Managing culture changes up and down the organization can be challenging and tedious in a profit conscious environment. As we attempt to change the entire organization and methodologies in production, we encounter many different perspectives and paradigms on the path. Making a change to a leaner more productive environment will incur some costs, interrupt production in small segments, require training of employees throughout the organization, and demand patience from all aspects of the population. As we grow the mindset of the hourly and middle management associates, we must remember the true mission of business is profitability. Upper management and executives must remain patient as any quick changes are usually not sustainable and any long term changes to the business model will take time. The management of change will require a balancing of production’s current needs and the implementation future changes that will enhance growth and efficiency.
A sound plan for implementing lean and improved productivity needs to have a detailed approach. You will need to rely on your most experienced personnel and use them as a sounding board for the changes your want to make to the current model. However, those same employees may resist change as they believe they are operating as effectively as possible. You must share the vision and strategic plan with all levels of the organization and you must brainstorm the shortcomings and roadblocks the company will encounter. Employees at all levels must agree with the need for change and embrace the vision to be the “Best of the Best”. Middle management must allow employees to make decisions and empower them to design their own work areas. While all aspects of the plan may not be totally popular with the workforce, you must gain consensus. As an agent of change, you will need to prevent protectionism from the different internal business sectors. Individuals may resist anything that increases responsibility or work load. You can prevent this by guaranteeing employees that you will be keenly aware of the pain factors in the new organization and any undue workloads will be addressed and compensated with efficiency, teamwork, flexible work schedules and manpower changes.
A major challenge for any transitional change is the ability to manage the “knee jerk” reactions of executives. When profits appear to be affected in a negative manner, many will try to delay, augment, and change the path you have strategically created. You must realize their position and their responsibility to continually turn higher profits. When business markets may slow, cost cutting moves may be necessary. You need to assure that labor and costs associated with the implementation of improvements are not significantly hampered. You must assure them of necessity for improvement and continually communicate your plan, the risks, and the timeline for recovery. No executive will force you to make improper decisions that will stymie long term improvements if they understand what is causing impacts and the duration of them. A change agent cannot be inflexible to executive’s demands and they may have to comprise the length and/or effects of plan. However, a well constructive plan will have those contingencies built into them and therefore the move to a more effective and productive environment will continue. Executives must beware of the miracle promising consultants and those that do not have a plan that fully explains the time elements, support and cost associated with their program. There are many books on the subject and how to implement but most are naïve, unproven, and without the strategy of managing the implementation. There are too many textbooks on the subject and few success stories from following them.
In conclusion, the greatest asset that you can contribute as a change agent is the understanding of the paradigms, the communication of vision and strategic plan, creation of a contingency plan for setbacks and creating open communication to all elements of the business environment. Be patient and do not expect everyone to accommodate your needs. As a leader of change, you must be the most flexible and adjust your plan to accommodate everyone else in the organization. However, do not let your plan be so manipulated that it is not effective. Compromise, embrace your organization, understand their perspectives and meet the needs of the entire company. If a culture change was an simple endeavor, it would have evolved naturally over time.