dogs And Cats, and About Life, Love And Living. As writers, it is true that we honestly do not know what we hold within us until we unleash it. When our words inspire others only then will inspiration return to the writer. I will spend my twilight years in search of the next story, the next poem, and the next image. I will take the time to enjoy my Wife, our Dogs, and Cats, and our amazing new home and I will always find the time to walk down a dirt road I truly hope is that I never have to read another book on Leadership, be on a conference call or see another plan o gram as these were the tool for what I did in life and not about who I am.

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  1. Larry, your article shows exactly why retail stores especially chains are going out of business or closing stores at an alarming rate. I hope you are not being affected by those storms I keep reading about. It was 65 degrees today here in New York.

  2. The communication is the basis of dialogue. When you dialogue, you communicate in many forms and in a repetitive, but to get to a certain point, whatever, together. Communication is not itself a collective action, dialogue always presupposes the existence and importance of the other. So when you work together with another, when collaborating you do not simply communicate, you are dialoguing. Dialogue with others is constructive, inspiring, uplifting, defines the community and the individual and human development, is the basis of any successful interpersonal relationship. But dialogue is the hardest thing that one has to do in the work, and in life in general. It is exhausting, challenging, stressful. But it is necessary. It requires patience, empathy, diplomacy, firmness, transparency and open mind and who knows how many other skills are necessary in order to achive a positive result. It is not difficult to work in a team, it’s hard to begin a dialogue and keep alive this special and fruitful communication at work. Only then the collaboration goes without saying.

  3. I remember playing “telephone” when I was a kid. You whisper something to one kid and they whisper it to another and then another. I also remember myself and so many others talk about the “telephone” game while we were discussing communication strategies. Communication can’t trickle — it has to cycle to close the gaps in what is being communicated.

  4. Excellent points, Larry. I have long been an advocate of “cross-training”. Moving staff to corporate and corporate down to unit levels for a time is very good. Part of the problem with these grand plans created in the C suite and passed down as “thou shall” directives is that these creators have lost touch with the clientele. They have lost the ability or any interest in putting themselves in the customers’ shoes, or those of the line employees. I have more to say on this, but it is too long for this comment, so I’ll do another article.

  5. There are so many useful management practices out there. But the core to what people teach and accept as management can really pull managers into left field. A few of them are:

    1. Treating people as things. You don’t talk to things. You don’t get feed back from things. Things are not equal to you. This is not a good place to start from.

    2. Focusing only on financials. Financials do not consider people, behavior, or culture. So when a manager intervenes, it can actually cause more harm than good.

    3. Focusing on plans and processes. Though these are good practices, the don’t prepare managers for change management processes and the things involved with them. Personalities often trump processes at the macro level.

    Management needs to grow as a discipline where psychology, social science, and data is part of the management mainstream.

  6. I’ve been in situations that were used to try to get you to commit to work that was not aligned with your interests, your function’s interests, or your team’s interests.

    What is the only way to fight back? A light touch.

    Whoa? What? I understand everything you said. We can do A, D, and E. But B and C, I don’t see how we can do that. We should bring in ____ on those items. When I’m told that we got to make a decision today? Well, I say we do A, D, and E. Let’s put B and C as action items to discuss further with the right people involved.

    What happens when people attempt political clout during that meeting to force me to commit? I have no choice but to broker a meeting between all parties involved needed to make the right decision.

    Politics is an unsavory beast.