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Conquering Change

Leadership and communication are key to successful transitions
Change Tree_MS

Companies operating in the fresh produce industry must continuously adapt to an ever-evolving landscape. Explore how to better position your organization and employees so change leads to long-term success instead of disruption or failure.

Some changes are external, ranging from weather conditions, pests and disease, and regulation to shifts in the competitive land-scape, trade issues, and even the mass retirement of Baby Boomers—all of these forces are beyond a company’s control. Other changes are internally driven, although they are often connected to external forces. These include the intro-duction of new processes or technologies, corporate mergers or acquisitions, added product lines, and relocation, among other developments.

“Companies either thrive on change, they tolerate change, or they resist it,” asserts Steve Kenfield, vice president of sales and marketing at HMC Group Marketing. “Change is nothing new, but the pace is accelerating. The gap between the leaders—who can see, anticipate, and respond to change—and the laggards is widening.”

Leadership and the Path Forward
Not surprisingly, leadership plays a key role in change management. “It starts with leadership that is passionate about what the company is all about,” explains Kenfield. “Change is not welcome, easy, or natural. A great leader has the ability to see the path forward and engage the team to succeed.”

He warns that day-to-day respon-sibilities can sometimes create obstacles on the road toward change. “Our industry is not different from any other, but it can be harder to get your head up due to the intensity of the daily activity.”

“Make sure top-level management is not only aligned on the need for change, but also the approach to achieve the change,” advises Jin Ju Wilder, director of marketing at LA & SF Specialty. Over the years, she has led a number of organizational ini-tiatives including new business models, refreshing brands, new products and services, changing customer trends, and technology implementation.

Jeff Chan is founder and president of Chan Management Consulting, adjunct faculty in change management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and vice president of the board of directors at the Association of Change Management Professionals’ Midwest chapter. He says a lack of commitment by leadership is the chief barrier to change.

Chan notes that company executives often say they will make a particular change, write the check to hire a consultant or buy a new software package, and then move on. When this happens, there is no one to counteract employee resistance, foster communication among siloed departments, or address in-fighting, all of which preclude change.