When talking about change management most people think that it happens mainly in corporations and within closed doors. Actually, that’s not the case. It happens everywhere, also in our day to day life.
I observed what has recently happened when my local supermarket was refurbished. You may think “not interested”. Hang on, not so fast: keep on reading!
The company has gone through several acquisitions over the past 10 years and the building/settings and product range was showing some signs of tiredness. Whilst up to 4 years ago this supermarket was the main one in the area, since then competitors have popped up. With their wider choice and more modern premises (it does matter!) they were eating up a significant market share.
Over the several acquisitions the new owners made smaller changes to the products offered by the supermarket (e.g. adding the organic and locally sourced ranges), but noting significant. The premises were very 80s like (from the way the products were displayed, to the branding). Also the customer care was not the best.
Then, all of a sudden (literally as it was not announced!) the premises were shut down for 3 weeks for refurbishment. This has not gone down well as the temporary – and lengthy – closure was not properly communicated and it mainly affected the elderly population in the local area – most of them don’t have a car and could not go shopping at the malls.
On the re-opening day it was possible to observe peoples’ reactions: the early adopters were enthusiastic about the new and modern premises, the widely increased range of product on offer and eagerly explored the space. Other, were complaining about the modern look of the premises, the new range of products (“do we really need a sushi bar?”) and the difficulty to find the goods as they were not in the same old shelf!
After a couple of weeks it is still possible to observe pockets of resistance – some people complaining about the wide choice and the difficulty to find products (even if help is at hand with smiling staff all over the premises). One of the major signs of resistance is the new payment system: one queue for 10 cashiers. A “voice” tells people where to go and pay and a big screen displays the number of the cashier. Invariably there are people (I must admit mostly elderly) that disregard the message and decide to queue wherever they prefer, just to be told to follow the instructions in order to facilitate the payment process. This results in even more resistance and complaints as “the new system is rubbish!”.
I find this change in action extremely fascinating as, even if deployed on a small scale, it shows exactly how people react to change, how lack of communication affects the adoption of change and how it is not possible to get everyone on board. It is also interesting to see that most of the detractors of the new premises/set up (which by the way I really like!) keep on showing up and complain about the same elements, instead of embracing them and would never think about going to another supermarket because … better the devil you know!