While transformation management is about creating momentum to see results and growth, change itself is about empathy.
For manufacturing leaders looking to support their teams during transition, here are five steps to get started today.
#1 Share a clear vision for change.
To overcome resistance and create buy-in, the organization must share a clear vision for change, including specific operational facets that need revision and a justification for the change. The vision for change should be aspirational – an achievement worth having that encourages pride and participation.
#2 Define new roles and processes.
Because fear of the personal impact of change is the major contributor to resistance, the sooner an organization develops and discusses a roadmap for transformation and helps people become comfortable with it, the better. The roadmap should include new team roles and processes. Essentially, the roadmap should say, “This is the new way of working, and here’s how you’re going to be a part of it.”
This can be especially challenging in a manufacturing environment where higher output, better efficiency, and dynamic agility often support company growth but not employee well-being
#3 Prepare people to assume their new roles.
Many operationally intensive jobs in the manufacturing industry could eventually be automated using technologies, making it critical that leaders prepare and present a plan to help employees assume new roles.
It’s not enough to define revised roles and processes; people need training and coaching to assume new responsibilities and methods of operation. Building people to build performance involves teaching, showing, teaching again, convincing, debating, coaching, addressing gaps, rewarding and sometimes disciplining, but always expressing that team members are vital to an organization’s destiny.
#4 Establish and share metrics that measure progress.
The metrics to gauge the success of a transformation depend on the type of initiative and an organization’s goals and timeline. No matter the metrics of choice, choosing and communicating them early and often is critical. Metrics drive behavior and offer a sense of purpose. They define accountability, help employees focus and inspire them to want to win the shift, the day, the month or the year. Employees now know how success looks and what is expected of them and their teams.
For example, a manufacturer might decide to implement significant process changes designed to increase production. Establishing and sharing production targets creates a performance atmosphere. Team members can understand the goals. Shifts get competitive and those leading the initiative will know whether processes are changing, and people are adopting new approaches.
Ideally, measurements begin with small wins and build up to more significant achievements. That approach offers opportunities to celebrate milestones throughout a long transformation initiative and helps to keep the organization engaged and upbeat.
#5 Draw naysayers into the process.
When it comes to change management, renowned sociologist Everett Rogers developed the Diffusion of Innovation theory more than 50 years ago. For these purposes, let’s use the theory to say that in any given organization, about 20% of employees will be ready for change and 20% will resist at all costs. Roughly 60% in the middle can be persuaded either way.
These voices of resistance may have status in the company. However, they are often peer influencers whose points of view are regarded as highly as those from anyone in the power structure. If they believe a transformation initiative isn’t going to work, they can sabotage it.
Ignoring those voices is tempting, and some organizations do. But it’s more effective to pull them into the transformation. By making them part of the solution, you disable their resistance. It also can be helpful to include skeptics since they might see pitfalls and provide the chance to course correct.
Successfully transforming an organization is often seen as an exercise in project management. But in the end, it’s only partially about systems, spreadsheets and timelines. What matters most in the organization’s journey are people and how leaders manage their transition to a new way of working. Understanding those dynamics and bringing team members along on that journey is the only path to true organizational transformation.