Whether it’s the ongoing advancement in technology, the ever-evolving world of data, a company reorganization, or other unexpected curveballs (such as a global pandemic), manufacturers are constantly faced with change and the challenge to adapt. But just as change is a part of any manufacturing business, so is resistance to change – especially change that people don’t understand, agree with, or see any benefit from. However, it is possible to lead a change initiative at your facility while still keeping your team focused and productive. The key to accomplishing this lies within your ability to communicate with and show empathy to those who your change will impact the most. Not sure how or where to start? Follow our five tips below for achieving your change management goals in a more collaborative and effective way at your organization:
1. Understand what you are trying to accomplish and why. The first, most important question in a change initiative is: Why are we changing? It’s important to have a clear and compelling reason for why your team, coworkers, or boss should abandon what they know for something new. You should be able to explain what the reason is behind this change and how it will improve your organization in some tangible way. Don’t get too hung up on your plan for implementation until you are clear on what the overall goal is and why other people on your team should be just as enthusiastic about it as you are.
2. Start with a conversation, not a policy. So you’ve pitched your change proposal and instead of cheers and whistles, you are met with rejection. While your kneejerk reaction may be to become defensive, the best thing you can do at this point is to empathize with your audience and try to understand why they feel this way. There are several reasons as to why someone might reject change:
- They may have had a bad experience in the past with a similar situation
- You may not be explaining it in a way that they can understand
- It may not even be a good idea to begin with
The trick is to expect this kind of reaction and hold these discussions early on to better understand what kind of impact this change will have on your team. Don’t set anything in stone right away – this will be a process where communicating and experimenting to find what works best will be the optimal approach.
3. Be open minded to other ideas and suggestions from your team. During the early stage of a change initiative, it’s important to confirm that the issue you are trying to solve is valid and that your team recognizes the issue as well. Once they agree that an issue does exist, then you can include them in on the potential solution. After all, what better way is there to solve your issue than to talk to the people who are actually dealing with the problem on a daily basis to see if they have any ideas worth implementing?
4. Experiment towards your goal. The path to implementing your change successfully is anything but linear, so it’s best to approach this process with an “experiment your way forward, instead of deciding your way forward” mentality. This method is called the Improvement Kata, which is a four-step pattern of establishing target conditions and then taking measured steps and learning from each experiment to inform the next one:
STEP 1: Understand the DIRECTION or CHALLENGE.
STEP 2: Grasp the CURRENT CONDITION.
STEP 3: Establish the next TARGET CONDITION.
STEP 4: EXPERIMENT toward the Target Condition.
This steady march towards your goal may not be in a straight line, but it will provide you with an opportunity to learn from each obstacle you encounter along the way, allowing you to make the necessary adjustments that will hopefully get you that much closer to achieving your goal.
5. Follow up. Once you’ve executed your change, don’t declare victory just yet. Go to where the change was implemented and follow up with those who were involved to learn whether the change was effective in addressing the original goal. Be ready to take whatever feedback you get in stride. To be a good leader throughout this process, you must be able to show both confidence and humility and recognize that you don’t always have the answers to everything. So if the change did not work, try to understand why, and start working on the next experiment. However, if the change was successful, celebrate and start standardizing the result by using what you learned to plan new improvements.
By keeping these tips in mind and remembering to maintain open communication at every stage of the process, you can help ensure that your change management efforts are a shared learning experience rather than something to be inflicted upon others.
If you would like to discuss your change management goals more in-depth, visit https://gamep.org/regional-locations/ to contact your local Region Manager.
By: Megan Johnson, Marketing Specialist, Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership