What is the mix of attitudes toward change within your organization? Is your factory’s mix of attitudes optimized for transformation?
One of the most critical factors of a successful Continuous Improvement implementation is having the right people on the bus. When undergoing this type of change, the organization is going from a steady state to a transformative state of operation. To optimize the speed and strength of an implementation, it helps to have the right mix of personalities, talents, competencies, and attitudes in place. For instance, the greater manufacturing competency (such as experience with Lean, Six Sigma, or other), the easier the implementation. In regard to personalities, it helps to have a diverse team that can bring a variety of perspectives to the table. Also, talent brings magnitude to the direction that is set for the change. However, the predominant factor in the organization’s Agility is people’s attitudes toward change at the onset of the initiative. Organizational Agility is the speed at which it can effectively change and return to steady state. Granted, people can change and judgement needs to be applied as to how much a person can change and by when, the amount of time required for people to change adds time to the implementation. As you may have gathered at this point, a CI implementation needs to happen in the attitudes and behaviors of people, just as much as it happens with other manufacturing assets on the production floor. Depending on the specific current and future needs of your business, your approach to getting the right people on the bus will vary.
One of the most profound publications on people’s attitudes toward change is “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, MD. According to Spencer, there are four types of attitudes towards change which I’ll summarize below:
Sniff (or the Change Agent) identified change early. He kept things simple and adopted the change. He would represent those in the organization who advocate change for the others.
Scurry (The Supporting Agent) was eager and quick. He was flexible, aware and accepted the change that was taking place.
Haw (the Adapter) dealt with change in a different way. He was able to relinquish old behaviors and learn from past mistakes.
Hem (the Stabilizer) preferred to stay in his comfort zone and ignore the reality of the situation. He felt entitled and just trusted his needs would be met if he took the easiest path.
One of the keys to optimizing a CI implementation is finding or cultivating the right mix of attitudes. Based on personal experience, the typical organization at steady state might contain the following mix:
Change Agents (2%) | Supporting Agents (15%) | Adapters (50%) | Stabilizers (33%)
For a more effective Continuous Improvement implementation, a more appropriate model might look as follows (depending on the organization’s goals):
Change Agents (10%) | Supporting Agents (35%) | Adapters (40%) | Stabilizers (15%)
The point is to show a significant shift from people on the Stabilizer end of the spectrum toward the Change Agent end. This is especially true within the Leadership group of the organization. This may also require either helping people to change their attitudes or hiring/promoting/firing people to optimize the mix required to strengthen a transformation. Notice that even in a state of transformation, some population of Stabilizers is still required to support implementation. This is because Stabilizers are best suited for driving adherence to standards, which is critical for continuous improvement.
To effectively apply this model, an inventory of attitudes toward change should be taken to get a snapshot of the organization’s current state. An expert can help you determine the attitude mix required to achieve the desired future state. After the implementation has reached maturity, there should be a shift in attitudes away from Change Agents and toward Stabilizers in efforts to sustain desired changes. At any state of operation, there is an optimal mix which should be evaluated and decided upon based on the current and future needs of the business.
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