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Archie Norman: “The days of hierarchy are dead”

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“You have to earn credibility,” explains Norman, one of the guest speakers at the Real Business/League Managers Association annual management conference last month.

At Asda – the British grocery chain he revived – Norman created a “single-status company”. Offices were open plan and car schemes were banned.

“When I started at Asda, all the directors had Jaguars," he says. "When we let them go, we were left with the cars – so we gave them away, as prizes, to employees in the stores. A cashier would get the keys to a Jag for a month. The repair bills were horrific – but it was worth it. Success is measured by the motivation of the smallest guy in your company. If you’re motivating the guy that empties the bin, you’ll motivate the big guys.”

Norman explains that a good checkout operator will scan 25 items a minute. A poor one will scan 13. “You have to give your employees a reason to be there and give them respect," he says. "At Asda we paid – even when I left – ten per cent less than Sainsbury, Tesco and Safeway. But we had the lowest labour turnover and the lowest level of absenteeism in the industry.”

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