Parker Avery recently published two new points of view – one on change management and the other about social clienteling – and the logical part of my brain has already linked these to back to school and a million things I need to do to get my 9-year old ready. Naturally over the next few weeks, I’ll be spending a fair amount of time shopping with thousands of other parents as we wind down the summer and prepare for school bus schedules, homework, field trips, and after-school sports practices.
This year represents a pretty big change for my family – my son is changing schools, and he will be meeting an entirely new group of kids and experiencing a completely different style of education than he’s used to (we are moving from a Montessori school to a traditional school). Most kids his age are starting to be much more aware of and intimidated by new situations, and my son is no exception. He likes to know what to expect. Thus, change management in our family is pretty critical.
We made the decision to change schools back in January and involved him from the very beginning. This was key to getting my son’s buy-in and acceptance. On our daily rides home from school, we would talk about what differences we might expect in the new school, and I positioned it as a fun new adventure we will take together. I asked him how he felt about moving to a different school and what he was concerned about. We talked about the fact that he will have different subjects, classes, and more homework, his work will actually be graded, he will ride the bus, school hours will be different, and other changes. I involved him in an after-school program and summer camp that kids from the new school also attend so he could meet kids he’ll be going to school with and learn from them about his new school. I also scheduled a visit to the new school early on, where the principal led us through the entire building and campus and had us meet some of the faculty, including some who will be his teachers. They even let him sit in a portion of a class to observe.
As he saw all the new and (to him) exciting possibilities this new school offered, his apprehension visibly lessened. By the time we walked back to our car following the visit, he was telling me how excited he was about his new school.
At this point, it was already ingrained in his mind that the change was coming, but he also knew I would be with him through it. He visually saw, conceptually understood, and was comfortable with many of the positive aspects of the new school, and way before Labor Day, he has bought into this change.
But what does this have to do with retail? Lots. Retail is experiencing a dynamic pace of change brought on by trends and forces such as omnichannel, Big Data, the digital generation, mobile, technology upgrades, cloud, social media, and much more. The entire retail landscape is changing, and companies need to make sure they’re prepared to handle it. This means a structured, disciplined, and well-managed approach to organizational change.
What it also mirrors is how retailers should handle change with things like upfront and continuous communication – including open feedback channels, talking with others who have “been there, done that,” previewing / training on the new business process, technology, solution, or whatever the change involves, and highly visible sponsor support. This is all critical to effectively implementing change.
So as retailers continue to morph their business models to adapt to omnichannel and/or global trends, and as they adopt and implement new technologies and business processes, they need to ensure that change management is at the forefront of these initiatives.