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Driving Change: The key to a successful retail organisation


A lot has been written about customer-retailer relationships and the question of who defines who. Subliminal changes in consumer behaviours dictate constant changes in retail organisations. Simultaneously, retail organisations anticipate what their customers want, letting them know when it’s available for them to buy and providing them with information about that product as they’re making their buying decision. It also means creating a relationship with a consumer that’s far more personal than an email announcement of a sale or deal. This peripheral bond is crucial to a successful retail organisation, the customer truly is king. However, this relationship cannot function without an internal amalgamation of processes, structures, strategies and vision.

Driving Change: The key to a successful retail organisation
An agile organisation is the first step to being an efficacious retailer, which means that emphasis is always on the customer first

An agile organisation is the first step to being an efficacious retailer. This means that emphasis is on the customer first. Retailers must focus on optimising their planning, merchandising and supply chain operations to meet customer needs. And in achieving this, it is vital to work from a common and integrated platform that provides visibility across the business. This leaves the floor open to best employee practices and effective working methods that define successful retail organisations. An agile organisation also looks to adapt to the current business reality rather than following an inflexible plan.

An Agile Way of Organisational Ethos

Setting up the right processes and changing the ways of working play a very critical role in transforming an organisation. Effective product management, engineering and infrastructure ensure end-to-end value delivery for the customers. On the inside however, the retail team must adapt to big change constantly. This is possible when the organisation incorporates the following key change agents:

  1. Welcome failure – To accept failure is to forego progress and quit. To welcome failure is to acknowledge its temporary state, learn from it and move forward.
  2. Add feedback loops – The need to have consistent communication ensures that changes are in the right trajectory.
  3. Ingrain learning – Working smart, reflection of both failures and successes, and sharing insights with employees enables them to make immediate decisions.
  4. Promote accountability – Agile organisations foster a culture of accountability. This enables quicker decision-making and ensuring that employees understand how these decisions create an impact.
  5. Downplay power – Adaptable organisations curtail ego by outlining decision making space so that leaders make decisions that only they can affect.

An agile organisation is thus a combination of different elements. But how does anything stay relevant? With constantly fluctuating demands of the market, how can a retailer not be obsolete? While employees count on key decisions made by organisation leaders, factors of change are driven by indispensable and constructive management systems.

Change Management and the Role of Change Leadership

It is critical to have a combination of both Change Management and Change Leadership. While one focuses on the present, acts in a tactical manner, maintains the status quo, solves problems and delivers change objectives, the latter is more involved with the future of the organisations vision and strategy. They create change through setting direction and motivate and facilitate change through aligning people in fitting roles.

Together, they recognise drivers for change (economic, social, technological or political), create a befitting strategy that impacts every department in a positive manner and use various implementation methods to see to the most effective kind of change.

What are the Best Practices of Successful Large-Scale Retail Organisations?

Large-scale change is a complex affair and success mainly depends on the ability to influence organisation behaviour. Communication is an essential tool here. New initiatives will work when the idea has been communicated effectively to the entire organisation giving it more credibility to move towards change. A large-scale organisation sets in motion structures and strategies that initiate valid change. A few important practices are –

  1. Creating a sense of urgency – This is the first key step in initiating change. The urgency to validate decisions made by the organisation must resound among employees too, and successful transition is possible only if all individuals are on board.
  2. Creating vision, strategy and communicationThe leadership team is responsible for creating a unified strategy. This should reflect the company’s vision that is based on the organisations ability to incorporate constant change in the environment. Communicating these strategies becomes pivotal as it must be absorbed by the organisation. An African proverb echoes this, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. Poor communication and lack of implementation will lead to failure.
  3. Removing impedimentsChange leaders remove obstacles that prevent them from acting on the vision. They focus on fixing inadequate information systems and work on improving employee relationships. Success here, depends on empowering individuals in the organisation through a well-managed process that doesn’t undermine crucial change.
  4. Accomplish change in iterations – Accomplishing the first set of key goals is critical as it provides confidence that the changes made will be successful. In unsuccessful cases, people give up too soon or try to do too much in one go. Here however, iterations in the chosen goal builds momentum among colleagues towards overall effort and makes the vision a reality. Feedback is also incorporated earlier on in the process rather than at the end, making it more effective.
  5. Organisation Culture – Fostering a culture of shared behaviour and values helps the change last; it has the power to either enable or bury change. Appropriate people recognition, celebrating role model teams, orientation programs, knowing how to handle trouble makers, infusing new talent, and events that engage emotions make the changes long-lasting.

In the words of Charles Darwin “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change”.  Winning retail organisations will continue to deal with change, and the best practices listed above would help.  We can’t build an adaptable organisation with individuals who change only when they must, or when they want to. Therefore, success lies in making people see the need for change and adapting quickly to these changes.