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Two Key Elements to Effective Change Management

Landon Mumbower | 23 January 2020

Change is not easy and not everyone adapts well. Change in the workplace can be especially difficult if management fails to effectively plan and implement it. Fortunately, with proper phasing and communication, the end goal can be reached with minimal headaches.

There are two key takeaways to remember when managing change in the workplace: planning and implementation. Let’s dig a little deeper and discover more details to this process.

Planning

Planning includes three key steps: 1) identify leadership; 2) phases of the change; and 3) timelines.

Identify Leadership

Make sure the project leader and team are easy to identify and easy to contact. There should be members of every team, shift, or department serving as points of contact regarding the change. Providing feedback, ideas or concerns to the leader will make sure there is open communication.

Phases of Change

Large changes with wide impacts are often easier when broken into smaller parts and implemented in phases. Try organizing these phases so that one area doesn’t get multiple changes at one time. Smaller elements of a large project should be phased, ordered, and planned in a logical way that decreases confusion and enhances understanding among team members. Appropriate planning in early stages decreases pain during implementation.

Timelines

Timelines are the hardest target to hit. Missed deadlines are often blamed on others, so they should include appropriate expectations with adequate time built in for each goal. Consider timelines with candor and detail. It’s also helpful to include time for training, questions and tweaking as you go. Anticipate delays for weather, deliveries, testing of new products, and trial runs. Finally, make sure to allow time for acceptance and adaptation to the new process, change, or machinery. The time it takes to adapt will vary between people and environments and requires intentional consideration.

For example, when planning construction of a new building in northern climates; the additional time should be included to deal with the snow, ice, rain, etc. that can stop construction. Another example is when implementing a new pick area; the change from manual paper sheets to a voice picking operation with new locations and an information feed will require additional time for operators to get used to. This could take days for some and weeks for others, and adding additional time in the timeline for the training phase can help it can be successful and on time.

Implementation

To successfully implement a change there must be communication. After communicating the change, the change must be communicated again. And again; and again.  During these communication attempts, feedback is essential to increase buy-in from the team and ensure a shared vision.

Communication is vital. Who, what, when, where, how, and how long should all be answered clearly and communicated widely. Communication does not stop with just the team involved with the project, everyone who could possibly be affected by the change should know what’s going on. The leadership teams, operators in the area, maintenance, operators outside of the area, the list goes on. Leadership should strive for every member of the organization to be aware and knowledgeable about the change.

Use visual aids to share your message. Most people can get information faster through visuals rather than long, drawn out meetings or bulleted lists. Use drawings, pictures, 3D renderings, visual timelines for affected areas, etc. The more information is distributed and understood quickly the better the chance that people will know what and more importantly why changes are coming.

Getting two-way feedback from leadership, operators, maintenance, supervisors - everyone - is key to getting buy-in, better ideas, and faster adaptation. When people’s opinions are heard they are more prone to getting on board. Make sure to collect, acknowledge, and respond to all feedback at every stage of the process. This can be done by placing boards in different work areas for people to write down their feedback, or setting up small, short meetings with teams to get feedback in a brainstorming or Q&A session. People will more readily accept why something is being done and not necessarily what is being done. Make sure to have a response or reason as to why the change is coming and not just what is happening.

 Explaining the vision and the future of what operations will be like after the transformation helps explain the why. Maybe the change is being made to increase throughput, or to make jobs easier while keeping pay the same –  whatever the reason, make sure the team knows what benefits are coming. For example, we are making this transformation to increase throughput. We are going to be transforming over the next few weeks to make your jobs easier and keep pay the same! The team will transform from doing the same thing we’ve always done to new, improved methods with the assistance of technology. However the transformation is occurring make sure the team knows the benefit that is coming.

This may sound familiar: as a last step, communicate everything again. Not only does communication need to come early in the process to make everyone aware of the transformations coming, it also needs to happen often during the transformation as well. If it has been said one time, it needs to be said a second. There is no such thing as over communicating when and why transformations are happening. Find ways to remind your team members that the transformations coming are going to make work better and will benefit everyone.

In conclusion, proper planning and implementation (also known as communication) are the two keys to transformation management. By setting up leadership, phasing, and timelines with clear and realistic expectations while communicating and receiving feedback, a successful transformation can occur.

Author: Landon Mumbower

Landon is a consulting engineer based in Indianapolis. Indiana. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Mississippi State University. Having spent almost ten years in different manufacturing environments, he has great insight on how to effectively address customer needs. His duties include data analysis, process improvement, design engineering and application engineering.

Comments

Griffin says:
1/27/2020 07:04 PM

Great article. Lots of practical insight! Thanks

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