Last week I looked at the importance of managing transition for business and one of the ways to do this is to have effective systems in place. Solo entrepreneurs and start-ups often make the mistake of thinking they are not big enough or established enough to worry about systems. They also often hate this aspect of business and “put it off till later”. Others get so hung up on systems they create a nightmare of bureaucracy from the start – there is a middle way.
Transition systems that meet objectives
When going through a period of transition it can be messy and sometimes the business can lose sight of why they are making the changes. Certainly, it is unsettling for the employees and they can feel as if it is change for change’s sake. Part of managing this transition is to be very clear about why you are making it and have in place systems that support the change.
Examples of transition objectives requiring management
Often a business needs to reposition itself into the market because it feels old fashioned or it is trying to align all its products under one new style and ethos. There are practical impacts of this change. New packaging and logos, new names, even new uniforms for the retail outlets! It can also have an adverse reaction from customers who are familiar with the old brands and resist the change. Do you remember the huge fuss around the chocolate bar Marathon being rebranded as Snickers in 1990? It was Snickers everywhere in the world except the UK because snickers rhymed with knickers (British slang for ladies’ underwear) but the rebrand allowed it to be used as a universal product name for sponsorship (Olympic games 1988 and 1992) all around the world.
This transition required a careful plan, from manufacture to advertising and a period of phasing out the old brand and bringing in the new. In the Mars case- the reason for the change was internal – so the focus was on creating a friendly and humorous set of adverts and keeping the packaging the same- just changing the name.
When the rebrand involves an ethos or style change- transition systems need to include the WHY for the change. Involving stakeholders in the transition means establishing transition systems that include consultation before implementation.
The hardest part of rebranding is in the implementation phase which costs up to 20 times that of the creative execution. Incorrect use of new materials, a lack of understanding by end users about what the new brand means and inconsistency of application, will damage your brand image at this crucial time.
The creative process can be the first transition system a business needs to manage. Clever business involves its customers in this- for example getting users to vote on the new logo and/or colours being used. The issue here is creatively translating ideas in a company’s head into recognisable imagery, straplines etc. that resonate with customers. This can sometimes be a long process and stall the whole transition process.
The implementation phase can be helped by smart use of transition software-you want to avoid old versions of the brand still being out there at the same time as new branding.
When a business makes a significant change to its business model then the transition phase can be very painful or it can be very exciting. An entrepreneur who changes their service offerings only has to handle a few people in the transition and transition systems for this are relatively simple. A large organisation changing manufacturing, or outsourcing a large part of its business to allow space for new product management will need a clear change flow management process.
Transition systems will need to handle not just the physical manufacturing element but the workforce plus, possibly, unions and naturally, customers.
A simple transition system approach looks at
WHY – there must be a good reason for making the change or workforce and customers alike will resist it.
WHO – identifying who will be affected and their possible reaction is crucial- transition systems then need to be in place to inform and educate those stakeholders on the impact and the rationale.
WHAT – the exact details of the change have to be thrashed out – it may be more effective to do this in phases as wholesale change runs the risk of total failure!
WHEN- timescales for each part of the change need to be identified together with contingency for delay.
HOW – the implementation of the change can be low tech or involve software and automated transition systems that can be monitored and tracked and split tested.
Whatever the reason for the company transitioning into new territory, the whole process needs to be managed carefully. The human element is crucial and few transition systems work well unless people are involved at each stage.