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Change vs. Improvement

“Change Management”, “Change on the Fly”, “Looking for Change”, “Change Directions”, “Change for the Sake of Change”, “Change at the Top”, “Change Agent”…

These are all terms that I have heard during my tenure working in specific companies, as well as in my role as a manufacturing consultant.

What do you think of when you hear one of these phrases?

Probably like most people, you cringe when someone suggests that you or things need to change. The great majority of people I’ve dealt with over my career in manufacturing, from shop floor folks, line supervisors, management and even leadership; don’t want to change. They are comfortable with the status quo. They know how things are done, what to expect. And what’s expected of them. They don’t want things to change unless they understand that there is a sense of urgency and …“The pain to change, is less than the pain to remain the same.”

Whether it is working in a single company or as a consultant, my methodology is:

  • to understand the goal that is trying to be accomplished (get product out the door, control inventory, reduce scrap, etc.),
  • recognize the way things are currently being done,
  • identify the issues in the current process that are affecting meeting the goal,
  • implement methods to reduce or eliminate these issues,
  • determine if these adjustments improved the goal.

When we get to the point of implementing new methods or techniques, this is when how you approach this implementation is critical.

Facilitating the sense of urgency, to do things differently, by helping those involved understand the current situation and goal, reviewing the current situation and showing folks the data (without data, your just another opinion); starts the transformation. But a more important thing that I have learned over my time in implementing initiatives, is in how you speak to people to get them to adjust their methodology. When your desire is to modify the way things are being done, I conscientiously try not to use the word change. As stated earlier, most people that I deal with are comfortable with the status quo and see change as a potential to fail (rather than learn); so they can be hesitant to try something new and different. For many people change is uncomfortable and something that they resist. However, those same people, or about 99% of them, do want to improve. The key to improving however is that you must change your behavior or methodology to improve.

If you want to be better at something; you must evaluate what you are doing, access the process, determine what part of the process is holding you back from getting the results you want and then identify the changes you will implement to improve the results.

If your golf game needs to improve, i.e. want shoot lower scores (goal); and you determine that your poor putting is blocking you from getting better (analyze current situation with data); you may want to consider: changing your grip, getting a new putter, taking lessons or better practice methods (implementation). Something in the status quo needs to be changed to improve the results.

What’s the definition of insanity? “Doing the same thing and expecting different results”. To improve you must change. The focus should be on improvement, it will make implementation easier. Contact Insyte Consulting and learn how we can help.

Jim Johnson, Consultant

Jim has more than 30 years of diverse manufacturing experience in engineering, project management, new product development and continuous improvement. Prior to joining Insyte, Jim held a variety of engineering positions at Greatbatch, Fisher-Price and General Motors. He is an active senior member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. Jim is certified as a Professional Business Advisor through MEP University, is an ISO provisional lead auditor, and a trainer in lean manufacturing initiatives. He is on the Board of Advisors of RIT’s Industrial and Systems Engineering Department. Jim holds an MS in Industrial Engineering from the University at Buffalo and a BS in Industrial Engineering from RIT.


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