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    February 14, 2022

    Chris Parsons of Mayborn Group: A Blueprint for How to Effectively Navigate Change Management

    Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
    "This isn't a one-person role, driving change. You need it to echo and resonate across all areas of the organization." — Chris Parsons, President of the Americas, Mayborn Group

    Change is inevitable. It’s also really hard to manage.

    Over the last decade, brands have had to contend with ongoing disruption. Even before the pandemic, the push for digital transformation compelled brand manufacturers to shift their teams and processes.

    It seems, though, they’ll have to get comfortable with disruption and remain nimble enough to adapt to it.

    However, all of this requires effective change management. As brands try to advance their digital shelf maturity, they’ll need to carefully and skillfully guide their organizations through a myriad of changes.

    To help brands effectively navigate this journey, the Digital Shelf Institute (DSI) recently held a webinar, "The Digital Shelf Playbook: Navigate Change Management."

    During the webinar, Chris Parsons, president of the Americas at Mayborn Group, and Lauren Livak, current director of the Digital Shelf Institute and the former head of Johnson & Johnson’s North American digital shelf strategy, provided actionable guidance for organizations. Here are their insights.

    What Is Change Management?

    "By definition, [change management is] a set of strategies and procedures used to manage an organizational change and guide people through the necessary transition to achieve the desired result," Livak says.

    Change can take many forms. It can involve a leadership change or a full-on digital transformation in which a company integrates new systems and processes, completely transforming how it works.

    Livak says change management is a mix of art versus science, often involving a combination of tactics and strategies, along with factors like leadership buy-in, the organization’s culture, and how well it responds to change.

    "It needs to really be driven intentionally and organically because moving an entire organization through a change takes all of the people in the organization," Livak says.

    The 5 Stages of the Change Process

    The change process involves five key stages:

    1. Assess and Define the Scope of the Change

    An organization must understand its current pain points and barriers to change implementation. At this stage, it’s crucial to be clear about the purpose and potential scope of the change.

    This could be to:

    Companies also need to be clear about what people, processes, and technologies will change, and what will change day-to-day for employees.

    2. Develop a Plan

    This stage involves navigating through a current state, change state, and future state.

    At this point, an organization will:

    • Define its strategy;
    • Develop cross-functional alignment and buy-in via ongoing communication and education; and
    • Work to understand the types of budget investments it needs to make to support the change.

    From there, it will begin to implement the change and continually report on progress as the organization moves toward its ultimate end goal or future state.

    3. Communicate Change Throughout the Organization

    Parsons, who led his organization through a digital transformation that began five years ago, says it’s critical to have a clear message and employ multiple tactics to effectively communicate change. Having change champions or advocates within the organization is one approach.

    "You need those disciples to take the message and share it as broadly as you are trying to share it," Parsons says. "This isn't a one-person role, driving change. You need it to echo and resonate across all areas of the organization."

    Along with identifying change champions, organizations also can take steps to promote data literacy.

    They should begin by:

    • Establishing data and system ownership;
    • Understanding their data and the systems and applications that support their business processes; and
    • Creating benchmarks for employee capability.

    "If you don’t have a great data literacy culture within your organization, digital can be hard," Parsons says. "Data becomes a great leveler. It’s critical for people to understand data and how to use it."

    4. Measure Success

    At this stage, an organization will review the progress of the change and better understand where to focus its resources.

    Parsons says it’s crucial for organizations to:

    • Be as transparent as possible about how the change is going;
    • Elaborate on where there’s room for improvement; and
    • Share positive results they’ve driven so far.

    As part of the change management process, organizations also should up-level their team through training and focus on adoption and culture, Parsons says.

    As an example, Mayborn Group, the parent company for well-known baby brand Tomee Tippee, frequently conducts employee surveys as part of its digital change program to gauge what’s working and what isn’t.

    "We get quite a lot of good feedback about how people are feeling about the change, and where they see some of the opportunities [for improvement] and some of the successes," Parsons says.

    5. Ensure the Change Is Sustainable

    This stage is all about truly integrating and sustaining the change long term. Making the change sustainable requires ongoing, effective communication with all levels of the organization.

    "Change management is really a continuous process and you really need to make sure that's embedded within the organization," Livak says.

    Effective Change Management: Lessons From the Field

    Though these five stages define the change process, every organization will have its own unique path and strategies it will need to implement to navigate this process.

    At Mayborn Group, Parsons and his team discovered specific tactics that worked for them, including:

    Fostering Leadership Engagement

    Mayborn Group dedicates three hours at its monthly board meeting to its digital change agenda. This fosters continued leadership buy-in and a sustained commitment to the change.

    "That is a real reflection of the fact that we started from an acorn and have grown it into a critical driver of our business from a top-down, C-suite standpoint," Parsons says.

    Creating a Center of Excellence

    Mayborn Group’s business is more regionally owned, but the company found that when it started to implement its digital change agenda, there was global crossover, so it needed to unify the business around a set of global standards and practices.

    "Where we've had the most success, but also the most challenge, is trying to break down some of the historical siloed ways of working to create a much more cross-functional, global center of excellence-driven model, which allows you then to make progress everywhere, equally as fast," Parsons says.

    Education, Education, and More Education

    Mayborn Group also has used templates, learning groups, and team briefs to educate employees and imbue its organization with a digital-first mindset.

    During the first 18 months of the company’s digital change, Parsons would write an email called "Friday Digital Notes," which included his personal reflections on what was happening within the company’s digital change program and key learnings so far.

    "[The notes] resonated. They personalized the journey and they allowed us to get people to understand that this was around them and they needed to support it," Parsons says.

    Embracing and Preparing for a Cultural Shift

    Parsons says navigating a cultural shift is the most critical part of a digital change program.

    It’s important to signal to employees that it’s okay to fail if you’re experimenting and things don’t work out as well as you initially thought. Organizations also should lean on their HR teams to help people navigate their change priorities.

    "HR plays a pivotal role in this. HR doesn't necessarily always know everything about digital, but they do know a lot about people … so as much as you can incorporate them into this, the better," Parsons says.

    Navigating change isn’t easy for any organization, but as Parsons’ experience shows, effective change management can make all the difference. He defines effective change management as a combination of motivation, alignment, clarity, culture, objective-setting, and adaptability.

    "That ultimately comes together to make a great change program," Parsons says. "Today, even still — when we're four or five years into this journey — every week something different comes up. But I would tell you that it's the best part of what I do because it's new, it's different, it's challenging."

    For more details on driving effective change management from Parsons and Livak, check out the rest of this episode of "Unpacking the Digital Shelf."