In facilities management, change is the only constant. Throughout my career as a store manager, district manager, and manager of store operations, I have been given many plans to implement. I’ve also created and carried out my own operational roadmaps. Now, I guide people through organizational shifts as an enterprise sales director at Corrigo.
Each situation and solution will always be unique, but there are six steps you can take to intelligently outline an approach to major organizational changes.
1) Identify the problem
Problems come in all shapes and sizes—they can be reactive or proactive, have to do with customers or employees, or be something you’d never expect in a million years. In the retail space, identifying the problem can be the hardest part. Maybe the customer experience isn’t where it should be, and customers aren’t being offered assistance, leading to lost sales. Or the corporate office has imposed a company-wide store budget decrease, but your store managers need to keep the same level of service and the same number of employees.
For me, it was identifying a logistics hurdle which was hurting sales when I was Manager of Ops at Babies R Us. Our challenge? Furniture inventory could not be shipped between stores, so when an item was sold out at one store, it could not be transferred from another store with product surplus. We were losing out on revenue we should’ve been able to capture.
2) Document the current process
Once you’ve identified the problem, the next step is to diagnose how the problem started. Sometimes the root cause is obvious, other times it’s ingrained in your day-to-day and easy to overlook. I always recommend examining and documenting your current processes, so you have them handy and you know where everything stands.
In my operations role, I learned facilities managers are continually challenged to reduce budgets and implement new processes. Many times, existing processes aren’t documented prior to implementing the new one. When this happens, old processes become fallback habits when a crisis occurs, causing a breakdown in procedure. Keeping an ongoing record will ensure you establish the right changes and avoid repeating past mistakes.
3) Discover the team’s roadblocks
Frequently, organizations resist change because they think there are too many obstacles to overcome and they don’t want to do the heavy lifting. Identifying and predicting roadblocks you may encounter will arm your team with the tools to earn everyone’s buy-in. Often, these are psychological hurdles to overcome, so I always ask the following questions and put myself in other people’s shoes:
- Which specific team members will this impact? Think of everyone within your organization, from top to bottom. And don’t forget partners and external vendors, too.
- How will this impact their daily routine? It may be smart to ask your store managers to double their store walkthroughs each day. If so, make sure they have a way to efficiently document and delegate tasks to avoid forgetting.
- Could this be out of their comfort zone? You may think you want your cashiers documenting at the register with each purchase, but if they can do that efficiently at the end of their shift, you can keep customers from waiting too long in line.
- Will any training be needed? If so, what will that be and how will they be trained? Stocking shelves during the day may save overhead costs since you don’t have to keep your stores running after hours. But make sure you provide your stockers with customer service training since they will now have to interact with shoppers.
- Is there an emotional attachment to the current process? Fear of change or the unknown? Technicians may not like mobile check-ins—until you tell them those check-ins lead to performance bonuses and overtime pay.
4) Create a project roadmap
Once you acknowledge the problem, familiarize yourself with current processes, and analyze potential obstacles, how will you seamlessly implement change? When we switched to the new ordering system at Babies R Us, we created a project roadmap to document every step necessary to execute the process and carry out change. My project roadmap was kind of like a business GPS, guiding us through a busy rush hour of change. And while your car’s GPS may suggest an unfamiliar route, it’s to avoid roadwork, potholes, and traffic. Your project roadmap can similarly help you avoid the hiccups and roadblocks you identified earlier.
5) Build Influence
Selling your recommendations to your peers and superiors can be difficult. To make it easier, you need to build influence throughout your organization. I recommend creating an internal marketing campaign that highlights your solution based on the four previous steps. It should prove why the change is needed, uncover current process pitfalls, prove you’ve identified obstacles, and finally, demonstrate that you have a plan for success.
When pitching my plan, I relied on guidance from Influence without Authority by Allan Cohen and David Bradford, a gift from my Babies R Us VP of Operations. A key principle from this book is honesty – you need to truthfully explain how change will impact others and your organization. I emphasized the benefits, but I was also very honest with the team by not downplaying the effect of change. And because I identified potential roadblocks and possible impacts, I proactively minimized challenges during the transition which lead to an easier implementation. If you sell in your plan with honesty, you can gain trust as a leader from your peers and superiors.
6) Analyze and Optimize
Finally, once your plan has come to life, analyze the program, watch for optimizations, and be open to feedback. Each change will have unknowns, so keeping an eye out for negative trends and problems will ensure you can react when issues arise to stay ahead with ongoing improvements.
When you put together a smart plan that lays the groundwork for success, good results and positive change will follow. Good luck—or better yet, good planning!