Driving Successful Organizational Change in a Plant Environment
By Linda Bryan
Chief Executive Officer
Maybe you already know the stats. Roughly 70% of all organizational change initiatives fail, not only according to the Harvard Business Review, but to virtually everyone experienced in change management. In fact, some experts claim the failure rate is even higher.
Organizational change initiatives fail more often than they succeed for two primary reasons:
- Change in processes and attitudes cannot be done for employees. Lasting change is something employees must engage in and drive for themselves.
- Most companies—even some that are successful in adopting new work processes—don’t have a realistic, measurable and mutually agreed upon change-management plan.
The Typical Approach to Change Management
No matter what industry you’re in, introducing new ways to do things in a plant environment can be extremely difficult. When employees who have only worked with paper or verbal reporting methods their entire lives are suddenly forced to start using bar codes, scanners, computers or any other technological tool, the outcome is often chaotic.
Here’s what usually happens:
- Senior management announces there will be a new way of doing things
- The new way is shown to the shop-floor workers
- Shop-floor workers try the new way in some form of pilot stage
- Go live takes place when everyone says they’re ready
- Unforeseen problems come up, and people either revert to their old patterns, are frustrated, or make serious mistakes that lead to even more serious consequences
But no manufacturing company can afford to accept mistakes that result in inconsistent or inaccurate data. The learning curve must happen before, not after the go-live date; otherwise, the ability to demonstrate reliable quality and cradle-to-grave traceability is compromised at best, or even worse, lost entirely.
The answer is to implement a strategic change-management plan that includes the following components customized for your own specific needs:
- Value statements for each proposed change
- Clear performance expectations
- Strong employee training and support
- A two-way communication plan for sharing feedback and coaching
In the end, the goal is to establish and launch a change-management plan that incents each employee to act as a change agent, instead of an obstacle that hinders the desired outcomes. In our next four blogs, I’ll discuss a strategic change-management approach for manufacturers who want to replace their traditional ERP systems with new software and technology tools.
Each blog will focus on one of four core stages:
- Design & Development
- Deployment & Sustainability
Change management is a critical issue for every manufacturer, and no two companies have the very same needs. Let us know if you have any comments, questions or particular concerns related to your own change-management priorities.