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Is Sears a Target?

Posted Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Canada’s retail landscape is littered with failures. Target, Zellers, Eaton’s, Beaver Lumber, Sam the Record Man, Dominion’s, Bata and Saan, just to name a few.
Sears Canada is on the watch list due to mounting losses, store closures, lay-offs and sell offs. Sears is trying new things, like boosting online shopping capabilities, redesigning stores to enhance consumer traffic and most recently, shifting into the grocery market. So far, however, there has been little improvement in the company’s fortunes.
In our last blog, we examined the reasons for Target Canada’s spectacular crash and burn. Target acted upon a series of untested assumptions without consulting their local managers and frontline staff. Each of these critical assumptions proved wrong. Target thought it could offer consumers a wider variety […]


Off Target

Posted Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

In January 2011, retail giant Target announced it was opening 124 stores in Canada. By April 2015, Target closed its last Canadian store. In its brief existence, Target Canada suffered losses of over $2B, left thousands unemployed and created enduring memories of empty shelves, high prices and disappointed customers. What went so horribly wrong?
Target’s vision was to replicate the shopping experience of its U.S. customers in Canada by delivering low prices, abundant selection and above average merchandise quality. To implement its vision, Target wanted to establish its market presence quickly by opening 124 stores and three distribution centers within 27 months. This ambitious schedule, however, relied on some critical and untested assumptions.
Wrong software
Possessing a very efficient inventory management system for […]


The Nudge

Posted Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

One of the most effective ways of cementing change is to create conditions that make it almost effortless for employees to perform whatever new behaviours or processes you are encouraging them to do. This tactic is called the “nudge”.
The nice people at Starbucks wanted me to register my gift card on their website. About ten times during the past 6 months of morning coffees, I was gently reminded to visit their website and register my gift card to receive the occasional free coffee, discounts and other rewards. Each time, I left the store with the best intentions of registering the card. Of course, I never quite got around to it.
This morning, my friendly barista said “If you haven’t registered your card yet, Tara is […]


Barefoot Change Managers

Posted Monday, January 9th, 2017

There is an old expression that the cobbler’s children are always barefoot. The phrase describes the phenomenon where professionals are so busy working for clients they neglect using their skills to help themselves or those closest to them.   Think of the web designer that hasn’t finished her own website or the lawyer who doesn’t have a will.
Unfortunately this is also true of organizational change managers. Most of us are using a ‘best practices’ body of knowledge based on surveys initially conducted in the 1990’s. It’s simple to remember the acronym and easy to explain to clients. The problem is that according to most studies, it succeeds only 30% of the time.
So why are we sticking with this dated approach? Because we are so […]


5 Steps to Organizational Change – Step 5: Thriving with Change

Posted Monday, January 2nd, 2017

In Part 5 of a 5 part series, Darwin co-founder Dr. Jim Rae discusses the critical steps required for managing organizational change successfully.
Assess, Develop, Align, Prepare and Thrive (ADAPT)!
Using Darwin’s 5 Step ADAPT Workflow we accurately assessed the change-readiness of our organization, used existing employee data to develop a persuasive Stakeholder Engagement Plan and aligned middle managers to support our change initiative. After coordinating training, we created a unique Go Live event to mark the end of old behaviours and to celebrate new ones. Throughout this campaign, we have extended the influence of our sponsor’s leadership and communicated frequently with our stakeholders – equally listening and informing. Before the project is deemed a success or failure, however, we have one more critical task […]


5 Steps to Organizational Change – Step 4: Prepare for Change

Posted Sunday, December 18th, 2016

In Part 4 of a 5 part series, Darwin co-founder Dr. Jim Rae discusses the critical steps required for managing organizational change successfully.

Assess, Develop, Align…Prepare!
In the first three parts of our series, we used Darwin’s Change Management Platform© to:

Assess our hypothetical organization’s change-readiness,
Develop an accurate, responsive Stakeholder Engagement Plan, and
Align middle managers to support our change initiative.

Now, we prepare our front line stakeholders for imminent change…
Project Wrap Up
As our hypothetical project enters its final few steps – UAT, deploying to the production environment, readying the Help Desk – you have been actively engaging stakeholders through communications. At this stage much of the project’s technical work is over, resources are being reduced and momentum […]


5 Steps to Organizational Change – Step 3: Align

Posted Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

In Part 3 of a 5 part series, Darwin co-founder Dr. Jim Rae discusses the critical steps required for managing organizational change successfully.
Making sure…   
In Parts 1 & 2 of our series, we used Darwin’s Change Management Platform© to measure our hypothetical organization’s change-readiness before implementing our scoped, balanced change management plan. Even measuring stakeholders’ opinions and knowing the majority of employees favour the proposed change is no guarantee of success. We still need to align all available resources to make sure our change succeeds. Enter the middle manager…
Middle Managers – A “Make or Break” Stakeholder    
Middle managers, the layer between executives and junior employees, play a critical role in determining change management success. Middle managers are privileged to critical information that […]


5 Steps to Successful Organizational Change – Step 2: Develop

Posted Monday, November 28th, 2016

Develop Your Strategy and Tactics
In Part 2 of a 5 part series, Darwin co-founder Dr. Jim Rae discusses the critical steps required for managing organizational change successfully.
Data determines the effort required
In Step 1, we used the Darwin Change Management Platform© to measure our hypothetical organization’s change-readiness. Based on our hypothetical data, we know 68% of employees favour the new change initiative. We also know 84% of Human Resources employees support the change but only 47% of the Finance department favours adoption. Based on these results, our communications with Human Resources employees should be mainly informational while communications with Finance department employees will necessarily be more engaging and frequent. Now that we know what and who we are dealing with, let’s develop […]


5 Steps to Successful Organizational Change – Step 1: Assess

Posted Monday, October 31st, 2016

In this 5 part series, Darwin co-founder Dr. Jim Rae discusses the critical steps required for a successful change management initiative.
Step 1: Assess
A project or change initiative launch brings a flurry of activity. The implementation team is assembled, meets several times to discuss and create their schedule and aligns their activities. They are energized, confident and optimistic about the task ahead.

By contrast, the employees hearing about the upcoming changes are often wary or apathetic. Rumours about the extent of the change swirl around the organization. There is talk of introducing disruptive new processes, steep learning curves and the possibility of lay-offs. Newer employees are worried; and longer tenured employees are often non-committal, adopting a “wait and see” attitude.
Enter the […]


Darwin: Your OCM Fitbit

Posted Sunday, October 2nd, 2016

Fitbits, Apple Watches, UP bands – activity trackers have become part of our daily lives. It is expected that 170 million North American will have wearable technology devices by 2017. For those of you who wear them and like to reach fitness goals, they are amazing devices. They help you count the number of steps you’ve taken in a day, track food consumption, measure caloric burn, track your sleep patterns and monitor your heart rate. Used consistently, activity trackers enable determined people to reach short and long term fitness and weight loss goals. The idea is simple – you can only see improvement if you actually measure it.
The same idea holds true for managing organizational change. You can only demonstrate improvement by measuring change […]


Why Amazon Needs Strategic Change Management

Posted Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

I recently ordered an e-book from Amazon, but did not receive it. So I called their Customer Service team to resolve the situation. After chatting with nine employees and while waiting to speak with a supervisor, the call was terminated. No e-book, no resolution, no refund, no apology, some profanity.
The inescapable conclusion from this customer experience is Amazon needs change management.
Not project-based change management, where they upgrade some systems and tweak some business processes, but strategic change management. They need to become customer-centric, not Amazon-centric. It is clear Amazon’s technology supports a responsive conversation with customers. It is equally apparent their platform facilitates quick transfers between departments and allows staff to gain context by tracking conversations with customers. Where the whole system breaks […]


Change Managers & Story Time

Posted Monday, June 27th, 2016

Mrs. Murray was a demanding Grade 4 teacher. Multiplication tables had to be memorized and recited in front of the entire class. Spelling test results were posted in the classroom. Public speaking and book reviews were required weekly. Even our class trips were educational – to museums, points of historical interest or to experience and study the natural environment.
Mrs. Murray was a wise educator. She knew story time accomplished many things – we learned to listen attentively and as one. We stopped what we were doing and paid attention to the characters, their fascinating adventures and the plotlines. We learned to focus, to be engaged and to use our imaginations.
Science has recently proven what Mrs. Murray already knew. Listening to an engaging, coherent […]


Accounting & Change Management

Posted Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

When your accountants are concerned, you should be concerned.
At this year’s American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Practitioners’ Symposium and TECH+ Conference, AICPA Chairman Barry Melancon said to members “Change management, not just change itself, has become a major concern among CPAs.”
Melancon went on to say that to maintain their positions as trusted business advisors, CPAs must adapt and evolve their services. In other words, CPAs have to both practice change management effectively and be able to advise their clients on incorporating effective change management practices into their own businesses.
Some of the big accounting firms have already developed change management consulting services. Others are busy acquiring change management consultancies to round out their service offerings. Unfortunately, offering clients “change management consulting” […]


Change Management Aboard the Titanic

Posted Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

James Moody, aged 24, was a junior officer aboard the Titanic. Among his duties were standing the late watches. Moody was on watch when the Titanic struck the iceberg. At about 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, he answered the phone from lookout Frederick Fleet, then reported those fateful words to the First Officer “Iceberg right ahead!” During the ensuing evacuation, Moody heroically helped fill three lifeboats, sacrificing his own safety to help others. He was presumed to have gone down with the ship and his body was never recovered.
While nowhere near as tragic, we have all been aboard projects that suffered the same fate as the Titanic. Despite plenty of resources and fanfare, they dramatically failed to meet their goals. Those who survived […]


New Year’s ‘Revolutions’ for Change Managers

Posted Thursday, January 7th, 2016

Welcome back to work after a hectic holiday season! As you resume your role as an organization’s change manager, you are likely facing the same challenges as last year – a rapid pace of change, major projects requiring support and a shortage of time and resources to facilitate change effectively. Here are some New Year’s ‘Revolutions’ to get you started on the right track:

Meet with the Sponsors – set up meetings with every one of your Sponsors to review project goals, timelines and success measures. Validate all those assumptions by getting clarification from the top!
Review your workload – do each of the projects you’ve been assigned really require structured change efforts? Shift to the most impactful transformations taking place and leave the […]


Change Management & Stress

Posted Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Workplace change causes stress. Can organizational change managers use that stress to help employees acquire and adapt to new technology, processes and behaviors?
As organizational change managers, we try to acknowledge and address issues of change-induced stress. We explain to impacted employees resistance is a natural reaction and that everyone progresses through the change curvedifferently. We sympathize with employees about the loss of their work-based identities. We provide messaging to empathize with those experiencing disruptive change while painting a positive vision of the future state.
These are band aid solutions to a complex issue. Instead, let’s examine how people react to stress and explore some effective strategies for managing change-induced employee stress.
People react to stress in two different ways. The first is where employees […]


Change Management Communications – It’s All About What Is Heard

Posted Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

So much of Organizational Change Management revolves around communications.  It begins with meeting the project manager to understand an initiative’s objectives, deliverables and timelines. Then it progresses to discussions with the sponsor to develop your plan to promote his or her influence. Soon after, you are presenting change management strategies and plans, crafting communiques – even facilitating stakeholder feedback sessions – all of which require well-rounded communication skills.
Yet we often forget the most basic law of communications; it’s not about what’s said, it’s about what’s heard.
In one recent change initiative, an organization of 700 employees (600 of whom were unionized) implemented an enterprise-wide business application. The application enabled employees to store and submit their resumes online while searching the company Intranet for job […]


Happy New Year (for Change Managers)!

Posted Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

It seems the moment after a planned “go live” the project team and sponsors are celebrating like it is New Year’s Eve. The technical work is wrapped up, testing and training have been completed and the team is eager to celebrate their hard work and successful collaboration!
For organizational change managers and stakeholders, however, “go live” is more like New Year’s Day. The resolutions have been carefully written. They make sense and promise a brighter future. Now it is time to start the new behaviours and the hard work that goes into achieving those goals. There is no partying – just the start of a slow, unfamiliar process to improve sometime in the future.
No wonder 88% of New Year’s resolutions and about 70% of […]


In Change Management, Context Is Everything

Posted Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

noun: context; the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
Context is the key to understanding.
Money is just paper and coins until you understand the concepts of currency, value and purchasing power.   Music is just noise unless you place it within the framework of melody, harmony and rhythm.
What if a waiter in an Italian restaurant brought you a fortune cookie after your meal? Would you understand why? Would you be able to figure it out based on the circumstances and surroundings? No. The fortune cookie is out of context.
Context is everything in change management. Stakeholders need to understand why they are being asked […]


Change Management & the ‘IKEA Effect’

Posted Thursday, September 24th, 2015

IKEA is the world’s largest furniture retailer. It operates 373 stores in 47 countries, has 500 million customers per year and makes over $20 billion annually. IKEA became the world’s #1 furniture retailer by designing and selling ready-to-assemble furniture.
It is also true that IKEA designs chic, modern, eco-friendly furniture. And IKEA managers spend a lot of time maximizing supply chain value, striving to lower operational costs and promoting innovative, cost effective manufacturing and design practices. But the truth of the matter is IKEA reached that lofty position by making you do some of the work.
Of course, consumers are perfectly happy with this arrangement. They get quality beds, bookcases and coffee tables for relatively low prices. Buyers are able to transport the flat-packaged furniture […]


The Bystander Effect, Information Overload and Change Management

Posted Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

In 1964, a woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York City. Her sustained cries of help were heard by at least 70 neighbours and bystanders, but no one came to her rescue as she slowly, tragically, succumbed to repeated attacks.   When these neighbours were questioned by police concerning why they did not intervene, they all said “We thought someone else was helping her.”
The Kitty Genovese case spawned a number of social psychology experiments investigating this “bystander effect”.   Essentially, the greater the number of people witnessing an event, the less likelihood an individual feels responsibility to become involved.   Somehow when others are present, we feel our social responsibility is diminished and we become apathetic and non-participative.
The same phenomenon appears in almost every […]



Posted Saturday, July 11th, 2015

Phrenology was a popular science in the Victorian era. Proponents claimed you could predict someone’s personality based on the shape of their head. If your skull had a certain shape, for example, a protruding forehead, you were a kind, charitable person. Phrenologists said the “organ” responsible for kindness was situated in the frontal lobes. When phrenologists encountered unkind people with prominent foreheads, they said another “organ” of the brain was more dominant. When kind people with large foreheads were examined, phrenologists claimed victory. Phrenologists ignored contradictory evidence. They claimed phrenology was the only “true science of the mind.”
When contemporary scientists examined the anatomy of the brain, they looked for measurable explanations to explain their observations. One scientist noticed that people with lesions in a […]


Project & Change Management Lessons from Mercury Messenger

Posted Monday, May 11th, 2015

At about 3:30 p.m. EDT on April 30 2015, NASA’s Messenger Mercury Spacecraft ended its successful mission exactly as predicted – slamming into Mercury’s surface and creating a crater on the planet’s surface.
The mission was a phenomenal success. The spacecraft functioned perfectly. All of the instruments worked exactly as designed. Innovative solutions mitigated the harsh conditions of exploring so close to the sun. The data and information gathered completely satisfied the scientific team and has laid the groundwork for the next mission to Mercury in 2016.
How is it possible for human beings to fly a spacecraft billions of miles, in temperatures hot enough to melt lead while successfully operating scientific instruments AND struggle to form effective project teams which struggle with change initiatives?

Why use Change Management in a Downturn?

Posted Friday, April 10th, 2015

Since September 2014 there has been a steady and significant decline in benchmark energy prices worldwide. Energy companies have reacted by cutting essential and non-essential spending. There have been major cutbacks to projects and new capital spending. Under the stress of declining revenues, there is the tendency for energy companies to cut all costs possible. Companies view it as the only way to survive. Conserve until prices recover, then slowly rebuild critical resources.
There are problems with this approach. The survivalist corporate culture does not encourage new, potentially value-added practices – “let’s make do with what we have” becomes the expected outcome. Cutting resources to skeleton operations leaves remaining employees little time to plan or implement innovative changes. Promising initiatives are shelved as resources capable […]


Welcome to Darwin’s Change Management Blog

Posted Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Hello and welcome to our new blog!
Darwin’s Editorial Staff explores topics of interest to people responsible for implementing significant organizational changes.
Whether you are a C-suite executive, a VP of Human Resources, Information Technology or Business Excellence, a senior manager responsible for the Project Management Office, Change Management Office or somewhere in between, overseeing major organizational changes is a difficult task.
Large-scale projects consume a lot of resources. Half of them end without delivering the promised results. (Source: McKinsey, Oxford University, 2013)
As for other types of organizational change initiatives, 70% fail. (Source: McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, 2013.)
Our blog is designed to help you meet your ‘change challenges.’ We will provide you with insightful tips, offer innovative perspectives and feature pertinent examples.
The […]