Nordstrom Empowers Associates to Stay Ahead of the Pace of Change

Fostering a startup mentality for the past 113 years, Nordstrom has found the keys to success. In a keynote presentation at the 2014 Retail Technology Conference, Sam Hogenson, VP of Technology for Nordstrom provided insight into the retailer's continuous IT transformation. From customer-facing technologies and business architecture to the innovation and people labs, Nordstrom is focused on technology that enables associates to deliver exceptional and innovative service to customers. 
"If you get the pieces right, everything else falls into place," says Hogenson. "Once you hit quality and customer data, the rest will follow." Retail is no longer about predictability, but speed and nimbleness. Without a foundation in place that allows the IT team to build-out nimbly, retailers will only see marginal results. Once the retailer had quality and customer data in place, it jumped from a 30% success rate to a 95% success rate.
For the past two and a half years, Nordstrom has been on its journey to change the company culture among the IT team. The goal was to "create a kickass organization," according to Hogenson, so the team began asking the question: why? It visited more than 40 companies to map out what people like (and dislike) and created a post-it wall with all of those characteristics to create transparency throughout the company. Once the wall was complete, employees were invited on a "culture tour" to find out what the IT team was all about – 1,500 employees signed up for this discovery, some attending multiple times.
Following the tours, the team created, where employees can login and take surveys monthly to evaluate areas for improvement and acknowledge things that are being done well.
Overall, Nordstrom has learned to stop thinking and start doing. When an organization hosts two or more, one-hour meetings in a week, over a six week period the organization begins to fall behind – that isn't a way to keep up with change. Individuals must make decisions and act upon them to keep up with the speed of change.
The ultimate recipe for success is to hire top talent, provide a roadmap of where the company is going and empower associates to act upon that roadmap. Nordstrom has discovered that with these key items in place, the organization is destined to exponentially improve its success rate.
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