This week, Parker Avery sent out our quarterly newsletter—Retail Advisor—which features industry news, events and resources. Below you will find an excerpt of the newsletter, a note from our leadership. We encourage you to sign-up for the newsletter by emailing us at:

Recent changes in retail are driven by the need to adapt to constant shifting consumer behaviors, expectations, and desires as well as to address increasing competitive pressures. This type of change is reactionary and often results in decisions and initiatives that are conceived and implemented too quickly, resulting in sub-optimal adoption and acceptance, both internally and externally. Ultimately, the anticipated benefits from such projects are not realized nearly as fully as the business case promised.

Jack Welch’s notable quote, “Change before you have to” underpins this conundrum. This sage advice can be applied to many facets of life and business, but for today’s retailers, it is imperative to not only anticipate necessary changes, but to adopt a stronger conviction in embodying constant change in their company’s culture.

Many retailers are short-term focused, based on immediate business performance or are simply “shaken” by market disruptions. A strong change management culture helps teams stay focused, as well as reduce anxiety about market fluctuations. To promote this theme, planful investment in managing change is required to ensure large transformation investments are not wasted. Further, companies that focus on resource allocation (which don’t always require additional financial outlays) will increase the likelihood of adopting new technology, business processes, and organizational designs, and ultimately reap the most benefits.

No matter the context or project size, any investment should be balanced with attention on benefits realization. Ensuring a solid focus on change and adoption will not only improve the probability of achieving the anticipated benefits, but also often accelerate realization of those benefits.

Whether change is driven by traditional business transformation like ERP, harmonization of processes and roles/responsibilities driven by mergers and acquisitions, or the need to improve the ability to embrace emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), acute focus on change management is essential. Particularly with the latter example, evolving roles, responsibilities, and skill sets to ensure solid understanding of the data science and analytics behind these technologies is vital to achieving the promises of these investments.

There are many facets of effective change programs, but the need for executive sponsorship and tactical execution remain constant. Only now, the table stakes have increased dramatically. Companies can ill afford to “swing and miss” on their current transformations for fear of ending up in the growing list of companies that have suffered in the current retail revolution. While technological capabilities are important, and the pursuit of the best analytics tools is praiseworthy, companies need not pursue perfection with specific solutions. Greater focus should be placed on ensuring people are aware and prepared to accept, embrace, and optimize these new tools.

Further, adapting a mindset of continuous change involves flexibility in the approach, as opposed to simply overlaying textbook change management tools on an initiative. The experience in knowing that some change tools work better at different times or with different teams, as well as being able to apply methodologies from a retail perspective (e.g., knowing the typical challenges of buying and planning organizations) are invaluable assets in enhancing transformation efforts.

The reality is: companies that do not heed this warning will see their initiatives fail. Nobody wants to answer board member questions about why massive investments that were designed for survival or to leapfrog competition failed, despite promises that the solution was purportedly best-in class.

So, what should retailers do to increase the likelihood of successful outcomes?

  1. Develop a world class change program based on proven results. This means partnering with internal groups or external partners who have delivered on the promise and know the “do’s and don’ts” of ensuring adoption and success.
    • Dedicate the best and brightest from IT and the affected end user groups.
    • Invest 10-15% of the overall initiative’s expense to change management.
  2. Over-allocate resources by engaging (a) full-time resources; (b) ambassadors or SMEs from the affected parts of the organization who can provide real-time feedback about the impacts of a proposed change and can also evangelize the change; and (c) executives who can break down barriers to align the visions with the proposed process and organizational changes.
  3. Ensure executives and management teams understand their roles and what it takes to lead in times of transformation (and uncertainty).
  4. Realize that crossing the finish line is just the beginning. Post implementation support, during the hardest of times as people are experiencing the change and wanting to resist, is often overlooked and is when the support team is needed the most.
  5. Continuously look for opportunities to learn and improve, based on feedback from the stakeholders of the initiative.

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” These historical words are now more relevant than ever for today’s retailers. If you are looking for a firm who doesn’t take a cookie-cutter approach to change management and has the experience to tailor change methodology to your organization, we’d love to start a conversation.

Published On: March 15, 2018Categories: Change Management, Innovation, Newsletter, Robert Kaufman