The 3 stages of successful change management: a case study on route optimization
Every day, logistics companies face new challenges to remain competitive. An ever-changing business environment, new technologies, new customer expectations… change is everywhere in this industry! Companies must keep up with these transformations, which have a direct impact on internal organization and working methods.
While change is everywhere in our daily lives, it can also be unsettling when it affects us personally. Corporate changes can lead to doubts and hesitations from some employees, which can result in the complete failure of a project if support is not secured. The concept of change management takes on its full meaning when helping teams adapt to these essential transformations.
How are logistics and transport professionals facing change? How does it impact their organization and their teams? What are the key stages for successful internal change management? Here are some answers with real-life examples on the implementation of a route optimization software.
How our ever-changing world directly impact companies' internal organization
As we saw in our previous article, logistics companies are being challenged by many disruptions in their ability to adapt to tomorrow’s world. Their DNA and processes are inevitably changing as society evolves and new standards are introduced. This adaptation allows them to thrive in a fast-changing world.
Change affects many internal aspects of a company:
- New products,
- New technologies,
- New management (new manager, department restructuring),
- New organizational processes or new work methods,
- New legal environments,
- New workplace, etc.
With route optimization, the introduction of new software can change the organizational processes of teams. Previously accustomed to building their route plans manually or with the help of spreadsheets, logisticians must now use the tool in their daily work. As route optimization is a highly complex mathematical problem, the software allows for the most efficient possible route calculation and much faster than a human. A route optimization solution such as Kardinal changes how planners work in the sense that they no longer create their routes from scratch but leave the complex calculations to the software and instead focus on more valuable work. They check the relevance of the calculated routes and adjust them manually according to their knowledge of the field: one driver knows one area better than the others, another gets along better with a particular customer, etc. New technologies require time to adapt and training for the tool, and also involve upgrading the teams’ skills.
Implement a change management system to help teams adapt to these changes
In such a situation, it is essential to support your teams and not leave them on their own. This adapted support can be provided by implementing a true change management process. This consists in setting up initiatives to help employees understand and accept the change and then include them in their working practices.
According to a study by the Journal du Management, 73% of managers believe that change management is an essential project in the life of a company and 87% believe that it leads to a positive outcome for the company.
Change management was first defined in the late 1940s by Kurt Lewin, an American researcher in social psychology. After studying group dynamics and resistance to change, he defined a model based on three stages, symbolized by the metaphor of a block of ice: to change the shape of a block of ice, it must first be melted (unfreeze), then given the desired shape (change) and finally refrozen to strengthen it (refreeze)
1. The "Unfreeze" stage ("Thawing" or "Decrystallization")
This first step consists in preparing for change and proving to employees that it is essential. The challenge is to explain why the current situation is hindering the proper development of the company and that it is vital to change the organization.
For the implementation of a route optimization software, it may be necessary to emphasize that such a tool has become necessary to support a recent growth in activity, or that it would provide the company’s customers with better service quality (compliance with delivery deadlines, for example).
Communication is especially important ahead of the project so that teams can be informed of the impending change and how it will benefit everyone.
For example, a route optimization solution will relieve planners of a complex and time-consuming task and allow them to focus on more valuable tasks. As for delivery drivers, their working conditions will be improved thanks to more relevant routes (because they take into account road traffic for example) and will be automatically adapted in real time based on field hazards.
Involving employees upstream makes it easier to accept changes.
2. The "Change" stage
This second stage is when changes are actually implemented. Therefore, it is also the moment when employees face the new reality and may experience uncertainty or fear. Indeed, change implies that they start to learn and implement new practices in their daily work. The more teams are prepared for this step, the easier it will be to go through the process. This is why training, communication and time are essential to ensure that employees are involved in these changes.
In the context of route optimization software, the manual and traditional practices of planners are evolving towards new, more digitalized practices. These practices are transforming their job into a more analytical one. This transition requires gradual support from the software publisher’s technical teams, including training on the new tool and regular updates on its proper use. The support of the operational teams by the managers is also key to facilitate the transition to the new system.
3. The "Refreeze" ("Recrystallization") stage
This last stage begins once the change has been adopted and pursues the objective of stabilizing and strengthening the company’s new organization. This is an important stage where the company must ensure that the changes have been integrated into the daily activities of the employees so that the project does not fail and the situation does not return to what it was before. Individual rewards and effort acknowledgement are good ways to reinforce the teams’ acceptance of the changes and to thank them for their efforts. Above all, it is important to give employees a sense of stability so that they feel confident and comfortable with the new work methods.
When implementing a route optimization solution, regular follow-ups and feedback are essential. They ensure that the tool meets the business needs and that the teams are happy with it. If difficulties arise, the software publisher’s technical teams can then look for areas of improvement and solve the problems. On the business side, it is essential that this check on the proper adoption of changes is performed to make sure that teams fully master it.
Since change is a natural part of a company’s business, it is essential that the company prepares for it. The first step is to inform and motivate employees, without whom the failure of a transformation project would be inevitable. Communication, training and listening are the three most important concepts to guide teams through change and get them on board. A well-executed change management process reinforces employees’ sense of stability and trust, which are essential for leading new projects in the future.
How do you successfully manage change? What practical methods should be applied? Discover our experts’ advice in this article.