Harnessing the Power of People to Build an Agile Culture

Timpson is a well-known UK high street chain offering locksmith, shoe repairs, dry cleaning and watch repair services operating in a highly competitive retail industry. It was founded 150 yrs ago, employees over 5,000 employees across 1100 branches with annual revenues in excess of £169 million (2016). What is not widely known is how they are harnessing the power of people to build an agile culture ,a culture that has weathered the storms of aggressive competitors and difficult trading conditions.

This presentation by John Timpson is not only inspiring, it is a practical and compelling.

In this free talk John explains the history of how Timpson changed and developed to accommodate changes in the market place and then goes on to describe how a fundamental threat to his business became the catalyst for what he then developed as his major cultural change initiative, “Upside Down Management”.

John Timpson (Chairman) credits the success of Timpson down to one real difference – The people who serve the customers. Timpson’s ethos is to ensure that nothing gets in the way of people who are keen to give customers what they want and the belief that these people who run the business and the management team and support functions are there to help.

For example, there are only two rules that the shop colleagues need to follow – 1. Look the part and 2. Put the money in the till. Employees are trusted to make day to day decision on running the shop including setting prices to charge for services and resolving customer complaints (including refunds). John Timpson has written extensively about this in his book called ‘Upside Down Management’ which goes into more details behind Timpson Culture which has taken over 20 years to build.

There are five fundamental principles of Upside Down Management:

  • All colleagues have the freedom to do their jobs they way they choose;
  • Every boss’s job it to help his or her team;
  • No KPI’s, no boxes to tick;
  • Bosses don’t issue orders;
  • Head Office is a helpline – it does not run the day to day business.

This is also reflected in a unique corporate initiative of offering jobs to ex-offenders which makes up almost 10% of the current workforce and is transforming lives of many individuals and their families.

Timpson Group has recently undergone acquisitions of other high street retail shops and their approach in building a unique Timpson culture is at the forefront of their change programme. According to John Timpson, it takes courage for managers to empower people but the biggest shift in organisation culture occurs through the heartfelt and persistent shift in the language and practices of the CEO and senior management.

Further Reading:

Iqbal, M (2012), ‘Timpson: shifting/transforming culture through ‘language and practices’, The Customer Blog, accessed on 5th Jan 2018 at (https://thecustomerblog.co.uk/2012/07/09/timpson-shiftingtransforming-culture-through-language-and-practices/)

Osborne, A (2013), ‘Timpson has key to giving ex-convicts second chance’, The Telegraph, accessed on 5th Jan 2018 at (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/10266250/Timpson-has-key-to-giving-ex-convicts-second-chance.html )

Timpson, J (2010), ‘Upside Down Management: A Common Sense Guide to Better ‘, Wiley, Chichester