The Penney Idea

Aug 19, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

In his book, Celebration of Fools: An inside look at the rise and fall of
(AMACOM), Bill Hare discusses what made JCPenney different from
all other competitors.

One significant difference, writes Mr. Hare, was management’s unerring focus
on seven principles of management initially referred to within the company as
“The Body of Doctrine,” but later known as “The Penney Idea.” The following
are excerpted from Mr. Hare’s book with permission.

  1. To serve the public, as nearly as we can, to its complete satisfaction.

  2. To expect from the service we render a fair remuneration and not all the
    profits the traffic will bear.

  3. To do all in our power to pack the customer’s dollar full of value, quality
    and satisfaction.

  4. To continue to train ourselves and our associates so that the service we
    give will be more and more intelligently performed.

  5. To improve constantly the human factor in our business.

  6. To reward the men and women of our organization through participation in
    what the business produces.

  7. To test our every policy, method, and act in this wise: Does it square with
    what is right and just?

When “The Body of Doctrine” was introduced in 1913 to a convention of 36 managers
of J.C. Penney stores, the company founder James Cash Penney asked each of the
managers to “see your working life in light of four guiding principles. H –
to stand for Honor, which bespeaks worth. C – to stand for Confidence,
which begets trust. S – to stand for Service, which brings satisfaction.
And C – to stand for Cooperation, which proves the quality of leadership.”

Moderator’s Comment: Are present day companies committed
to the type of ethical standards established by J.C. Penney in 1913? Are there
any that stand out for not simply “talking the talk, but walking the walk?”

Celebration of Fools has been criticized in some
reviews for blurring the line between fact and fiction. Written in a narrative
non-fiction style, the book’s author creates dialogue in some places that he
believes is representative of what actually took place. Because of this, the
reader finds her/himself trying to ferret out what portions of the book are
historically accurate.

That said, we still highly recommend Bill Hare’s work.
Even if it were pure fiction, Celebration of Fools tells a story about
the power of committing to a vision that all in retail or any other business
should aspire
George Anderson – Moderator

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