Execute Operational Planning With Confidence

Rosalind Brewer

Lesson time 14:55 min

For every problem there is a solution—if you know where to look. Roz explains how she made difficult decisions at Kimberly-Clark, where she had to choose which facilities to close. She explains how staying agile can help you make tough calls.

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Topics include: Creating a Road Map: Operational Planning • Define Success Through Milestones • Be Prepared to Pivot • Align on Goals & Communicate Why They Matter


ROSALIND G BREWER: In this next lesson, I'll talk to you more about execution. I feel as it's one of my success factors so I'm looking forward to sharing that with you. Many times as leaders, you're often faced with different pathways and multiple solutions to a problem. And you want to use analytics. You want to use everything you know to get what we all feel is the right answer. While at Kimberly-Clark, I had the opportunity to run manufacturing and operations globally. And I was challenged with the divestiture of plant closings. And I had made the decision along with my team to close two plants that consistently underperformed. The first one, we did all of the PR, all of the announcements, dealt with the employees, closed it, boom. That's not easy to do. The second facility, I thought, OK, I've got a method here and the data showed me that this is the right one to close. But part of successfully executing your plan is being prepared to pivot or adjust that plan if new information arises. We were getting to about the week before the day of closure. And I was talking to the employees there. And one employee began to talk to me about the innovation. Well, you know, we developed diaper number two from here. We developed panty liner number 12. And they just kept going into this. And I began to think, well, is this manufacturing plant running down because they spend time innovating on new products but that innovation didn't show up in manufacturing data? And there was an alternate path that raised its head as I listened more and got closer to the data. We were actually in execution mode at the time and so a new path surfaced. And it was the opportunity to look at one of these facilities through a different lens based on the data that we learned. We had actually already announced to the public that we were closing this facility. And I reached out to the CEO of the company. And I said to him, I think I've made a mistake. If we close this plant, we're going to slow innovation but it will always underperform. And if we are comfortable with mediocre performance but we get innovation, would you support me in not closing this facility? And he was a man of great stature, worried about the embarrassment to the brand, myself too. But he supported me and we pulled it. And it was a lot of applause in the company. I actually felt quite awful because I had looked at this through too narrow of a lens. I was about to close a facility that was dependent upon for great manufacturing innovation. I think, as leaders, we have to learn to be constant, agile learners. Be engaged in the work in front of you. And always remember to, when you are in these big decision moments, to not let the emotion and those things absorb your better thinking and to continue to go back to the basics of listening and being an agile learner. So that happened early on in my career, which is why you will hear me say throughout these lessons, analytics ...

About the Instructor

After years of helming the ship at some of the country’s most iconic companies, including Walmart, Starbucks, and Walgreens, Rosalind Brewer has forged ahead in her quest to innovate while maintaining deep integrity. Now she’s sharing CEO-level strategies for team leaders of all types. Learn to promote innovation, gain buy-in on projects you believe in, and stand out as the leader you know yourself to be.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Rosalind Brewer

Fortune 500 CEO Rosalind Brewer has transformed companies like Walmart, Starbucks, and Walgreens— now she’ll teach you how to make an impact at any level.

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