We had two warehouses in our store. We called them “Warehouse #3” and “Warehouse #5” Yeah, I know.
Those names actually made sense based on our phone paging system. The first warehouse was button number 3 on our phone system. The second warehouse – created when the store expanded in 1972 – was button number 5 in the system.
Since the front line staff called those warehouses as often as they visited them, the names made sense.
We also had six numbered doors on the back side of the building. Door #5 was where we sent customers to pick up large, bulky items like Little Tikes and Step2 products or baby furniture. Door #5 was located in Warehouse #5.
A long time ago all of our warehouse aisles were also numbered. Because of reconfigurations, only one aisle number remained. You guessed it … Aisle #5.
Aisle #5 was in Warehouse #3. Aisle #5 was the “junk draw” of the Toy House. All the shelving odds and ends ended up in Aisle #5. When something needed to be put back in the warehouse temporarily, it went to Aisle #5.
My new staff regularly was.
Every year I would ask my staff for a new name for Aisle #5. I would even have been happy with “junk drawer.” But every year they said don’t change it. It will be too confusing.
There are still people in town who call the mall on the north end of town Paka Plaza even though it changed its name to Jackson Crossing twenty-eight years ago!
We are resistant to change. We don’t like change. We cling to the old even after change happens.
So how do you change the things that need to be changed?
First you need to identify the type of change. Is this a tweak or a wholesale change?
Tweaks are easy. Explain why the change is better/easier/faster/more-customer-friendly and everyone will jump on board fairly quickly.
Wholesale changes need buy-in.
Wholesale changes need key employees leading the charge or being the cheerleaders for the change. You need your managers and assistant managers on board. You need your veterans on board.
If you need to make wholesale changes such as completely revamping a policy, changing your hours and/or days of operation, or adding in a new POS system, you need to identify your key people, not by their role (manager, assistant, etc.) but by their likely position regarding the change. You need to know …
- Who will be most resistant to the change
- Who the change will affect the most
- Who will be the most happy for the change
Unless change is a constant in your particular business, your elder statespeople will most likely be the keepers of the we’ve-always-done-it-this-way flame. You need to sit down with one or two of them and have a conversation before you announce the change. In that conversation, don’t ram the new way down their throats. Instead focus on the problems the old way causes. Get them to buy-in on the old way being “broken” first and they’ll be much more open to new ideas.
The employees most affected by this change are your next group. You don’t have to meet with them before (although it helps to have a similar conversation like you had with the previous group), but you do need to meet with them after you announce the change. You need to sit down with them and tell them you understand how much more difficult this change will be for them than the others. You need to tell them what you’re planning to do for them to help them through the transition.
The third group is who you want to call on when you announce the change. Get them to give their input right away and their positivity will infect the rest of your group. They will become your head cheerleaders.
Follow this blueprint and you will have much quicker and better buy-in by your team. You’ll still have some trials and tribulations. You might have an employee or two who won’t adapt well to the change. You might even have to fire someone over this.
You will likely also have a dip in productivity while you go through the transition to the new procedure. That’s okay and expected. You’re in business for the long run, remember?
The right changes now will keep you in the game long enough to wonder why people still remember what you did twenty-eight years ago.
PS We changed computers and cash registers once on my watch. We changed hours several times including being open Sundays year-round. We changed closing procedures, too. We even closed for three days to totally revamp, renovate, and relocate every product, shelf, computer, and cash register in the store. The more I followed the above blueprint, the better each change happened.