Plastic bags and change management

At its core, the removal of single-use plastic bags from supermarkets was a change management project.

Coles was looking to change a process and modify customer behaviour.

Removing single-use plastic bags has already been done successfully in other Australian states.

Here, the change implementation was a PR nightmare.

Staff were threatened by angry customers. There are change management lessons for all.

The saga could all have been avoided with better preparation and implementation including close monitoring and corrective actions.

It’s not unusual to meet resistance in change projects. It’s something skilled change practitioners plan for.

Change management planning should include analysis of those impacted by the change, including those outside the organisation.

This could be customers, suppliers, unions, media or politicians.

Organisational change almost always impacts multiple groups.

What appears to have been done poorly in this instance is the scoping of anticipated customer resistance and an accompanying mitigation strategy that would have supported staff to roll out the project successfully the first time.

Communication planning is a vital part of change management with key messages, questions anticipated and staff trained to answer those questions.

Knee jerk changes to squeaky wheels rarely bring the required change or business success.

This is a cautionary tale for all organisations.

This change project has damaged Coles’ brand.

Don’t let this be you! Plan and prepare properly for change, communicate well, and think twice before hastily changing your plan.

First Published in Fairfax Media

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