A Pig In Lipstick? Let’s Focus On The Right Things


October 9, 2009

 Have you heard the quote “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”  That was said by Barack Obama during his Presidential campaign.  I thought of that today when I read a story on MSNBC.

Did you know that Burger King is embarking on a ‘futuristic’ remodel of all its stores?  There was an article today on MSNBC that detailed the extent of the remodel and the cost.  The King plans to make owners spend an estimated $300,000 to $600,000 for each of the 12,000 outlets worldwide. “The sleek interior includes rotating red flame chandeliers, brilliant TV-screen menus and industrial-inspired corrugated metal and brick walls.”  The Chairman and CEO, John Chidsey, says, “It feels so much more like an upscale restaurant.”


I don’t know about you, but to me, Burger King is and always will be a fast-food restaurant.  No amount of cosmetic changes will convince me otherwise.  Besides, are they suddenly trying to go after a different market?  I’m not sure, but if the answer is no, then this expenditure does not make good sense to me. I think they need to analyze what they are trying to accomplish.  Is it to gain more of the existing fast-food market?  Then why not have owners invest in higher quality food, better customer service, or more convenient drive-through experience?

I see this happen every day in the business world, and in HR in particular.  How many times do companies have real issues that they ignore in favor of buying a flashy, shiny, “new” program or technology that really doesn’t get at improving the overall employee experience within the company?  All the time.

So, what are some steps you can take to keep the company, or the HR department, on track? 

  • Determine what the core business or service is, then put all your energy in doing that best
  • Look for opportunities to outsource  or redesign various processes within the organization or department
  • Determine your staffing methodology then stick to it
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate
  • Use an external vendor to help you survey and analyze the areas needing improvement and attention

The key is not forgetting what you are in business to do, what your company values are, and the core competencies needed to achieve the goals of the company.  If you take your eye off the ball for even a moment, you may lose sight of what it is that makes the company great.  Don’t worry about putting lipstick on a pig.  It’s still a pig.  And, don’t worry about only changing the “cosmetic” view of your company or department because it doesn’t change what is underneath.  If there are issues underneath, focus on changing them.  That’s the time when you can bring in technology or consultants to really help you address the issues.  The rest will take care of itself.

And by the way, regardless of how much money Burger King spends on the remodel, I’d still rather grab some White Castle hamburgers in a fast-food joint that has looked the same way for generations. Wouldn’t you?


  • Dress up a monkey in Armani,
    He may seem precocious and cute.
    Despite all that primpin’,
    You still got a chimp in a suit.

    From the musical “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” – lyrics and music by David Yazbek. (full disclosure!)

    This song jumped right into my mind, for obvious reasons, when I read this blog. I also read another article today that stated that 75% of small business (under 100 employees) were NOT using social media in any way. They were too busy focusing on their core business. They apparently felt that social media is a “chimp in a suit” or a “pig in lipstick”.

    I don’t disagree with your basic premise at all and I think it’s sound. But I do think that it is a larger business problem. Coming from a small business background (I had 40-50 employees at my previous company) I think that we sometimes need to encourage small businesses to put ON a little lipstick, because they are going to get a lot more attention than the average pig. Once they get the attention, they can kick in those core values that are so very important.

    Great post, Trish. I’ll be singing all day.

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.





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