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Should You Make That Change?
There is an entire body of knowledge about change management.
ADKAR is one popular methodology, Kotter’s 8-step model another. Kubler-Ross has a long history and is generally accepted as explaining the change process, although significant familiarity with it is related to stages-of-grief application. Change often involves feelings of loss, as what once was is being replaced, so that’s not as strange as it may seem initially.
PDCA (plan-do-check-adjust/act) is a very simple concept but difficult in practice. We think of it as an improvement process, but aren’t change processes and improvement processes similar concepts?
Whatever process you choose to use, use it consistently with discipline. That’s the only thing that makes any of them difficult.
Your organization must make important, and minor, changes to survive. Thriving requires effectively making the right changes. Good intentions and desperate need are insufficient for creating a healthy future.
Why are some organizations better at making and sustaining change than others?
Three primary observable distinctions are
(1) engaging impacted people,
(2) applying learning from every change, and
(3) following a defined process consistently.
These are all the responsibility of leadership.
Perform any of these poorly and you’ll struggle to implement positive change, must less sustain it.
Your organization can master those factors if you so choose. Outside expertise to help you develop the skills – and these are skills – is often time and money well invested.
If your current efforts are not working, ask yourself why not.
Now let’s consider: What makes a potential change the right one to consider now?
First and foremost, one of your constituents must care. If no one will benefit, why make the change?
The expected impact of the change must be viewed by the organization as a net positive.
Those who feel any negative brunt must understand and actively support the “better whole” concept. Something as simple as using new screens or providing different information can be perceived as “negative brunt” by those now expected to do that. Ergo, the importance of engaging people.
The emotional and personal aspects are integral to identifying, making, and sustaining any change. What is intuitively obvious to you is not to others, and what is to them may not be to you. Arguing and ordering won’t cross that chasm; experimenting with a focus on developing mutual understanding can. Ergo, applying learning from every change.
Remember: Not everyone was thrilled with direct deposit of payroll. When we first rolled that out decades ago I learned just how many people keep their earnings secret from a spouse.
We know that many changes on the shop floor are initially seen as irrelevant by the very people who will benefit. Many an employee says “I’m fine doing it this way,” even though “this way” involves looking for tools or a supervisor, or walking around a dead machine multiple times per day.
Executing the first S of 5-S often puts the spotlight on the power of comfort. “I use that at least once per year and I don’t want to have to go somewhere else to get it” is expected resistance.
So “sales” is part of the process of deciding what to change. Helping people see and think differently is integral. Not by edict, but by experimenting together. Never change the work processes of others without mutual agreement, excepting safety related. Those are mandatory.
You and your team should be gaining comfort with the need for and expectation of change; they should understand how any considered change fits into the business strategy and how elements of that strategy are prioritized.
As they begin to initiate improvements, here are four questions for them to consider in deciding “should we make that change?”:
- What is the upside, and the downside, potential?
- What is the “cost to undo?”
- Who has a stake in this decision? Are they represented?
- Is this the right place to focus now?
Helping your teams make their own decisions on what to change, to understand and execute the change management process your organization uses and why every step is important in evaluating and sustaining any change, and to see how their decisions and actions improve the overall business is your role.
That, and get out of their way.
Your workforce is an amazing group of people whose potential you’ve only begun to tap. The future of your business is counting on them.