I do not doubt that things happened in the historical time line of Starbucks, what I do doubt is that they happened the way they are stated. Anyone who is working in modern conflicted business today knows that companies go through a middle age point, and Starbucks had its midlife crisis while many of us seemed to miss it.
I have never seen a company run that way, usually it is Shareholders, Profit, People (as a commodity).
One cannot fail to notice how many people Starbucks laid off during the recession, 12,000 people lost their jobs, with some 600 stores closed because they were underperforming. That is the kind of business I am familiar with, not the overly idealized portrayal of Starbucks as some life affirming place to hang out, drink coffee, and have awesome conversations. Some of my friends have worked at Starbucks and portray a very different place to work than what Howard Shultz is talking about in his book. On the ground where the people work, Starbucks according to what I have read and some of the people I have talked to is simply just another mega corp.
While the greening of the company comes up in the book, it is really more about waste management, if you are wasting millions of gallons of water that you are paying for, saving that is going to add to your bottom line.
This is why the book to me is not credible, and other people are picking up on this as well. It is not just a statement of what is wonderful about Starbucks, I am sure that there are sections where everything is wonderful; it is how the book just does not ooze credibility. While it has hit number 1 on the NYTimes best seller list, and it will be inspirational to some people, I am finding that it seems to be disingenuous. There is just enough in it to make you wonder if any of this is true outside of historical facts that something happened on this day. I do not believe that the firing of the old CEO was a quick 15 minute blurb in a suburban mansion. I am sure there were words, and probably quite painful words that went along with that. But Howard Shultz is talking about the event like he is in a fugue, he remembers very little of the event.
Some of it is inspirational, but overall there is a slick fake feel about the book that is noticeable from page one through the parts of the book that I ended up with last night. While we all want to portray ourselves in the best light, business is brutal, not fluffy lightness about melted cheese burning and the smell of coffee wafting through a store. There might be strategies and tactics that failing companies can pull out of this book, but he is vague on details. Tragically this could have been something that would have really informed and enlighten, instead you end up with a sickly Frappuccino aftertaste that refuses to go away.
(Cross-posted @ Managing Intellectual Property & IT Security)