It’s a fire. No it’s not, it’s you who are fired!

20075315910089.jpgsurvivors.jpgNearly two hundred years of tradition ended as receivers found an efficient way to tell staff that their company was folding. The receivers at Robbs department store, of Hexham, Northumbria, rang the fire alarm. As employees gathered in the car park they were told the news. Creative leadership? Or what?

The story got under my skin. I imagined how the idea might have come out of a brainstorming session. How the preferred solution had been found to meet the criteria of clever, unexpected, appropriate, cost-effective…

On second thoughts, the freedom to freewheel for creative and ingenious ideas has to be coupled with the discipline of principled evaluation of consequences.

The BBC reported the story as follows

Bosses at the almost 189-year-old Robbs store deliberately set off the fire bell to clear the building of customers and get staff together in one place. At the designated fire point, the 140 members of staff were told the landmark store would be shutting in two weeks.

The store’s administrators [Kroll] called the decision “efficient and practical …the closure of Robbs department store was due to become public knowledge before the end of the trading day and [management wanted] to notify their colleagues of the situation before they found out through other means”.

As a result, they determined that “the most efficient and practical method of informing their colleagues of this business development was by using the fire alarm”.

What do you think?

Was this an example of the creative dynamism needed to sweep away the obsolete and force in the new? Or was it something else.

Next week…

Dynamic young executive from Kroll auditions for a place on The Apprentice. Says his work experience makes him an ideal candidate to work for Sir Alan Sugar.

As the company website puts it

Kroll’s Corporate Advisory & Restructuring group is the world’s leading specialist in corporate turnaround, restructuring and recovery. Our focus is providing clients with objective, independent advice and delivering creative solutions to complex problems.

4 Responses to It’s a fire. No it’s not, it’s you who are fired!

  1. It was creative, but also probably more convenient than tradtional methods.
    What did the employees think?

  2. Tudor says:

    Hi Barbara. It’s a good question. What did employees think?

    What do employees think , when they are told ‘You are about to lose your jobs?’.
    One piece of information. There has hardly been any further mention of the story in the national (UK) press. There has been no protests. No news of what happened next. I think I’ll find out, or try to.
    As far as ‘creative’ goes, it seems a bit clunky to me. When did those involved start thinking creatively? It could not have been for very long or they would not have needed to find a way of informing the employees of their fate in the way that happened. Unless we consider it that finding a cheap way is also one of the best ways (no unintended consequences of disgruntled employees’ actions, for example).


  3. tom robb says:

    Very sad, the decision would not have happened if the shop was still under our managment

  4. Tudor says:

    Thanks Tom,

    I tried to find out what happened afterwards, but as ever, the outside world lost interest in the story and I couldn’t find out more. Was the shop sold and redeveloped? Were any jobs eventually re-created?

    Best wishes

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