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Long piece in the Wall Street Journal over the weekend about Howard Schultz, who retook the CEO job at Starbucks earlier this year as a response to shareholder and board concerns about the company's declining stock price. Some excerpts about how he is trying to reshape the company:

• "Mr. Schultz has a tricky balance to strike because, like Steve Jobs or the late Sam Walton, he is seen as the soul of his company, the only one who can say if the color of packaging or tone of a promotion fits the brand.

"Internally, Mr. Schultz is revered like few CEOs. Employees sometimes applaud when he walks into a meeting. Some current and former workers say this status, coupled with his wish to sign off on choices as small as the font size on signs, creates an environment where workers apply a single test to decisions: What will Howard think?"

• According to the story, Schultz "concedes that employees sometimes lean toward agreeing with him instead of being candid. That cannot continue, he says. 'It's not healthy for the organization if everyone's waiting for me to tell them what to do....I don't want people to view me in any way that puts me in some status or rarefied air'."

• One of Starbucks's biggest problems, Mr. Schultz says, is that its long success streak and huge size have left it cautious. So he is imploring people to be bolder.

• Schultz "has been a whirlwind since he took back the CEO reins this year after several years as just chairman. He flew to Italy to look for the next generation of Frappuccino like drinks. He sent executives to a Seattle library to see how it creates community. He himself studied a cheese shop in Seattle."

• "Mr. Schultz says improvement will take time, and will depend partly on how the now sluggish U.S. economy does. He points to things in the works. This summer, Starbucks will rush out an Italian sorbet-like treat in some California outlets that he hopes will differentiate it from rivals that have copied Frappuccino. By fall, cafés will have a new food lineup that includes healthier items and something to replace breakfast sandwiches. Starbucks will stop selling holiday teddy bears, because they don't fit the brand."

KC's View:
It is a fascinating story, in part because of some of the contradictions that seem to be inherent in Schultz's approach. On the one hand he seems to want to empower people, but he also micromanages a lot of issues…which hardly leads to an environment in which people feel a sense of entrepreneurial boldness.

But there is one thing that I find particularly intriguing. Apparently Schultz doesn't even want to hear about projects that will take as long as 18 months – that the economic and competitive pressures are too intense to consider things that will take that long. One the one hand, I sort of agree with that…especially in a world where Internet time is so much faster than traditional time, 18 months is forever. On the other hand, it seems to me that you have to look long-term as well as short-term…there should be parallel tracks, as long as they are headed in the same direction.