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Category: Culture Change

Out Success Stories:


In today’s competitive business environment, change is constant. At any one time virtually every organisation is developing and implementing change in several areas, whether this involves new products or services, new processes or systems, or changes to the way that people work.

Effective change management is recognised as an important competency across virtually all business sectors. Over the last twenty years a succession of management gurus have developed change models and techniques to make the process easier to understand. So why are we still so bad at it?

Maybe the high failure rate is related to the fact that many organisations fail to plan and implement a holistic approach to change – one that integrates changes to product, process or systems with activity aimed at equipping and sustaining people to deliver the new ways of working. Too often, change programmes include minimal work on the people aspects of change, without any real thought being given to how staff can be developed and managed on an ongoing basis to continue the new way of working. Many classic change models recognise the need to build understanding and buy in – but fail to consider how this can be sustained on an ongoing basis, once the initial excitement is over.

At cda we have developed an innovative approach to delivering change management, which pulls together change activity across several dimensions. We integrate classic change management theory with an approach to focusing and aligning skills and behaviours onto the things that really matter. Developments to business processes and systems integrate alongside this central ‘core’ of change thinking – but in the final analysis it is the changes to skills and behaviours of an organisation’s people that deliver the real, sustainable difference.


Alpha Airports Group

Alpha Airports Group Plc is the largest UK supplier of retailing and catering services for airports and airlines. The Group’s activities include airport and in-flight duty free shopping, airport catering and in-flight catering, and a range of in-flight services. Alpha employs 6,500 people around the world.

During 2002 the Group started a major project aimed at defining the essence of the Alpha brand and what this means for its customers. They worked with people throughout the business to develop a set of brand values, which crystallised the operating style and ethos of Alpha Airports Group Plc.

Alpha rethought their brand proposition, identifying a new brand message, brand personality and a set of brand values. Alongside this work, they invested in refreshing the design of their outlets, including the development of a new visual identity and merchandising formats.

In addition to these changes to their brand proposition and their visual identity, Alpha recognised that it was essential to imbed new ways of working into their people.  Alpha’s brand values set out a clear description of the experience Alpha aims to provide for its customers – which must be underpinned by the skills and behaviours of Alpha’s people.

Therefore, in late 2002 Alpha began working with cda to develop ‘GAP’ – ‘Growing Alpha’s People’. This is a change programme focused on driving improvements to sales, customer satisfaction and profitability, through the skills and behaviours of Alpha’s people. The change programme was led by a project team made up of senior managers from across the business. The commitment and enthusiasm of this team was a vital factor in the success of the GAP programme

The GAP programme pulled together classic change management thinking (e.g. change communications work, change readiness assessment and change evaluation) with a plan to focus, align and simplify people tools around the skills and behaviours that really make the difference for Alpha. Project management skills were essential as the programme also included significant changes to store teams and store refurbishment activity, alongside the need to maintain ‘business as usual’.   

The first step was to simplify team structures and make sure that every role was clearly defined – both in terms of accountabilities, but also the competencies (skills, knowledge and behaviours) required to carry out the role. Working with cda, Alpha defined ten competencies that cover the skills, knowledge and behaviour required for every job in the business. These competencies are also closely linked to Alpha’s brand values.

Once this initial design work was completed, the next step was to improve the calibre of outlet managers. All managers were assessed against the competency framework; a significant proportion left the business and were replaced by external recruits who more closely matched the competency requirements of the role.

Alpha introduced a competency-based performance management process to drive and sustain new ways of working. The introduction of this new process was supported by a two-day training course for all managers which trained them in how to recognise and develop the key skills and behaviours. This training was delivered in parallel with the implementation of a new management structure in each outlet that streamlined and clarified job roles and accountabilities, and focused effort on a number of key measures such as customer satisfaction and sales.

Every member of staff is now reviewed regularly against the competencies required to deliver the Alpha customer experience. Recognition schemes – such as ‘Alpha’s Heroes’ – have been put in place to reward successful performance against the competencies. Cda has also worked with managers across the business to improve the selling and customer handling competencies of every member of staff.

GAP implementation was supported by carefully planned change communications, aimed at building understanding and buy in from Alpha’s staff. As a result of careful project planning, the change programme was delivered to a very tight timescale; it took just four months from initial diagnosis to the ‘go live’ date for new teams and ways of working in the pilot location.


Toyota GB PLC

Towards the end of 1999 Toyota GB PLC realised that it was time to develop standards of service in their Centres across the UK to mirror changes in the wider retail marketplace. They wanted to create a successful mix of people, product and place, reflecting the best retailing environments and focused on meeting their customers’ needs.

Toyota developed ‘Retail Concept’ – a new approach to car retailing. Retail Concept is focused on delivering a new retail experience to Toyota’s customers which:

  • Provides a welcoming and relaxed environment which encourages customers to browse and experience the products, without any pressure to buy
  • Is focused on understanding and meeting the individual needs of each customer – and so helping customers to buy the vehicle that best suits their needs
  • Adopts an open and transparent approach to sharing information (for example, on pricing) to help customers make informed choices

Retail Concept was carefully developed to reflect the key principles underlying the Toyota business – the Toyota Way. This is built around two key pillars:

  • Continuous Improvement – ‘we are never satisfied by where we are; always looking at better ways of doing things’
  • Respect for People – ‘the success of the business is due to individual efforts and good teamwork’

The first step in the change programme was to translate Retail Concept into a new visual identity for Toyota Centres. The new design is modern and innovative, creating an open and welcoming environment where customers feel comfortable to browse and experience the cars.

Working with cda, Toyota translated the new experience into a set of skills and behaviours that summarise and underpin the way that Centre staff are expected to handle customers. New role profiles and competencies provide every jobholder with a clear description of what is required from him or her to deliver Retail Concept. Key competencies are the ability to engage with customers and be adaptable in a changeable environment. Toyota wanted its centres to attract a wide range of customers – so they needed people who could interact with different people at different levels and give a consistent, high quality experience.

As a result of this work, some members of staff have had to cope with major changes to their roles. For example, all sales staff are now based in the back office – away from the showroom floor. Customers are greeted by a Host, who introduces a member of the sales team only if requested to do so by the customer. It is the Host’s responsibility to establish the customer’s needs and ensure that these are met by the Centre’s staff.

The new competencies and behaviours formed the basis of a training programme, which helped employees to understand and buy into the changes to their roles. By the end of 2005, over 200 Toyota Centres around the UK will have been through a five-step programme of training aimed at delivering real changes to skills and behaviours.  For each Toyota Centre this is structured as follows:

  • A one-day Briefing for Centre managers, which introduces Retail Concept and helps the management team to plan how they will manage the implementation process. This briefing is typically timed to coincide with the point at which the work to redesign the physical layout and appearance of the Centre is nearly complete
  • A one-day Workshop on Recruiting and Developing Staff for the Centres’ managers. This develops managers’ ability to recognise, recruit and develop the skills and behaviours that are required to deliver Retail Concept
  • The next step is a two-day Foundation workshop. This covers the need for change and the thinking behind Retail Concept. It then goes on to develop skills in key areas such as building empathy and teamworking. All Centre staff, from valeters to Centre Principal, attend this two-day workshop. These skills are at the root of Toyota’s focus on building long-term relationships with their customers
  • Soon after this, customer-facing staff attend a one-day Masterclass. This builds on the learning from the Foundation Workshop, and develops skills in key areas such as advanced questioning skills, handling issues using reframing techniques and empathy-based selling skills. This workshop draws upon key ideas from NeuroLingustic Programming (NLP), adapted to a fast moving and pragmatic retail environment
  • Finally, a one-day Follow-Up Workshop is held with the management team to review progress with the action plans resulting from the training. This workshop includes a review of progress against action plans agreed during the training, and a chance to observe staff in action to see the new skills being put into place

The impact of the training at Centre level is carefully assessed; each Centre must demonstrate that they have achieved ‘7 out of 10’ against a set of demanding targets for activity post-training, before they can be considered to have ‘made the grade’.

Change in Toyota business has continued apace and the business has been careful to align new initiatives with Retail Concept. For example, work on new Network Standards during 2003 was carefully linked to Retail Concept, as were new recognition schemes for network staff and new guidance on a pan-European sales process. In this way, Toyota GB PLC is able to provide a single, integrated message to its Centres around the UK about the skills and behaviours that matter.


What made these projects a success?

Many factors have contributed to the success of these two projects – not least the energy and commitment of the project teams in each organisation.

Both projects have benefited from the adoption of ‘classic change’ thinking. For example; both organisations:

  • Developed a clear change vision that is meaningful and exciting
  • Communicated the reasons for the change to build understanding and buy-in
  • Developed change leadership – to guide and drive the project forward
  • Developed change capability across the organisation
  • Set up effective project measures which evaluate the change in terms of real improvements in business performance
  • Planned and managed the change programme tightly to maintain momentum, integrating the various strands of activity and keeping everything on track

Beyond that, however, Toyota and Alpha also recognised and integrated the elements missing from those change management programmes that fail to deliver lasting success. They have achieved their objective of real, sustainable change to ways of working by:

  • Making clear, simple and unavoidable links between the change and the skills and behaviours that are required from staff
  • Building in sustainability by ensuring that the key skills and behaviours become the basis of the way that people are recruited, managed and developed on a day-to-day basis
  • Eliminating unnecessary, confusing or overlapping people processes by keeping it simple and focused on the things that matter
  • Focusing time and effort on building the quality and commitment of managers – so that they can lead by example and drive the key skills and behaviours into their teams



Both these major companies have achieved significant success with their change management programmes. Over a period of eighteen months, GAP was being rolled out across Alpha’s shopping and catering businesses. Overall sales figures are up – and the business is also achieving higher levels of sales from each customer. Alpha has also been delighted with the response from their airport partners, who have viewed the GAP programme as a key differentiator for Alpha in a highly competitive marketplace.

As the roll out progresses, Toyota GB PLC is seeing real improvements to customer satisfaction and business performance across the network. The way that staff respond to initiatives is different and research shows that the customer experience is significantly better than it was before the Retail Concept programme. In recognition of this success, Retail Concept is now being adopted by Toyota Centres across Europe. Retail Concept is recognised as an important, large-scale change management programme and a significant component of Toyota’s international success story, which by 2004 had seen Toyota successfully overtake Ford as the world’s second largest car manufacturer.

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