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Mike Berman

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Lululemon, Continuing to Do the Right Things

Posted: 06/19/2013 12:12 pm

If any publicity is good publicity then Lululemon's CEO job posting is certain to move their stock back in the right direction from its nearly 20 percent decline last week. Even if their innovative help wanted ad doesn't generate favorable publicity or even a new CEO, it reinforces why Lululemon is fast becoming a company I greatly admire.

Rather than following the traditional route of hiring an executive with industry experience and functional expertise, Lululemon is both reinforcing its brand while adopting more enlightened Business Lifecycle Management principles for replacing Christine Day, who announced her resignation last Monday. Business Lifecycle Management places a premium on cultural fit as well as timing and circumstance considerations for selecting the right person for the right role at the right time. A CEO leading a company "that creates components for people to live long, healthy and fun lives" would certainly find humor and relate to this ad in a way unfit cultural candidates would not.

Despite posting solid first-quarter 2013 results, Lululemon has suffered through the highly publicized recall of their luon yoga pants and Ms. Day's sudden resignation. Day did a fabulous job managing the company through and out of "Sheergate," but as the CEO she was accountable for the debacle and she was right to resign. Undoubtedly, Lululemon's stock has plummeted this week on fears Christine Day is irreplaceable, a view I totally reject. Lululemon has a loyal customer base and their CEO job post sends a powerful signal that it's more than business as usual, the company will find a successor equally passionate about the brand as its customers are. From a Business Lifecycle Management perspective, Lululemon is prioritizing shared values and appreciation for the product over retail or prior CEO experience. Although Lululemon handled the product recall quite well, there remain doubts about the company's commitment to quality. Hiring a CEO whose pofile screams "I live in yoga pants!" will help put those concerns to rest.

While the job post may signal business as usual, Lululemon is operating in anything but normal conditions. Ms. Day has been in her role for five and a half years, the company's stock has nosedived, their loyal customers remain concerned, and the company has previously announced ambitious global expansion plans. Consequently, its next CEO must possess the necessary qualities to quickly restore full confidence and successfully execute growth strategies. The traditional industry and functional skill method for hiring a CEO would surely end in the same disaster JCPenney experienced by bringing in Ron Johnson to solve their problems. Through a Business Lifecycle Management approach Lululemon is poised to select the right person with the right qualities at this right time. With Ms. Day staying for a transition, the right fit CEO can quickly learn specific job functions from an excellent but ultimately flawed executive.

In only 15 years of operation, Lululemon has become a market leader by daring to challenge conventional thinking in its field. Their leadership is further evidenced by adopting Business Lifecycle Management over the stale traditional hiring model. The company may have had a bad week, but by consistently staying true to its core values Lululemon is destined to enjoy greater growth and successes in the months and years to come.

 
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