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Why change management matters in manufacturing

You can’t expect everyone to understand why a change is being made, but you can empower them to help make change a success.

Why change management is important?

Change management is important because it can help manufacturers to achieve the benefits they expect when implementing a change, by guiding employees to effectively work through challenges and contribute to making changes successful.

Change management isn’t always obvious

"Eat your vegetables, it’s good for you", this well-meaning advice often given to us as children often fell on deaf ears.

The long-term benefits of a balanced diet were overshadowed by the immediate displeasure of forgoing more appetizing parts of the meal for greens. As obvious as it is to the parent that eating vegetables instead of candy is better for their health, you wouldn’t expect a young child to have that same understanding just because you explained it to them.

This has some similarities to the change management situations faced by manufacturers today when decision makers must relate to the ones affected by changes.

This example is not to say employees are young children and management are wise parents, but rather to remind us that not everyone understands the reasons for things the same way.

How to sustain change in manufacturing? | Know the why.How to avoid challenges of change management?

While leadership understands the long-term advantages, employees might only see the immediate inconveniences or challenges—this is the human element of change.

Whenever possible, help employees see how they can leverage this change to improve a pain in their day-to-day life.

For example, a machine operator may see the implementation of a system that monitors machine downtime as a tool to monitor their performance as an employee.

Instead, help the employee see how this tool justifies addressing problems they deal with on a regular basis? Finding these small wins and understanding the reasons behind why a change is necessary are both large factors in managing change.

Why a change management plan is crucial?

Even if the goals and reasons are understood, a well-informed plan to implement any change is crucial. A well-informed and well-communicated plan brings realism to the change and helps everyone understand the small steps that need to be taken to reach the larger goal.

Involving any affected employees in the planning process can help increase buy-in and ensures you’re defining a realistic plan as much as possible. This does not mean that every piece of input must be used, but it is much better to get this input beforehand than in the middle of a change.

Furthermore, by having these conversations and gathering input from many levels, other opportunities for improvement may be discovered which is empowering.

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do” – Henry Ford

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

These are two quotes from two very different people however, both are applicable when it comes to change management.

You can’t expect everyone to understand why a change is being made, and believe it is going to be great. The “why” of the change needs to be understood, “why” the change is happening, and how it is going to happen; trust alone is not a good change management strategy.

Even when you have a plan, challenges will still happen.

By properly preparing for the change, which means ensuring everyone has a full understanding of the change and a plan has been formulated with the involvement of affected employees, these challenges will be easier to overcome.

If employees have not bought into the change, each challenge along the way provides an opportunity for opposition and failure. But, with understanding and involvement, the amount of opposition can be reduced, and the likelihood of success increased.

The “why” of the change needs to be understood.

In wrapping up, change management boils down to clear communication and genuine teamwork. Echoing the sentiments of Henry Ford and Mike Tyson, it's not about lofty promises or rigid plans, but about rolling with the punches and getting things done.

It’s about making people feel included and heard so they are empowered and want to help make the change a success instead of working with scepticism. Do not assume everyone understands the true reason for change, just as you may not have understood why your parents kept telling you to eat your vegetables as a young child.

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