Amazon and Whole Foods: Why No Strategy Is Sometimes the Best Strategy

Jul 31, 2017

By Les McKeown, CEO of Predictable Success
Amazon’s just-announced purchase of Whole Foods reminded me of the time, years ago, when I started writing articles like these. Back then, I faced the same challenge every wanna-be regular writer faces – what the heck do I write about week after week?
There’s a plethora of advice out there on just that topic, but my favorite idea-generating device was one I came up with myself (and subsequently discovered wasn’t so original after all – many other writers use it, too): Grab two seemingly unconnected subjects and try to find a way to connect them. (See, for example, ‘What app would your business be‘.)
I found that even if that off-kilter noodling didn’t in itself generate something helpful and useable, I’d almost always find myself in some business-growth thought pattern that would. (See, for example, this series on leadership styles.)
Find that Next Growth Step
Sometimes when you’re in Predictable Success, the next step – the right way forward, the right next growth strategy – isn’t just sitting there in plain sight. A cool, logical process won’t always deliver what’s needed to keep alive that exquisite tension between entrepreneurial vision and scalable systems and processes. Building Heroic Leadership on top of High-Quality Team-Based Decision-Making (HQTBDM) isn’t always a result of taking an obvious next step.
Sometimes, like a business-model version of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, you’ve just got to take two seemingly unconnected things and smash them together. Sometimes it works – like when a fringe computer maker with tiny market share decides to make a…phone. Oftentimes, it doesn’t.
By all accounts, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos made the decision to acquire Whole Foods – and executed the deal – in about six weeks. That’s a nanosecond in corporate planning time for most large organizations. It’s clear he has some idea of what he wants to do with the chain, but has far from worked out the details.
Boost Your Odds of Success
In these ‘WTH, let’s do it and work the details out later’ deals, the difference between success and failure lies – I believe – in the Most Senior Executive (MSE)’s ability to first seize an opportunity, then execute on the basis of an already-built, robust growth platform.
I’ve written in the past about Mr. Bezos’s splendid intuition, and although Amazon doesn’t get everything right, I believe Bezos will intuit himself (and Amazon) to increased Predictable Success with this acquisition.
For the rest of us, it’s great to have railroad tracks to run on.