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Leading change

different, businessThe heading is important. Managing change is one thing but real change requires leadership. Below you will find eight typical errors.

Error one is not establishing a sense of urgency.

Part of this is due to management being risk averse and hedging their bets. It is therefore not necessarily those affected by the change who are dragging their heels.

Quick decisive change is good change. This is a key difference between managers and leaders. Change needs leadership.

Error two is not creating a powerful enough group of protagonists.

This does not necessarily mean those at the top. In fact, some at the top may resist the planned change.

SAP for example, is notoriously challenging to implement. Those implementations that go well, invariably have the CEO and others down the chain as champions and believers.

Error three is lacking vision.

We are not talking about numbers here or a five year plan.  We are talking more about ideas that may initially be fuzzy, but after a period become visionary. The rule of thumb is that when you are able to convey the vision to someone in under 5 minutes and get their understanding, you are ready to move forward.

Error four is under communication.

This problem is not confined to change or retail change. It is more than having a meeting or sending out an email. It is a question of constant reinforcement and using every channel available.

Error five is leaving obstacles lying around.

Change is a departure from the old and obstacles take various forms. The obstacle may be a process or system or a person or persons. When people are involved, blockers often club together and form an “opposition party”. If this happens, a strong hand is required and some may need to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Error six is looking for a grand change and not small wins.

It is often better to get a few quick runs on the board rather than having a monumental change program. People start believing in the change when they see some results. If change drags on too long, it is probably doomed.

Error seven is pretending that change has happened when it hasn’t.

Most people can see through false claims of victory as a ploy to getting wins. The change has to be real and the reporting of mile stones must be accurate.

Error eight is not cementing the change

One likes to think that the change is beneficial, in which case it needs to be entrenched. If it is bad change, stop as soon as possible and don’t make the change part of the culture.

Twenty years ago to the day, the Harvard Business Review produced a paper on change identifying some of the above to transform organisations. I have loosely drawn on this material in an attempt to hone in on a few pointers that cover this complex issue.

Good change requires good leadership and it is implemented quickly. In retail this is particularly pertinent given the geographical challenges that many retailers face.

Stuart Bennie is a retail consultant at Impact Retailing and can be contacted at or 0414 631 702.





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