In industry after industry the need for multiple layers of management has come into question as companies have abandoned past 'safe' hierarchical structures to get nearer to customers, a process accelerated by the spread of information technology.
WH Smith has reaped huge benefits from the introduction of electronic point-of-sale technology to make best use of its shelf space. No need now for Mr Blenkinsop, the store manager, to decide what to order - it is largely done by computer.
Information technology is one thing, but where WH Smith has slipped up is in neglecting the service side of its business. It has not single-handedly re-invented the interminable queue, but lack of floor staff must mean lost sales.
In place of 950 store managers WH Smith will have 600 customer support leaders. More Boy Scouts/Girl Guides, perhaps, than executives, and cheaper too, but essential if hard-pressed Nineties customers are to be kept happy.Reuse content