One of the problems that you should consider is that the changes that you are going to make will run into resistance. If it were easy to make changes anybody could do it.
One of the big things that I found is that some of the biggest resistance will come from some people within your own group. For me, identifying and understanding these people are at a premium. The reason is that if you can convert them to supporters of change then you have made a great step forward. You will have removed resistance. On top of that you will have a new voice that Champions change. The thing is that you can not move those people from detractors to supporters until you have worked to understand their issues.
In one of the jobs that I had like this, I was working on changing our New Product Introduction (NPI) process. This process had gotten so out of control that nobody knew the status of a product. It meant that products took 3 – 4 extra months to get out the door from when they were ready. Along with the VP of Operations we came up with a tag line for our changes. We told people that we wanted to optimize for “Time to Profitable Volume”. Our objective was to make the new NPI process would take 3 months off our existing cycles.
To do this, my group would have to change the way they delivered information to the rest of the organization, particularly Operations. One of the challenges we had is that there was huge confusion around prototypes and how likely they were to get into production. We had a very fast way of making small numbers of prototypes and Engineers used this process to manage small changes. These changes were not communicated as part of the debugging process or this was the last set of changes and the product would soon be ready for production.
So, we worked very hard to make terminology that would differentiate the two states so that people were clear that we were working with the final prototype. We also changed our own prototype purchasing behavior to help Operations have materials ready for the first production run. We took on some part of the risk (in the Engineering Budget) to help make the transition smoother.
I had one employee who really objected to the change in his work. He told me that he was very unhappy with having to do what he perceived as more work to get his job done. So, how did I solve this? I worked with him on understanding the goals of the changes. Once we were clear on that, I then explained what I was trying to do with the changes that we had agreed to. Then I asked for what he would like to see as changes. It turned out that he was not unhappy with the goals or the actual changes. His problem was work ethic. This gentleman worked hard. He saw the other side of this coin in Operations as being lazy and did not want to make his work even more dependent upon what he saw as lazy folks. So, I walked through what they saw as problems with the current processes and showed him how they would be able to help him more easily. I also promised to be vigilant with him on issues with people working the new process.
Well, as with all things NPI our first set of changes needed a few tweaks but we got into a much better rhythm in a matter of months. My employees got products out more quickly. Revenue, Quality, and Costs were all improved. My problem employee was greatly pleased and became a model of change. One of my best process change successes.
By focusing on the goals of the change and bringing people back to the mechanics and away from the people helped keep things on an objective level. This removed emotion and helped keep people focused on why we were doing what we were doing.
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