OPEX 2020 Day 1 Conference Recap by Kari Moeller

Taking you away from the daily grind, conferences can be a nice break that rejuvenates the part of the brain that drives optimism, innovations and fresh thinking.

I’m glad to report that the first day at OPEX 2020 has done just that and left me with a number of takeaways that I’d like to share…


Leadership & change

General Ann Dunwoody, the first female four star general in the US Army spoke on leadership and challenges.

When you attend conferences, you are used to seeing high powered, often high energy and charismatic people share journeys and stories that are meant to inspire change. While she wasn’t flashy, her advice and stories were very real, actionable and grounded in reality. To briefly share a few with you:

  • Don’t walk by a mistake– if you experience it, as a leader (or a subordinate) it is your responsibility to address it or you have just created a lower standard.
  • If you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less– transformation and change is inevitable, choose to be a part of it.
  • You must reward good performance and correct poor performance – it is only through this that you can inspire the 80% of the workforce to strive for greatness and be open to change.
  • Surround yourself with diversity of thought– challenge yourself to get people around who look, think and act differently.  A table full of associates who think the same and do not challenge thought will inhibit innovation and success.

One of the most open and profound thoughts she shared was around taking care of yourself.  If you are like me, you push yourself daily to do and achieve more than the day before.  Especially with her military service, she saw very intelligent capable people, run themselves and their talent, into the ground because they didn’t stop to take care of themselves.  This is not a thought that most keynotes focus on, so I commend her for highlighting that we need to do this in order to truly enjoy our work and, more importantly, our lives!


Automation is a strategy… but your workforce still matters

In their session, “Building Brick and Mortar Resilience in the Age of the E-Commerce,” Greg Smith and Chris Glover from Walmart spoke about the Digital Age and its impact on their business and the focus it has driven on… wait for it… their people. With so many organizations sprinting to the Amazon model and automation, Walmart has used this as an opportunity to build a strategy focused on how they empower and engage their associates to drive continued success along with their digital strategy.

Key points were creating the intersection between their leadership, associates and their performance to ‘engage, empower and enable’ their workforce.

Quick point – PEOPLE, PROCESS & TECHNOLOGY still matter. Be cautious of replacing one strategy with another.


Final roundup

I could go on for days about other sessions, but in summary my key takeaways are:

  • For the foreseeable future people matter – they create, execute and optimize strategies. Keep growing, challenging and driving them.
  • The age old adage of don’t be afraid to fail (but learn from your failures) is more true than ever – leaders who are juggling all the different strategies that can drive a more connected customer experience and operational delivery environment will have to test and learn but also use data to look at scenarios for success.
  • Collaboration and mind space are more important than ever – environments like OPEX Week and other forums still provide avenues and time to stop and think about approaches and shift strategies in motion for a more positive outcome.

For now, we will call it a night. More to come!