Part 2: Change Management by the Numbers: Devising a Strategy That Produces Results, and Advocates


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Second in a Two-Part Series: Rolling Out Change

The key to engineering any successful structure, whether it is an office tower or a shift in company-wide operations, is a solid foundation. In the case of change management, that foundation is a living entity, and its most critical strength is the ability to continuously test, measure, refine and communicate change throughout the process.

In the first installment of this series, we walked through a proven approach to enabling the change to a shopper-centric strategy – how to develop and launch a successful proof-of-concept (POC) plan. This includes:

• The development of a dedicated change management team;
• prioritizing strategies and tactics to maximize success;
• defining a shopper centric approach;
• developing a comprehensive POC plan; and
• executing and measuring.

This time-tested approach builds the business case for a change to shopper-centricity, powered by two essential elements: the empirical results that drive the financial reasons (the why); and a dedicated team to act as the internal advocates for change (the what, who and how). This team will credibly lead the rollout plan (the when).

And so it is time to expand the concept companywide. But keep in mind that while the POC supports the reasoning for an organizational rollout, it does not guarantee success in the expansion stage. POCs are built on a limited scale, and taking that change throughout the entire organization presents challenges – in sequencing, communication, coordination and in managing pockets of resistance, to name a few.

At Precima, we employ an intensive, three-step process to best support a retailer’s transformation to shopper-centricity.

Three Big Steps to Rolling Out Change

Step One: Build & Communicate the Plan for a Rollout

The most important step to planning change is managing and communicating change. Leverage what was learned from the POC, whether the goal is to increase sales or profit, improve operational efficiency or enhance service. There are three necessary elements to doing this:

1. Commitment: The company must have strong, unwavering support from the executive level down. People tend to resist change naturally, so they will need to believe the reason for the change, understand how it impacts them and have confidence it is being supported. Top executives and the implementation team should consistently champion the change, share accountability and communicate.

2. Comprehension: The change management team should provide workers with the tools and processes to roll out the change and foresee potential hurdles. This is often called the “plan-the-plan” phase, and it is crucial for success as it is next-to-impossible to build the plan once the rollout is underway. POCs can operate on duct tape and bailing wire on a limited scale, but that approach is not sustainable organization-wide.

3. Communication. Frequent communication is at the heart of successful change management at every step and from every level, not just the executive level. This includes explaining at the onset why the change is needed, what the plan entails, the role of every employee and detailed updates.

Step Two: Execute The Rollout:

This is when the plan’s value is proven. Far too often, people believe that once the plan is built and communicated their work is done and they let the execution run on autopilot. This is a path to failure. The reality is that implementation requires diligence among three principles:

1. Continue to communicate. Yes, it bears saying twice, and be sure to listen – what the change management team hears is as important as what it says. Remember, the plan is not rigid – it is not pure science, it is social science. Once the implementation begins and other workers get involved, there will be resistance, challenges and surprises, as well as new ideas that warrant careful consideration.

2. Be flexible. While the implementation plan is built at a very detailed level, it shouldn’t require strict adherence. Rather, there should be room for adjustments, because not every element could have been anticipated ahead of time and not every step of the POC will be replicable on a large scale. Use the plan as a guide and the rollout as an opportunity to learn more.

3. Manage change, part II. The change management team should continue to meet with senior executives to identify pending problems and cut a clear path to resolving them. It is essential to manage the rollout rigorously and rapidly, refining along the way. Don’t wait until potential landmines explode into major problems.

Step Three: Optimize Change:
The best way to wrap up a change management rollout is to never wrap it up. There is no end-date to effective change; it is an ongoing process and should be monitored to know what is working and what is not.

These straightforward elements will help ensure ongoing success:

1. Measure continuously. Track the impact of the change as it relates to the original goals, whether they are to improve sales, increase shopper visits or reduce inventory expenses.

2. Touch base with staff. Change management often requires new or different responsibilities for workers, and sometimes it can take months for someone to reach his or her highest productivity in that role. Be sure to ask for new ideas and feedback.

3. Keep the band together. In this case, that’s the team that successfully led the process. These advocates have the institutional knowledge to understand what worked and the wisdom to recognize what did not.

In other words, the secret to effective change is to continually foster it. The rollout just puts the machine in motion, gets its gears well oiled and it parts at optimum performance. New ideas for running it more efficiently simply fuel the engine.

Yes, it takes a bit of tinkering, but this kind of engineered change is what all companies should strive for.

Brian Ross
Brian Ross is President of Precima, a shopper-driven insight and strategy firm operated by LoyaltyOne.


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