Mindful Agility
Mindful Agility
Jul 19, 2022
Business on Fire Part I: Steve Jobs protege Ron Johnson burns JC Penney cash fast as CEO
Play • 44 min

As an executive working for other CEOs, Ron Johnson succeeded wildly in redesigning Target stores and building Apple Stores from scratch. But then, as a CEO, Ron Johnson crashed and burned two later companies.

Join Dan Dickson, a seasoned retail executive and Harvard Business School grad, and Dan Greening, co-host of Mindful Agility, as we talk about Ron Johnson's first failure, JC Penney.

Major shifts in management practice arise in response to crises. Lean Manufacturing helped Toyota and Japan survive, after the Japanese industrial base had been destroyed in World War II. Lean Manufacturing now dominates the auto industry, and failure to adopt its principles bankrupted General Motors and others.

Agile management practices arose in response to growingly spectacular software project failures. It is now dominates software teams and is expanding to other creative teams and whole businesses. "Business agility" is emerging as a trend in business management.

This is the first of three episodes where we analyze business failures to discover whether agile and mindfulness philosophies could have averted disaster.

Three take aways

  1. Failure analysis helps us succeed, sometimes beyond competitors
  2. Business success is correlated to business agility and mindfulness
  3. Ron Johnson's failures at JC Penney could have been anticipated


  • Max Chafkin, "How Failed JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson Is Redeeming Himself With Enjoy," Fast Company (October 26, 2015).
  • Noel Tichy, "J.C. Penney and the terrible costs of hiring an outsider CEO," Fortune (November 13, 2014).
  • Phil Wahba, "Ron Johnson says J.C. Penney should have stuck to his plan ," Fortune (May 16, 2016).
  • Jennifer Reingold, "How to Fail in Business While Really, Really Trying," Fortune (March 20, 2014).
  • Taiichi Ohno, Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, 1988.



  • Daniel Greening, host, agile coach, and computer scientist
  • Mirela Petalli, co-host, meditation guide, and neurocritical nursing instructor
  • Dan Dickson, business coach, executive and management consultant


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