Strategic Initiatives Case Study – Domino’s Pizza Turnaround

Inside the Pizza Turnaround Strategic Initiative

Leaders need to recognize that their pride in their product is “their story,” but may not be the same as the “customer’s story.” When this happens, it is time for rethinking strategy. A remarkable strategic initiative – Domino Pizza’s “Pizza Turnaround” – shows how a company faced up to the reality that many consumers did not like its product. It’s worth your time to watch this 4-minute video at http://www.pizzaturnaround.com/.

I decided to learn more, and secured an interview with three key Domino’s executives, which was just published in Visions Magazine. In addition to the article, I want to point out some learnings that are more specific to the topic of strategic initiatives.

Leadership Lessons for Strategic Initiatives

  • Outside-in perspective. Domino’s listened to the voice of the market and the voice of the customer. It is often easy for managers to assume they know what is important to customers. Domino’s had the courage to listen, even if they didn’t like what they heard. Brandon Solano told me,
    “We did a lost buyer study, and the reason they [customers] were leaving was product.
  • A compelling vision for the initiative – The criterion for success was a statistical win in taste tests versus national competitors. This data-driven vision was understood throughout the organization. Referring to the need for a good-tasting pizza, CEO Patrick Doyle told me,
    “Our first priority was to get it right.
  • Be bold, and meet your promises – People are information overloaded. If you have a good story to tell, you need to do something bold and memorable. As Brandon Solano told me,
    “I believe our bold advertising made people interested and think differently about our brand, the product delivered on the promise, and we have an on-going, not one time increase in our business.
  • Replace old stories with new stories – Fifty years ago, Domino’s achieved an initial strategic advantage from its business model of pizza delivery. However, delivery of pizza is an old and non-distinctive story, and “good enough” tasting pizza created no enthusiasm with consumers. Domino’s new story was one of a diligent company that took its customer’s needs and wants seriously, and would show the courage to make the change. Chief Marketing Officer Russell Wiener told me,
    “We purposely filled our stories with facts, not just opinions.
  • Senior manager’s direction in balance with empowerment – A common reason for failure of strategic initiatives is that senior managers set a goal, but fail to sponsor the initiative with resources and attention. Domino’s on-boarded several key leaders who brought both the big-company experience with launching new products and follow-through execution abilities. As Brandon Solano explained to me, top management,
    “Focuses on the big risks and trusts that the product development teams have handled the details.
  • Build credibility incrementally – Prior to the pizza turnaround, the team scored quick & small wins by launching a lunch and desserts menu expansion. The success with lunch and desserts gave credibility to the pizza turnaround strategic initiative team. Brandon Solano told me,
    “My team had a lot of credibility because we launched sandwiches in three months.
  • Learn systematically – Domino’s didn’t do things haphazardly. This included the careful formulation of the new recipe, the socialization of the vision with the franchisees, or the testing of the advertising. The company used experimental design and data to support the need for business change. Brandon Solano told me,
    “We tested all of the components (crusts, sauces, cheeses) together in a design of experiments to find the winning product.

Not everyone will love your product, and some will actually hate it. While leaders should “accentuate the positive” they also need to recognize the need to change.

Is it time for a turnaround in your organization? How can you replace old stories with new ones?

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About Greg Githens

Thought leader who helps others think strategically, make strategy, and turn vision into action. Coach, advisor, board member, and hands-on leader. Seminar leader and speaker of popular offerings "How to Think Strategically & Apply Business Acumen" and "Leading Strategic Initiatives (Program Management)." Experience in driving change in Fortune 500 and mid-size companies through strategic initiatives and business transformation.
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