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Lasting changes ... or, will you still love me tomorrow?

Lasting Changes... Or, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

a six step process for making changes stick once the party is over; keeping your priorities on continuous improvement when it is no longer the |problem of the month' is the most difficult challenge We now realize that continuous improvement is a must to stay competitive. It's no longer just "nice to have," but rather is necessary to preserve value and benefits. However, with continuous improvement comes change...and how do you make the changes last once all the hoopla has died down and management's attention has been shifted to other priorities.

All of us have seen good programs come and go. Intuitively we know many of them could have been good for us, but they needed constant management attention. And who has the time to watch over the "program of the month?"

Six Steps To Success

In managing changes, there are six critical steps to follow to ensure the changes are long lasting.

To start, involve a cross section of employees in defining what needs to be changed; that is, defining the problems. Getting more people involved in the change process on the front end broadens the base of support. It also taps into a gold mine of experience resulting in a better end product.

Next, use the task force approach and form these people into a Core Team. They become the operations center of the change process. Maximize their value by defining roles and responsibilities. Each person should know his/her part in the process. This will reduce or eliminate duplication of effort and increase each member's focus.

The benefits from this approach became visibly apparent to me in a recent Process Control System implementation. We had one person concentrate on designing the system, creating the forms and identifying the various control limits. Another team member developed the timing while two more members used their knowledge of the process to ensure the control system was easy to implement on the floor. In addition to the above, the Core Team members were constantly in touch with the technicians on the floor gathering their ideas and giving their support.

The third step is to build consensus for the changes. Do this firmly! After sharing the vision, detailing your expectations and conducting the appropriate training, most members of the organization should start moving towards the future state. However, not everyone will get on board with the same level of commitment. Some will need coaching, some will need coaxing, some--no matter what you do--just won't make it. Here you have to decide how many "anchors" you want to drag as you "sail into the future."

The fourth step is to secure a broad base of organizational support. Build this support through one-to-one contact, small group meetings and memos. Build a little enthusiasm and get people excited. Eye to eye contact and the personal touch are powerful tools. They help to make your ideas real and give people the opportunity to ask questions and be a part of the process.

During the training for the process control system, one of the Core Team members spontaneously jumped up and challenged one of the technicians who was complaining that no program ever worked to get involved. The rest of the technicians in the class encouraged him to meet the challenge, so he stepped forward to express his idea on how things ought to be done. It was a great idea and everyone in the room knew it. His idea was put into practice the very next week. This spontaneous act not only helped to prove the system worked, but also helped to build organizational support.

Once the changes have been introduced, ensure that policies, procedures and systems are in place to support the changes when the initial enthusiasm ebbs and attention is drawn to other priorities. This step will help "institutionalize" the improvements and put them on "automatic."

However, before modifying the formal systems, let the changes settle in long enough for the organization to adjust. People will find the path of least resistance. If their methods are supported by appropriate changes in policies and/or structure, then the chances of long term success go up dramatically.

For example, with the process control system, the plant manager required documentation from the lines in the form of control and run charts before considering any requests for capital improvements. The change in policy forced production personnel to use the product of the process control system to further improve the process they were using. Their daily efforts in filling out the charts consequently effected tangible results for the operation.

The Final Step

The final step is to monitor the changes and to make further improvements as needed. This should be a constant process with everyone looking for ways to make the organization more competitive, more productive and more efficient. Creating a learning environment where constant improvement becomes the norm is


Any number of monitoring devices can be used--weekly letters, daily reviews, personal observations or exception reports. When problems are found, address them quickly and move on. Make it OK to surface problems and reward those who find ways to deal with them. In other words, create an open and trusting environment. This will get more people involved and encourage them to come forward with their creative ideas.

Obviously, following these six steps won't automatically guarantee success. However, it is a proven formula that is working for a variety of industries. Getting employees involved on the front end, defining their roles and responsibilities, building consensus, securing a broad base of organizational support, introducing supportive policies, procedures and systems and monitoring the results is an effective formula for success. Give it a try the next time you want to make a lasting change.

Tom Schuler, Richard Ducote, Jay Frankenfield and Adrian Bridge, of the consulting firm Schuler, Ducote Frankenfield, write a series of monthly articles on "Profitable Manu-facturing--Using Manufacturing Leverage To Gain A Competitive Advantage in the Nonwovens Industry." These "how to" articles feature practical operations and engineering applications from their years of combined experience with P&G and private label manufacturers. SDF's offices are located at 6855 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Suite 2400, Norcross, GA 30071; (404)447-9750; Fax (404)448-7722. Reprints of earlier Nonwovens Industry columns referred to in any article are available from SDF.
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Title Annotation:Profitable Manufacturing; managing change through employee involvement
Author:Ducote, Richard
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Nonwovens industry favors successful negotiation of U.S./Mexico free trade agreement.
Next Article:Fibers for nonwovens recovering slightly.

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