The Client

Barilla America is a U.S.-based division of The Barilla Group, Italy’s largest food producer. Operating in the United States since 1996, Barilla has quickly become the number one brand of pasta in the United States and currently produces the fastest-growing pasta and sauce brands in their categories.

The Challenge

Barilla America’s success and rapid growth created a need to improve its infrastructure in a number of areas to support this growth and ensure supply could match demand. Barilla’s international leadership group made the decision to migrate from their current technology platform to SAP to run a number of core business processes. The goal was to bring business processes, technology, and people together to meet the demands of the future. It would be a major initiative that would impact 70% of the workforce.

Laura Birk, Director of Corporate Learning and Talent Development at Barilla America, was tapped for a major role within the initiative. Knowing that even under the best of circumstances, an SAP implementation can be painful and difficult on an organization, Birk needed to manage change—instead of change resistance. Pulling people from all across the organization—including probable resisters as well as technology advocates—Birk convened a group that met every other week throughout the change initiative.

How Blanchard Responded

Barilla utilized Accenture to help with the technical side of the SAP implementation and looked to The Ken Blanchard Companies working in coordination with Root Learning to design the change management and communication side of the project.
Utilizing Root Learning’s visual metaphors, Blanchard’s Leading People Through Change process helped the change leaders design a communication and implementation plan that focused on sharing the business case, providing an opportunity to hear and address people’s concerns, and making sure that the initiative proceeded without any disruption to production.
The design included a communication plan, change team strategy, change readiness survey and actions, and an employee recognition program. Ongoing use of Blanchard’s Change Readiness Survey (administered 6 times during a 1½-year period) measured progress, assessed risks, and helped the team plan next steps. After-action reviews by the change leadership team and frequent interaction with the executive leadership group kept the change moving forward.
As Birk describes the process, “You set high expectations for the different vendors that you bring in and then make sure that they work together effectively for the benefit of the organization. The customer doesn’t care if you’re from Blanchard, or from Root, or from wherever. All they know is that they’re being asked to take time away from what they normally do. I asked the different providers to get together. Not all suppliers can do that.”


Implementation was extremely successful, occurring ahead of schedule with no major disruptions in production. Implementation also resulted in Barilla winning an ASTD “BEST Award” as a best-in-class implementation.