KEVIN BECK'S Mosaic Portal Blog

One of a network of hundreds of web sites created by Kevin R Beck, Australia

KEVINRBECK Mosaic Portal
This blog is part of the the Mosaic Portal Network. The site map of the Mosaic Portal web network can be found at: http://kevinrbeckmosaicportal.com/default.htm  
May-23

Non comprende Australia

Chimp doesn't appreciate the muisc

In many respects, I do not recognise current Australia in terms of the decline in ethics, morals and behaviour in business and politics at the top level down into the lower ranks. Rather than list the indiscretions and crimes here in this article I have been collating them within one of my web sites.

http://kevinrbeckmosaicportal.com/consumingaus.html

I want to opine what I think is happening and perhaps some reasons. These reasons are not justifications and many I think have more to do with human traits - hubris,  power and entitlement.

NON COMPRENDE

There are various interpretations and I am focusing on two:

·        I do not understand

·        It is not included

The first is pretty simple.

I can see this perplexing dilemma in the manner in which politicians and executives are responding to stimuli. They have for decades followed the prime directive. The former is to obey the party and do whatever it takes to win and maintain political office and government.  The latter’s is to maximise shareholder returns. Both are attempting to do this within the prism of being a good government or a good corporate citizen.

Finding this extraordinarily difficult for whatever reasons, most simply decide to jettison the too hard one – being good.

I put it to you that we are seeing this “non comprende” in the large financial, energy and retail companies. They have over time been allowed, by politicians pursuing their ideologies and their  self-interests I describe above, to carry on business as they see fit. Political myopia, incompetence and bad policy, has coalesced with this corporate indifference and primary objective, to put Australia in its current position. 

I also contend that we are seeing “non comprende” in the behaviour of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. He cannot comprehend the reasons and arguments as to why he is not Prime Minister. He persists in reiterating his policy views and that he is correct while others are wrong. There are many in the conservative wing of politics and business who probably agree.


(Image: http://whisper.sh/)

HOSTILE AND AGGRESSIVE RESPONSES

Having been allowed to operate unfettered in many respects I am observing the fierce and immediate response when those in positions of power and decision making are challenged. They issue threats and engage in fear mongering.

“The bank levy in the 2017 budget will be passed on to customers. Shareholders will pay and superannuation funds will be the big losers and mum and dad investors.”

The special executive’s disdain for the political class is palpable even in the manner in which they engage with our legislators in parliamentary enquiries.  Born to rule incumbent politicians want to put them in their place. So they want a Royal Commission into everything in Australia. They seem to believe that by getting someone to admit or become transparent in such star chambers leads to solutions. It never has and will not.

IT IS NOT INCLUDED

In my second definition, I am inferring that the power collective’s objectives and interests in entitlement and pursuit of profit does not include being good citizens or fettering their greed.  They want big salaries and benefits whilst engaging in whatever conduct they like. Bribery, corruption, theft, price gouging, retaliation and destruction of other businesses and communities through their actions.

(Image: http://www.kruise.com/)

We can see in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria Australia an example of the political ideologies and pursuits of the Victorian state labor government regardless of the impact on the wider community. The Premier Daniel Andrews is convinced he is right and critics are wrong. He, like the bank executives, does not like being interrogated as to motives and justifications.

Invariably all of this translates down into culture within the organisation, replication of the top level executives views and behaviours and eventually the so called little people pay the price.

In the case of other business modus operandi compliance to regulations, consumer law, trade practices and anti-discrimination are not included. A large segment of Australia’s older talents are side-lined through the myopia of a myriad of incompetent human resource practitioners and fearful employers. Apparently, business can drive people into the ground and the leaner and meaner it is the more the shareholders love it.   

Again, policy makers and legislators cannot deal with it because they do no not comprehend what is happening and/or their ideological platforms and beliefs have restrained them to the point that they justify, lie, dissemble and manipulate. They deal in alternative facts.

One such example is the stated statistical unemployment. The official line is that it lies somewhere between 5% and 6%, averaged across the nation because that gives a lower figure because it masks sectors where it it is much higher due to the resources boom ending, youth unemployment and so on. But I think that average is a lie. I believe unemployment averaged across the nation is really 15% - 20%. The Australian Coalition government cannot entertain such a figure because their mantra at the 2016 election and today is “jobs and growth!”.

Thus, like business, Australia’s State. Territory and National government politicians engage in misleading and unconscionable conduct.  

UNAWARE OR DON’T CARE

This is to me is the most complex and perplexing.

Every day, in my work and social interactions, I am confronted by ignorance. Ignorance not in terms of social behaviour or customer service but ignorance of laws, regulations, the way things work, the lack of enquiry by employees and their lack of awareness of their employer’s behaviours. Many companies actively engage in ‘mushroom management”, never explain to the masses what is happening or why. An example here is Australia’s largest retailers. They appear not too communicate out of the head office bunkers and do not run comprehensive training programmes beyond how to use the register, the technology for reordering and the systems and procedures of the company.

 (Image: https://au.pinterest.com/)

How many times have you been confronted by employees telling you that they do not do it that way and the policy is X? One of the most common is that you are not entitled to a refund under any circumstance. They do not know any better and they rarely enquire of their employer or do the research themselves.

The marketing executives of Australia’s businesses (local and multinational) are spewing out materials that are misleading and often illegal.  This why the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is forever prosecuting them and the courts are issuing penalty fines.

It is a common belief of employees and others who have knowledge of a particular industry.

A number of Australia’s most prominent executives in business, and the public service, are being prosecuted for bribery, corruption and dereliction of their duty. They have been stealing from workers, buying business through bribes and all sorts of other “normalised practices”.

Some of members of our parliaments, and their staff, are being investigated. Are they blissfully unaware, ignorant or simply do not care?

SHAPED BY TIME AND EVENTS

The biggest shaper in our society is cheap money.

Across the world politicians, regulators and advisers adopted fiscal solutions, printing money and pushing interest rates down.

(Image Roubini’s Ecomonitor: http://www.economonitor.com/)

This has lead to an explosion of investment in property, shares and other often high risk ventures. A plethora of start-ups and high tech companies, that have never made a profit, yet churn through billions.  

In Australia perc capita debt is horrendous and the highest in the developed world. Most of it is in credit. Things like negative gearing, coupled with cheap money, has caused many people to buy multiple properties on interest only terms betting on capital gains.

There is a delusional belief among many that governments and wizards can simply work levers and fix the looming disasters. The natural laws of supply and demand, economy and markets are somehow suspended.

Millions of people in Australia have never lived through recessions let alone depressions. The Global Financial Crisis skirted Australia and the lack of enquiry, and awareness, that I mentioned above has created another mushroom effect. Most do not even know that the cycle turns.

THE SOLUTIONS TO THESE WICKED PROBLEMS?

(Image: http://www.highperformancehabits.com.au/)

So many people in positions of power, and decision making roles, and others in many areas of economy and society, have to jettison their hubris, their sense of entitlement and individualism and their singular objectives and ideologies.

The 15%-20% unemployed have to be given jobs. There has to be a trade off against unfettered profit and greed and common good.

I cannot see that many of the incumbents in these positions can do this. I do not see that a majority will suddenly gain the desire for knowledge, awareness and enquiry which often comes from self-education and pursuit of lifelong learning.

Finally, the pervasive and destructive digital transformation has to be tempered by common sense and reality. There are more industries and worthwhile pursuits in our economy and society than tech and feckless social media.

(image: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/?r=US)

It may all be too late and the only grim reaper that brings back sense and equilibrium may be the “big correction” as the law of diminishing returns and economy kick in.


 
Apr-20

Questions about driverless cars?

 

I APPEAR TO BE THE ODD ONE OUT

I like to observe human nature and people’s responses to technology promise. Reading their views, perceptions and prophecies. 

I also observe the celebrity, and public pronouncements, of the “next best thing” Founder, the handful of Masters of the Universe, and their perceptions of the world, and its complexities, and what their influence might be and what they think they are capable of? 

What are the capabilities, and future synthesising skills, of advisers, and experts, do they have at their side, and employ, examining the detail and plotting every possibility?

To my mind, it appears that many companies do not actually have expertise of this kind. Perhaps the advisers are chosen for their specific traits, tech heads and developers, all swept up in the euphoria of the Founder’s vision and the company’s objectives. 

Who can tell?

Did Mark Zuckerberg, and his strategists and advisers, ever perceive that when they went on their adventure in India, as part of Mr Zuckerberg’s altruistic virtues, to give the “poor people of the world” the Internet and the possibility of Community”, that they would be sent packing?

Image: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-safe-to-browse-the-dark-web

“The web may be lovely, dark, and deep, but most of us don’t actually venture very far into it. Back in 2013, Nielsen reported Americans visited an average of 90 different domains per person each month. That’s a startlingly low number—equivalent to about three domains each day—and one that crept down over the years, even as people spend more and more time online overall. I suspect the average person visits even fewer domains today, as tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google increasingly design interfaces—walled gardens of engagement and advertising—aimed at discouraging their users from visiting other sites.

That’s part of what’s so interesting about the recent decision by officials in India to block what’s called “zero-rating” or “sponsored data”— the practice of exempting certain kinds of Internet use from counting toward a person’s data plan. The move effectively bans a Facebook program called Free Basics, a suite of lightweight versions of popular sites—including, of course, Facebook—that don’t eat up data the way visiting other mobile sites does. The idea is to give people an affordable way to get online, but it has long been criticized by advocates for net neutrality as a way of giving an unfair advantage to certain websites.

Image: http://www.rediff.com/money/slide-show/slide-show-1-how-internet-is-creating-jobs-worldwide/20110527.htm

If you offer only a certain group of websites for free, the argument goes, doesn’t that give an unfair advantage to those sites? You don’t have to actively block or throttle your competitors to destroy them. (Free Basics is billed as open, meaning anyone can add their website to the platform, but Facebook still sets the guidelines that dictate use.)Then again, if you have a choice between a Facebook-curated mini-Internet and no Internet at all, isn’t something better than nothing? Maybe not…In a Facebook post on Monday, Zuckerberg wrote that he is “disappointed” but committed to keep working toward connectivity goals in India. In his earlier essay, for the Times of India, he was less restrained: “Who could possibly be against this?” (Facebook suffers a blow from regulators in India, proving that the fight for an open web is more than an abstraction, Adrienne LaFrance, February 9, 2016)

I now turn my attention to Self-Driving Cars (with a human at the wheel) or the Driverless Vehicle

Image: http://blog.cayenneapps.com/2016/06/13/self-driving-cars-swot-analysis/

I wonder whether those who believe that driverless cars will be here in their lifetime or that such is a given, have thought about all of the possible barriers, obstructions, outcomes and unexpected consequences? 

For that matter do the corporations developing these products consider the same and their likely impact of their corporate ventures on economy, and societies, across the world?

I think not.

Image: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140902160834-13117389-corporate-dyslexia-systems-blindness

I have come to the opinion that in relation to technology particularly, but perhaps in general, there is some form of “myopia”” or “reality blindness” that besets corporations and shareholders who are beavering away in their own worlds. Not too many seem to me to be be able to look beyond the horizon at anything that is a possible reality rather than a mythical fantasy. This unexplained affliction may be one of the side effects of apps and a herd mentality that the Internet conquers all?

“Self-driving cars have been discussed for years, but now that the government is drafting legislation for their arrival on British roads, conversation is moving away from if, to when, and what the impact might be.

Today’s cars already feature many driver-assistance features, ranging from cruise control and lane control to temporary self-steering. Within perhaps a decade, approval could be given for cars that are completely autonomous and take passengers from A to B while they Skype the office or write a sales report.

Nick Reed, academy director of the Transport Research Laboratory believes self-driving cars will not only have the potential to be far safer than today’s vehicles, they will greatly reduce the need to own a car. While many cars will likely be made available through taxi-like rental services, those which do belong to a company or individual will be able to multitask for them throughout the day.” (Sean Hargrave, April, 2017, the Guardian)


Litigation lawyers will be in a quandary, along with with the courts, as they seek to determine who is liable in an accident, injury or death?

“If anything about driverless cars can be considered an old riddle it is this one: the car is driving itself down a residential street when a woman pushing a baby stroller suddenly enters a crosswalk. Unable to stop, should the car's computer opt to hit mother and child, or veer off to strike a tree, almost certainly killing its passengers?

That macabre scenario has been fodder for ethicists almost since the prospect that cars might drive themselves first entered the horizon. It also, however, provides a second riddle: Regardless of the choice made by the car's computer, who pays for the damages?

The car owner? The company that built it? The software developer?

Those questions are being debated nearly everywhere that lawyers and insurance brokers meet these days. While state governments and the courts ultimately will decide them, many of them have been addressed in a new study by one of the preeminent legal authorities on autonomous vehicles.

Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor, expands on the belief that there will be a shift in blame for a crash from the at-fault driver to the automotive industry and the conglomerate of manufacturers and software developers who design and update car computers.”( Ashley Halsey Iii, The Washington Post, February 25, 2017)

“Driverless cars are heading our way. A breathless 7-part series on Forbes analyzed the staggering socioeconomic impact of driverless cars not impacting with other cars – or people. When you take into account all the industries affected and the residual effects, Forbes estimates that in the US alone, driverless cars will drive the economy by $2 trillion dollars annually. That’s a lot of incentive to put the driverless pedal to the metal.

According to industry analysts, about the only thing these AI vehicles will hit are personal injury lawyers – in the pocket. Human error accounts for approximately 90 percent of the 5.5 million motor vehicle accidents in the U.S that occurred in 2009 involving 9.5 million vehicles. Almost 34,000 people were killed and another 2.2 million injured. Once people are removed from the equation, collisions are predicted to fall to precipitously low levels. Which is good news for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, but not so much for the bottom line of emergency rooms, highway patrol officers, chauffeurs and taxi drivers, insurance claim adjusters and the companies they work for, and most importantly – at least as far as this readership is concerned – personal injury lawyers.

Once these autonomous autos become a significant player on the vehicular landscape (they only have to reach 25 percent market penetration for accidents to dramatically drop), and that day is expected to arrive sooner than later, some observers predict that car insurance will just… disappear. Because, well, car-induced injuries will go the way of the horse-and-buggy.

Personal injury lawyers will find themselves in a particularly awkward spot.” (Stan Sinberg, Rocket Lawyer, 21 October 2014)

I have questions

Will all the technology needed to control the vehicle be in the vehicle itself, independent of any external interaction from a third party or device?

Some countries have Transport Accident Commissions that cover personal injury of people in cars, such as in Australia, will they continue to give no fault coverage as currently occurs, if so at what price? Some countries have Transport Accident Commissions that cover personal injury of people in cars, such as in Australia, will they continue to give no fault coverage as currently occurs? Will insurance companies be able to actuarially assess probabilities in order to frame insurance policies and costs?

Image: http://www.jyi.org/issue/careers-in-satellite-technology/

In the case of a driverless car doing things at the behest of a company supplying a service what technologies will they use to control the vehicle, satellites? How many satellites will a locality need to manage all of theses vehicles, say London and New York, and at what time of the day will those satellites be in range?  What is the bandwidth requirements of one vehicle or thousands and millions?

Will driverless cars go beyond the boundaries of a city or be limited in range? 

Who will own, and pay, for these satellites? What are the ramifications of a crowded space beyond earth?

Image: https://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/SunspotCycle.shtml

What of unexpected outer space stuff? Sun spots that interfere, space junk and meteors hitting satellites? And on the earth storms, wind and rain cutting the connections.


How will the vehicles interact with traffic signals and what will be the cost to upgrade those lights at every intersection? Who is paying? The City of London, the City of New York, the Government, or the companies?

Will all streets require embedded sensors to keep the cars in specific lanes?  If so who will pay for these installations?

Is it the proposition that savings from all of the accidents that we have today, at the hands of human drivers, are funding all of this?

Then something wicked this way comes

Image: http://journal-neo.org/2017/02/06/new-adventures-of-north-korean-hackers/

The security agencies, in every country, must be over joyed. What are the additional costs, and employee numbers, that must be dedicated to stopping the hijacks and the hackers? Who will pay for these or do corporation executives think that national security is someone else’s problem, namely the government?

These are a but a few of the questions I have and the things I see. I think there are much more hidden, and unexpected consequences, buried in the icebergs below the horizons.

 
Apr-17

Australia Coles Woolworths mediocrity

With the end of the mining boom comes reality. Our policy makers and corporate leaders wasted decades of wealth. Our manufacturing has been decimated through the tacit acceptance of our state and federal politicians of the forces of globalism. Similarly consecutive governments have failed to capitalise on our agricultural assets and know how. In comparison New Zealand produces 30% of the world's milk and its economy exceeds ours in terms of agricultural initiative.

Coupled with failed energy policies and lack of coordinated control and investment Australia is facing a crisis on many fronts.

We are not a nation of agriculture, science, manufacturing, leading infrastructure, technology and innovation nor of world class services. Yes we have pockets of expertise and achievement but our policy makers are myopic, risk averse and short term thinkers. They are focused on winning political office and retaining personal power and position.

We are a nation dependent on housing, consumerism and government hand outs and subsidies. In terms of being consumers the goods we buy are not manufactured in Australia.

With a housing price that is dangerously unstable and household debt rising retail is of significant importance. When we fail to consume Australia's economic well being falls. Our retail is strangled by poor management and a failure to show imagination and innovation.

Australian company executives running our retail sector do not spend much on research and development or innovation in products and services. They focus on new business models, systems integration, and high performance work and management practices. They seem to have self belief that they are consumate retail mangers.

"For decades, Woolworths and Coles have been in a dominant position in the supermarket arena. For a long time, Coles was on top and Woolworths was struggling. Then fortunes changed: it was Woolworths on top and Coles struggled. In the process both companies developed an arrogant management style that took advantage of their dominant position. Suppliers suffered. It was a culture that did not transplant easily to other retail forms, so when Coles expanded into Kmart in the 1960s and took over Myer in the 1980s, both non-supermarket retailers struggled.

Coles’ supermarket mentality did not transplant into running Myer. For a time, Kmart was successful, but as the years went by, it too fell into disrepair. At the time the generally held view was that the Coles management was simply not up to standard. But in fact they had defeated Woolworths in supermarkets, which is why they will be looking to expand into other retail areas.

When Woolworths reversed its fortunes and took the top supermarket spot, it found itself running Big W, Dick Smith and later Masters. It made a hash of all three of them. Once again, we blamed the hubris of the Woolworths management for the mistakes. But I think it was just another example of how the skills in supermarkets do not necessarily transplant into other forms of retailing." (Robert Gottliebsen, Australian Business Review, January 6, 2016)

They are technocrats.

“The Australian Business Foundation found that Australia continued to rank poorly in management capability, and that our managers were “good at solving tactical and operational problems in a creative way, but lacked the ability to sustain innovation in a strategic way”. The Business Council of Australia and Society for Knowledge Economics argued that, “the emphasis of economic reform will need to evolve to a new stage – the leadership and management of Australian organisations, and the educational infrastructure and programs required to support the development of innovative capabilities within organisations”. (Innovation in Australia, How We Measure Up, Professor Roy Green and Dr Danielle Logue, https://www.uts.edu.au/sites/default/files/CEDA_Australia_Adjusting_Innovation.pdf)

I think this is evident in our retail sector. I believe that our two major retailers Coles and Woolworths are process and systems driven. They spend their days studying consumer purchasing data and engaging each other in price wars. They produce dull, boring and uninspiring shopping experiences.

Rows of shelves with a few “kitch market spaces” which are supposed to tap into our liking of the market stalls in the country.

"There has been a lack of imagination, a decided lack or absence of new product. That is one of the reasons why this Christmas is going to be a very flat, uninteresting situation. It is relatively dull, boring, repetitive — and that is not the sort of thing that will capture the imagination or stimulate the emotion."(Australian retailers urged to lift their game after nightmare year, December 17, 2016, News.com.au)

In my local shopping centre Woolworths has renovated adding a small café with a sushi bar and a large long deli with big signs and a small limited butchery. One can ask for a bigger cut of the same meat product wrapped in plastic packaging in the rows of fridges. Woolworths like Coles has bought up the meat pipeline from paddock to plate effectively creating a duopoly that can set the price through the supply line rather than through collusion or monopoly..

The senior managers of Woolworths come from state head office and gather together looking at the small butcher’s precinct (and I mean small with no capability to actually cut up beats) or they gaze at the long glass, quite ordinary, deli counter congratulating themselves on the new supermarket. 

I have a view that they are people in pursuit of new heights in mediocrity.

Back in head office people remote from the coal face make decisions on mass for the stores, adding and deleting products based on their “technical assessments” and study of big data. I wonder how much decision making authority a local store manager ahs to stock other products or create a new service?

For people sitting in the hive without real context all that big data is just data in the hands of detached analysts.

Next to the supermarket is a liquor store owned by Wollworths. But you cannot combine the buying of groceries and liquor because they are separate business entities with separate systems.

Across the aisle is a shabby older Coles, with minimal floor space and less stock but still rows of goods presented as they were decades back. There is a fruit and vegetable section which is similar to Woolworth’s attempt at a market presentation.

Coles has a liquor store inside the supermarket but one cannot pay for liquor and groceries together. Like Woolworths they are separate businesses with separate systems.

Both companies make the customer fit their systems and their processes. Not the other way around.

Coles and Woolworths are focused, not on offering variety and imagination with a single shopping experience for everything one might want but on using old methods of psychology and manipulation which are failing.

The two companies see saw in the gladiatorial contest of sales but for me they demonstrate no vision as to what is possible.

This occurs because together they control 80% of the grocery market. There is no real competition. They have been in this duopoly since they were created. There has been no major entry of a competitor on scale to take this share off them. Second tier competitors nibble at the turnover. They have built end to end pipelines of products and they dominate liquor and wine sales.

Aspects of their store presentations are similar to the more imaginative European hypermarts, with stacks of discounted items, probably closer how Aldi is setting up its stores in Australia. Aldi unashamedly promotes itself totally on price. It has taken maybe 13% of the market predominantly from other smaller chains. It too is bound in a technocratic model of operation, not surprisingly since it is a German company. Aldi carries a small range of goods and is not a shopping experience offering choice and atmosphere. A no frills service.

The focus on price begs the question as to why people go shopping and do they prefer the social experience of malls? Shopping centres rely on anchor tenants and they are forced to provide the consumer experience, not Woolworths or Coles.

In my case I have the choice of all three within the same precinct. Price is often a determinant. At Aldi one can buy liquor and groceries at the same time. The choice of liquor and wine is very limited.

Coles and Woolworths are working to match Aldi on price.

Australian retailers tend to all congregate with smaller stores than the European models which tend to be destinations along a highway. Here we have Cosco and DFO who have large stores but they are in metropolitan areas.

In late 2017 Amazon will purportedly open in Australia.

“MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS

Only a small minority of Aussie retailers have a plan to challenge Amazon down under.

It's official -- Amazon delivery services are coming to Australia in 2017 and the majority of local retailers don't have a plan to be able to compete with them in the consumer market.

In fact, almost half of the 505 Australian retailers surveyed in new research from Commonwealth Bank were unfazed about the giant online goods distributor's arrival down under, which is tipped for late 2017. Almost a third were unaware they were coming at all and, of those who did know, only 14 percent currently have a business plan in place to be able to compete with Amazon.

He told HuffPost Australia the innovativeness of retailers surveyed was measured on a scale between minus 100 and 100, where a score of minus 100 suggests no innovation at all and 100 suggests multi-focused innovation that results in business strategies and products consumers have not seen before.

"What we found with retail on average, if you took all of the retailers in our survey, is [the score] comes down to 26.2 percent on our innovative scale, so only just innovating," he said.

·        "What we did find is that, if you're in retail, you're more likely to be innovating, but you're innovating in small ways rather than in a strategic multi-dimensional method. (Luke Cooper, Associate Editor, HuffPost, Australia 24 March2017)

·    "We have this very high performance in discovery, research, inventiveness, universities and medical research institutes. For the size of this country we rank very high on that test."

"Where we don't rank nearly as highly is in the transfer of that knowledge and its translation into actual marketplace outcomes in better products and services. Why is that? We have no chance of becoming a top tier innovation nation until we fix that challenge/problem, in my view," he says. (Bill Ferris on Innovation, in Australian Financial Review Weekend, December 16, 2016)

Amazon's next big idea: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/16/amazon-seattle-testing-ground-go-fresh-real-space-grocery-treasure-truck

BELOW ARE THE REASONS I PERSONALLY BELIEVE COLES AND WOOLWORTHS' BUSINESS MODELS ARE SUBSTANDARD

  • Top down pressure driven and thuggish cultures, unstable organisations with limited, if any, employee training and development.

When I observe how these two employers treat their people, the lack of training beyond teaching them how to use the register, the casualisation and manipulation of employment awards. There is no public evidence of a company wide training and development programme. The Human Resources Division operates behind the walls of a robo application employment system using NO REPLY emails to send the bad news. Front line staff in stores are not given time to see how the competition is doing things, receives no briefings on consumer law or explanation for fines levied by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or in the case of Woolworths an explanation of the company's appeal to the High Court. No debriefing on the outcome, that the company won on technical grounds. No explanation as to why they appealed an unconscionable conduct charge whilst Coles apologised and paid $10,000,000.

The aloofness of Coles and Woolworths senior management from walking the aisles talking to customers regularly. The arrogance of Woolworths in the Masters exercise. The fines for misleading advertising, they manner in which they treat their suppliers. They use their market power like a sledge hammer because ingrained in their middle management DNA is thuggery to meet the monthly sales and profit margins. Woolworths to be the most aggressive in this regard.

"In his former years, the nursery man was a supplier to Woolworths and, as was the practice of both Woolworths and Coles at the time, Woolworths gave him and all nursery people a hard time by changing the orders, delaying the payments and making life miserable....(Robert Gottliebsen, Australian Business Review, January 6, 2016)

  • Design

Both retailers are uninspiring. The colours of the store, and lighting set the mood. Neither Coles or Woolworths exhibit design sense. Research indicates that consumers prefer stores with a large square footage and minimal fixtures and fittings. People like space and room to browse. If you enter a store where there is hardly room to move without fear of knocking over displays or bumping into other shoppers most people will swiftly head for the exit.

  • Products and Marketing

Both retailers have adopted the private label strategy. These are not world class brand products. Consumers know that they are designed to maximise the retailer's profit and their control over suppliers. There is a minimal nod to local or regional suppliers in the stores. A small cabinet at Woolworths Chirnside Park Victoria is hidden in the back and has small range of the fine foods of Victoria's Yarra Valley. In Coles these products, if they stock them, are buried in the normal shelves.

Both companies have sub standard marketing talent using a scatter gun approach which they no doubt would describe as "targeting". They rely on the Loyalty Card data for much of their intel. There is no evidence of extensive study of competitors other than perhaps price matching.

If either store wants to claim that they are fresh food suppliers let them display when the product was delivered from the farm gate to the logistics centre or the store. But they will not because they use an elastic interpretation of fresh. No matter how they bend the truth to suit fundamentally without evidence to prove otherwise I view their claim as misleading and a lie.

  • Customer Service

Training of employees in this important factor is non existent as far as I can tell. Both retailers have suffered shocks when they have been publicly outed for poor customer service and ignorant management. Both seem to rely upon their loyalty schemes rather than their front line personnel.

  • They Do Not Know How To Let The Products Sell

Coles and Woolworths supermarkets are very in using products to attract. I think they are fundamentally staple suppliers, that is bread and butter items. They have no high quality capture products. There is a minimal stock of alternate non grocery items.

Unlike the hypermarkets of Europe and Aldi they segregate non grocery products into other retail shops they own under different brands, all of which are failing or have failed.

Both are insular price focused companies, and the prices are not cheap compared to international supermarkets. Australia should be able to produce high quality agricultural products for the stores and they do, except Coles and Woolworths uss etheir market power, screwing the supplier down, and taking the profit.

  • Solving Problems

Solving problems is really at the heart of their retail mission. Taking problem solving to the next level is a challenge. It appears to me that these two retailers will use email or text rather than face to face. They are much like the telcos who put you through hoops. There is no centre of excellence in any of these retailers facilities where customers are engaged. Apple call have a genius bar in their stores to engage customers. This would require an intellectual leap by Coles and Woolworths' management to conceive what they might be able to do. A lea too far.

  • Personal Relationship

Coles and Woolworths management appear to rely upon loyalty programmes and targeted offers via email or on line rather than by human interface. It is a rare employee of these retailers who will walk up and ask what can I do today to make your shopping here a pleasure? That might require more staff, on better salaries in the stores, than these two retailers are willing to entertain.

  • Keep it simple: less is more

Woolworths carries something in the order of 31,000 items, Aldi has about 1,700. Coles in the mid 20,000s.

  • Point of sale

The technology at the check out in both is outmoded. Unfortunately it appears that over 30% of Australians who use self check outs are thieves.

THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE

A specialty cheese and deli presentaation in a French hypermarket chain.

I wonder whether Australia’s major supermarket retailers conceive the art of the possible or even how to imagine it?

They have examples here in Australia such as the iconic Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. A tourist draw card yet our visionary politicians in the Melbourne City Council want to tinker with it and take away its soul. They too are technocrats with little grasp of how the culture of a stall market is addictive..

They could travel to Europe and see how it's done.


 
About the Author
KEVINRBECKKevin R Beck, Melbourne Australia.

Consultant to Australian and international business enterprises, competition analyst and tactical action agent, net worker, political and business activist, change agent, human behavioural and learning specialist, communicator and advocate

LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/in/kevinrbeck



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