Change is Hard

March 19th, 2010 3:00 pm Category: Supply Chain Improvement, by: Mark Rockey

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Our work here at Profit Point is all about helping our clients make changes that will get them to a better place be it lower costs, higher throughput, shorter lead times, lower inventory, etc. But change is hard so how do you navigate what could be very troubled waters to ultimate get to these benefits? Sometimes insights come from unlikely places. Read on.

A few weeks ago we adopted a greyhound puppy. We named him Blue. Usually greyhound puppies are not available for adoption as pets because they almost always go into racing. Blue came to us because he had a broken leg that was subsequently amputated. His racing career was over before it even started. You can see a picture of Blue below.

His name is Blue because the grey color in greyhounds is known as blue (don’t ask me why because I don’t know) and because he has bluish eyes.

When we brought Blue home I was reminded that dogs’ digestive systems like sameness. Sudden changes don’t go over well and usually manifest themselves in the form of runny stools. A little Kaopectate works wonders in dogs as well as humans!

Changing Blue’s diet got me thinking about what we do at Profit Point and what elements are essential for making change happen. There are three things I’d like to highlight in this article.

You’ve gotta have a champion.

First, you’ve got to have a champion. The champion is someone who

  • believes in the change
  • is committed to making the change and
  • can effect the change.

The champion must understand why the change is important; believe it should be done; will see it through to completion and has the resources under his / her control (directly or indirectly) to make it happen.

Some years ago I was sitting in an employee lunch with a Vice President of a company I used to work for. We were discussing some current corporate change initiative and someone asked what will happen if some of the employees affected by the change don’t go along with the program. The Vice President answered “Either the people will change or the people will change.” This Vice President viewed this initiative as being so important to the future of the company that if the effected employees refused to adapt to the change they would have to be replaced. This may sound harsh but we were discussing a change that was crucial to the company’s survival. I worked for another company that refused to make these hard changes and do you know what happened? They were taken over by another company who had no qualms about laying off thousands of workers.

You’ve gotta have a champion.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Second, it is so important to communicate

  • what the change is that you are making
  • why you are making the change and
  • what the expected results will be.

A former boss of mine was fond of saying “People will live with a problem they understand rather than a solution they don’t.” He coined that pithy bit of wisdom because unfortunately he had more than one experience where a project he was involved with had great promise but crashed and burned upon implementation. Apparently the people affected by the change didn’t understand and consequently didn’t trust the solution. Communication does not guarantee understanding and acceptance but without it you’ll be setting yourself up for failure from the get go.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Go slow.

Third, when we implement a new work process or software tool of any significant size or scope, we always used a phased approach. A typical project plan might look like the following:

  1. Develop a process / tool for a well defined pilot scope
  2. Implement for a pilot set of users (maybe in one region of the world or some other logical subset of users)
  3. Allow for time to fix unforeseen issues and additional development
  4. Implement for a broader set of users
  5. Allow for time to fix unforeseen issues and additional development
  6. Implement to remaining set of users

Clients have told us that they have had industrial accidents because of too much change in too short a time. This can risk long, unexpected downtimes that result in loss of production capacity or worse personal injury or even death.

Go slow.

I’m happy to report that Blue’s digestive track is back to normal. I was the champion and easily made the changes to his diet since I’m the one that feeds him. I tried to communicate what was going on but he just barked and whined for his food as most puppies do. I certainly did make slow gradual changes in moving him to his puppy kibble which he really likes now.

I’m also happy to report that he is adapting to having just three legs. You can see him playing with his pug friends in the neighborhood below.

This article was written by Mark Rockey, Profit Point’s Production Scheduling Practice Leader.

To learn more about our supply chain improvement services, contact us here.

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