Retail Excellence

Change Management: How to Move An Idea from Vision to Reality

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Now that we’ve identified the issues blocking our progress to achieving Retail Execution perfection, we need to plan a way to implement changes that will move our vision forward. Getting successful buy-in and adoption from your teams is process that takes finesse and planning – because, let’s be honest, people don’t love change. Change makes people uncomfortable, so your number one challenge to getting people on your side involves a lot of cheerleading, incentives (brownies always help), and setting aside for lots and LOTS of communication and training.

Steps to Managing Change Gracefully

Now that we have something to push forward – our big idea – we just have to figure out that tiny detail of moving from vision to reality? From a buy-in perspective, here are some steps that will help.

Below we’ve gathered 8 essential steps that will help address how to ensure the changes you implement to improve retail execution are successful:

  1. Create Awareness with Your Teams
    Most change occurs because you are working to improve results, processes or products, so it’s critical to identify the focus and clarify goals – sharing this information across your teams. Creating an awareness of what issues have been identified, then sharing the move-forward plan and anticipated benefits of the change will be critical when you start initiating updates. Involve people early on.

    You’ll want to nominate “change agents” to help lead the way – assigning key team members with roles and responsibilities for overseeing, communicating, and driving the new process. They’ll also act as your point people for any questions or concerns. Schedule regular touch base meetings with this team to make sure you are continuously adjusting for improvement.
  2. Design and Collaborate
    When implementing change, it’s important to understand how your updates will impact other stakeholders in your workflow. You’ll need to take into consideration several layers of your workforce, including upper management, finance teams, champions of the process, and those who will be driving the training and kick-off of the project.

    Knowing what the different teams’ expectations are for how the new process will benefit them – as well as understanding their current work style – will help you avoid adding friction points to their work. Build in long lead times and clear communication plans to manage expectations and reduce frustration.
  3. Plan for Change
    The plan is the "roadmap" for your journey that identifies the beginning, the route to be taken, and the destination. You will also integrate resources to be leveraged, the scope or objective, and costs of investments and resources into the plan.

    I can’t stress this enough - it’s important and more efficient in the long-run to be sure you’re building out a multi-step roll-out process that is well communicated, rather than sudden, unplanned "sweeping" changes. This involves outlining the project to include timelines with measurable targets, incentives, measurements, and built-in plans for analysis. Giving your team some advanced notice and time to come to terms with the fact that change is coming.

    This is also when you can have regularly scheduled check ins with your team leads to be sure everyone is on the same page, providing a unified front, and that all are presenting the changes in a positive way – essentially acting as cheerleaders for the rest of your organization. If your ambassadors aren’t truly bought in or don’t believe in the changes proposed – it will show in the way they talk about the process or their potential lack of involvement or commitment to making it a success.
  4. Analysis and Evaluation
    Clear reporting on progress allows for better communication, proper and timely distribution of incentives, and measurement of successes and milestones along the way.
  5. Communication
    This is another biggie. Be prepared with a communication plan. Provide clear and open lines of communication throughout the change process. By being transparent and allowing a contact for productive two-way communciations – your teams can not only express concerns or frustration, but also share what IS working and how it’s helped them – and help create a more seamless process for the changes you hope to institute.
  6. Risk Aversion and Embracing Change
    These two things don’t normally gel together – because, as we discussed earlier, change isn’t fun. Change also requires some discomfort, which will most often be accompanied by resistance from those you are trying to help. Even though it’s a really normal part of change management, resistance can threaten the success of a project. Most often, fear of the unknown is what’s causes people to drag their feet instead of getting on board with the rest of the team to help create a new, hopefully better, normal.
    It can also occur when people see a fair amount of risk associated with change – especially as related to all the things we needed to address in point #2 above… impact on dependencies, return on investment, and risks associated with allocating budget to something new and “untested”. By playing “devil’s advocate” to anticipate and prepare for any resistance – you’ll be arming your leadership team with tools to manage and navigate challenges and transition into change.
  7. Celebrate Success
    Recognizing milestone achievements is an essential part of any project. Especially after your group puts in the sweat equity involved with making the transition to a new way of working. When managing a change through its lifecycle, it’s important to recognize the success of teams and individuals involved. Give credit where credit is due and appreciate your team for their efforts.
  8. Review, Revise and Continuously Improve
    Once the change is launched, celebrated and analyzed – it’s important to remember that change is also an ongoing effort. Like communication, this should be woven through all steps to identify and remove roadblocks. Any outcomes resulting from the changes you’ve put into place are only going to be as good as your commitment to reviewing and redirecting efforts where needed. Like the need for resources and data, this process is only as good as the commitment to measurement and analysis.

Tools to Support Your Change Initiative

There are some planning documents you can develop to help in supporting your change management process. Often these would be created and managed by your change agents/project managers – or specific stakeholders involved in development of the implementation plan.

(For example, a product roadmap may be developed by the product management team, while a post mortem review would involve everyone responsible for and impacted by the change.) Look for examples to help draft your own toolkit, but your worksheets may include documentation, like:

  • Business Cases – Outline the need and advantages of the proposed change
  • Product Roadmaps – Guiding schedule
  • Readiness Assessments – Confirm participants’ level of understanding of the project plans, direction and use of product
  • Training sessions and tutorials – Develop videos and documentation to clearly outline processes and usage
  • Post Mortem Review – Sometimes also called a Correction of Errors. Outlining where the team hit unanticipated obstacles, work slowdowns, or bottlenecks – and documenting where improvements can be made for future processes
  • Measurements and Analytics – Capture the data to see where you’re crushing it and where you need to keep working
  • Resistance Management – Plan for the haters & figure out how to get adoption of your changes
  • Continuous Improvement Plan – Listen to the people who are following the new process or using the new tool and take note as to how it’s going

All of this advanced planning and creating a timeline to follow will help lead your teams through a smooth transition... one in which everyone will look back on the days before the change was implemented and you'll all wonder why you were all hanging on to the old way of doing things for so long. 


Why is it important to work toward excellent retail execution? Glad you asked.

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