Have you ever had the feeling that someone was telling you they were on-board with a change but they didn’t even fully understand or think through the change you were proposing? Or maybe they were just saying yes because they like you but not taking your idea very seriously? Or perhaps you’ve done all the groundwork for a change and one or two people are just dead set against it for no rational reason. And then you go ahead and make the change as promised and two things happen: 1) those same people who said they were all for it are now visibly uncomfortable with what you’ve done and 2) those who were against it before have now declared you public enemy number 1.
If you’re already in this situation, this blog post won’t be very helpful for you. Good luck and stay tuned for the post on How to Dig Yourself Out of Whatever it is That You’ve Stepped in. Fortunately, this post may help keep you from stepping in it again in the future. I’m going to share with you a process for garnering stakeholder support for the changes needed to drive manufacturing efficiency in your organization.
There are many reasons people hold out from making the changes that are needed for progress. The change could pose a legitimate threat to safety, quality, productivity, morale, or some other important aspect of the business. It could also be that the change threatens someone’s personal position of authority. However, no matter the reason, the bottom line is that people are going to be uncomfortable with change. And the bigger the change, the more resistance you will face. The key is to take the burden of change upon yourself to make sure all risks are identified and satisfactorily mitigated to address and minimize the discomfort of your stakeholders. The way to do this is as follows:
1) Organize a risk-assessment. Invite all relevant stakeholders to participate in identifying the risks involved in making the proposed change. If the stakeholders themselves cannot be present, have them substitute a representative that they can trust to effectively express their interests. Make sure everyone understands that the proposed change is just for discussion at this point and you want help understanding some of the risks involved. Try to keep this session to under an hour because that’s about as long as you can reasonably hold people’s attention; especially in a manufacturing environment. Make sure to capture all identifiable risks. This means giving your participants free-reign to add risks to the list at will. The last thing you want is for someone to come out in the 11th hour before implementation with the objection that you did not capture during the risk-assessment. Also ensure the group’s leader is present to keep some of the risks grounded within the realm of reality. Even better, get the boss’ general buy-in before going into the risk-assessment.
2) For each risk identified, work with the stakeholders to develop a course of action that would satisfactorily mitigate the risk. Its important that the person who raised the risk agrees that if the mitigating action was completed satisfactorily, they would have no further objections. Here is where artful facilitation is needed. If you’re not a skilled facilitator, you will need help to get good ideas out and keep the meeting on coarse. Ideally you can get the concerned party to propose the solution themselves; second best, you or another attendee propose something that they can publicly agree to. This may mean slightly changing the scope of your initiative, completing more testing to verify the cost / benefit, including additional training or documentation, or expediting planet’s revolution around the sun by 6 or 7 days. Whatever it is, you as the change agent need to build consensus around what specific actions are needed before you can earn the stakeholders’ buy-in. In a group setting, people’s personal intentions are a little more difficult to hide and they tend to engage with the idea that their concerns can potentially be addressed, especially if everyone else is playing along.
3) Take your mitigating action items list and get to work. Complete every single item to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter if you complete these items yourself or delegate. In this case, you cannot afford to deny or delay any of the items. Gather proof that demonstrate the completion and quality of workmanship of each item. Use pictures, standard work documents, data or test results, sign-off sheets, or whatever else it takes to provide a paper trail of thoroughly completed action items. Neatly package the artifacts and preparation to get sign-offs. Then create or use a sign-off sheet and have all the key stakeholders sign the sheet saying they are satisfied with the mitigating actions taken and that they are ready to proceed with the change. Then you are clear to proceed in changing the world – your world at least however small it may be.
Going through this level of rigor to get people’s buy-in has a psychological effect that the change is worth it and it shows that you value the authority and professional integrity of the key stakeholders. I’ve seen cases where people have forgotten that they ever were opposed to the change by the time the mitigating actions are taken and its time to sign-off. In this case, they just sign-off so they can hurry up and jump back into rescuing the plant from today’s crisis. Either way, this process covers your bases and lays out a path for continuous improvement both in the manufacturing and leadership buy-in process. Keep a record of the sign-off sheet, risk-assessment, and proof of completion artifacts in case you need them for future reference.
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