Change Management

Fasten Your Seatbelts

People aren’t wired to embrace change. This isn’t news to anyone and there have been countless papers/articles/books written on the subject. Unfortunately all the effort put into revealing and articulating this fact doesn’t make accepting change any easier. Unless a group is put into an “adapt or die” situation or their current situation is so painful that anything new would be an improvement, change management in an organization is a slow, deliberate process.

Change Management

For instance, we at LeanCor operate in an organization that embraces lean theory, tools and culture throughout the different segments of the business and, at times, we have struggled with this same issue. An example that I can recall occurred a few years ago in our home office in Florence, KY. Our business was growing and our office space had just increased to include more PDCA rooms. PDCA rooms are small to medium conference rooms with phones/projectors/whiteboards that team members use to host customer calls, project work and internal meetings. This expansion led to the need for a more formal process to book these rooms so that team members were not combing the office for availability.

As a result our support team launched a company-wide tool through our calendar system for team members to check room availability online and book rooms through the system. This would allow for room scheduling and prevent our team members from tripping over each other while committing one of the 8 Wastes, motion, in combing the halls for availability. Our support team did a nice job of leading the change management cycle in various capacities but we still had a reasonable adjustment period. To say that no one ever double booked a room after this implementation would be inaccurate. There were periods of confusion and repeated situations where team members would take a PDCA room joyride without following the process. But, over time, through process reiteration and a philosophy shift, the implementation took hold and now our conference room process is successful.

This is just one example of the uphill swim that is change management, but just like any other element of business it lends itself well to continuous improvement and the sharing of best practices. Through several change management initiatives that I have sat in on for our customer team, operations department and organization as a whole, these are a few tips and tricks that I have seen.

  • Clear, Concise Milestones: Building a road map is a great exercise for a team that is managing an organizational transition. This allows the team to align at the beginning of the journey, before rolling out the plan, and they are able to establish milestones at that time. This is critical because it establishes a timeline and sequence of events for the employees to view and identify significant points along the transition. Providing dates for each milestone will offer everyone the opportunity to see the big picture and allow for periodical congratulations/reflection points through the course of the change. PDCA should be centered on this timeline.
  • Top-down Embrace: As with most other lean initiatives, change management is most successful when it is embraced from the top level down. Resistance, even in a small dose, from organizational leaders will send a message to the team that the new program/process is not critical or lasting. The actual changeover itself will be difficult enough on its own merit; it cannot stand up to derision and lack of sponsorship.
  • Communicating Pros and Cons: One of the things that we stress when previewing an implementation of our LETM services (Logistics, Engineering and Transportation Management) are the points in the process in which the potential customer stakeholders will see upticks/downturns of cost. The reason that this is important is that it makes it clear that at points the process will be painful, often before all of the value begins to come to fruition. Establishing these expectations as the organization undergoes a change will give the team members visibility to the stages of the change process and help remove surprises and uncertainty that will surely come up. In the same way, providing visibility to the drawbacks/benefits of an organizational change clears up many questions from the beginning. Additionally, team members may have ideas for the change process that may help ease the impact of the negative components.
  • Prepare for Resistance: Any type of change, large or small, will be met with resistance. In order to face this with poise and precision the leadership group needs to be prepared. This preparation requires the above three point and a mission-driven sense of the urgency of the change. In the book People: A leader’s day-to-day guide to building, managing and sustaining lean organizations by Steve Gran, Robert Martichenko, Walt Miller and Roger Pearce, the authors also recommend you “try to see the change from another’s point of view” and adjust your perspective by “anticipating probable reactions to change” as ways of preparing for this resistance. These methods enlighten the launch team by allowing them see the change from those that it is imposed upon.

Although most business organizations are not composed of children (though it may seem like it at times), I think they are often a great vehicle for simple illustrations. Imagine a child comes home one day to see their father, previously with a clean shaven face, with full-on facial hair. Not only will the child express concern and confusion, but they will question whether or not it is even their father. Forgive me for that oddly-placed mustache tangent, but it helps illustrate the fact that a seemingly minor change in an organization can have the employees question both the identity and direction of the business. After being adequately prepped with protocol, timeline, pros and cons and expectations team members are filled with less uncertainty. Furthermore, the leadership team’s commitment and preparedness needs to send strong positive signals.

Change management is never easy, but it is always critical. It will both minimize the push-buck and boost morale. This way, the organizational team can spend more time producing effectively in their given field and less time feeling the pain of a major change…and searching for open PDCA rooms.

Posted by LeanCor Supply Chain Group

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LeanCor Supply Chain Group is a trusted supply chain partner that specializes in lean principles to deliver operational improvement. LeanCor’s three integrated divisions – LeanCor Training and Education, LeanCor Consulting, and LeanCor Logistics – help organizations eliminate waste, drive down costs, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

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