Change for Change Sake Is Ridiculous.

In the age of anxiety our behaviour is transparent and obvious. Our boredom thresholds are low and our thirst for stimulation makes us avaricious consumers but increasingly not very disciplined business thinkers. More and more retail businesses suffer from the same kind of memory loss women experience where they blank out the pain of childbirth as they eagerly await the process of creating their next son or daughter.

Business change is never straightforward, often creates unforeseen consequences and always involves pain. I have heard some pretty ridiculous rationalisations for change programs in my career. From “I just want to keep the organisation on its toes”; to “I’ve just read about the way Apple does things”; to “Qualitative research feedback from our customers says they are looking for something new”; to “Part of the culture I am trying to bring to life here is a spirit of constant change”.

Lets get one thing clear. If you are a successful retail business, you’ll get bored doing what you do a long time before your customers get bored with buying it. That is more to do with motivation, culture and discipline. Being bored or anxious and needing relief from those symptoms is not a justification for change.

The most critical fundamental of retail business success is customer relevance. Customer relevance is a right here, right now equation measured only in the lifetime profit contribution of your customers. Retail business change must be rationalised against that goal. All activity in a retail business must be focussed on profit optimisation through delivering customer relevance that can be monetized.

Yes – some things we just need to do. Take the accounting department for example. But a smart retailer has an accounting department focussed on analysing un-necessary waste and under-exploited opportunity. As long as any recommendations support customer relevance, these are changes worth making.

We have to have packaging. But packaging is also a memory or branding mnemonic. It shouldn’t be changed because some marketing ‘tosser’ wants to justify their existence or puff up their ego. Changing packaging forces the customer to have to re-learn what you look like and it better be worth the re-learning or the seen and unseen costs will be disastrous.

Change is not a good or a bad thing by itself.

What defines it as good or bad are two things. The discipline in the decision making that led to the articulation of what and how to change and the manner in which all stakeholders that the change touches have been embraced through the implementation process.

I’ll say it again – business change is never straightforward, often creates unforeseen consequences and always involves pain. Change must lead to a profit outcome or don’t go there.