Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
May 26, 2008
The New CEO and the
Jeans Day ‘Issue’
hate when clients get new CEOs, because they always tell me they’re
excited to work with me, and they always can me within four months.
But I don’t think this guy is going to do that. He is addressing bigger
issues than the ubiquitous question of “Why are we wasting money on D.F.
Krause’s company?” He’s even asking me for help doing it.
“D.F., one of the first things I need to do is address the jeans day
Why couldn’t he have fired me?
wasn’t aware that there was a jeans day “issue,” and I know this company
pretty well. Every time a particular department meets a certain
performance goal, the employees get to wear jeans. You can quibble about
whether jeans days are good ideas. I suppose I’d rather have employees
who perform at their highest possible level just because that’s their
But if all you can find are slugs, hey, dollars for denim are better
than no dollars at all.
so it seems to me. The new boss has other ideas.
think it’s important to act decisively on this issue early on,” he
explained. “If I let it go for long, I’m sending a message that it’s OK.
Then it gets harder to take action down the road, because people will
say, ‘Why did you let us do it all this time?’ It’s a risk I can’t take
on an issue like this.”
Yes. Of course. You can’t take that risk. Not on an issue like this!
Then again, there was no “jeans day issue” until he decided there was. I
assisted the board with the CEO search (although I didn’t get a vote).
Their concern with the last guy was that he wasn’t decisive enough – but
with respect to stuff like product rollouts, marketing and dealer
programs. I never heard anyone express their concern that denim was
But the new boss has chosen his defining, take-charge issue, and now
he’s looking for input from a wide variety of people – both inside and
outside the company – on how to re-tool jeans day.
Now, you may wonder, why not make his first impression by making a major
decision about a new product, approaching a new market or maybe setting
new profit goals, accompanied by some ideas on how to achieve them?
These were the things he was hired to do, after all.
But it’s not that easy to do those things – at least not if you want to
do them right. You’ve just joined the company, you don’t know the
people, you don’t know the customers. You could pull a plan out of your
butt, but plans like that usually stink.
Still, he’s the new boss, and he has to do something bossish. Change
something! Anything! It doesn’t matter what. You could slightly alter
the colors to the logo, but that costs money. You could move the desk in
the CEO office over to the other wall, but then someone could see you
picking your nose from the hallway.
So. Jeans day. There’s your target. Send out a companywide e-mail.
Express your concerns. Ask for input. Form a committee. Start typing up
new guidelines. Show them you’re serious and you won’t hesitate to make
This is what they sometimes call the low-hanging fruit, which is an
appropriate metaphor considering the way jeans hang off people these
days. I’ve seen more underwear in the past couple years than the Fruit
of the Loom guys.
But if you want to show that you’re decisive, you might be better off
just declaring, “No more jeans days!” He’s clearly not a fan of the
concept anyway, and this would save a lot of time you’d otherwise waste
“building consensus” on an issue that is, when it comes right down to
Then again, how do you incentivize your departments to perform at a high
level if they know they won’t get to wrap themselves in denim? I bet
they’d play ball if you decided to just start handing out $100 bills.
Not that I would. Those are my $100 bills.
But then, I wouldn’t pick an irrelevant policy, declare it an “issue”
and study it to death as a way of trying to show I’m in charge. No one
cares what I think, though. They’re just glad, and rightfully so, that
they can’t see my underwear.
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.