You see the ways your manufacturing business could change for the better. You can sense it like a change in air pressure. You know that your processes could be more efficient, and that more innovation would help you buffer supply disruptions and skill deficits. To accomplish this, people are the key.
In theory, Process Improvement can save the manufacturing industry a ton of money and increase the bottom line. I say “in theory” because, without a Change Team in place, it can’t become reality.
Your Change Team is the front line of Process Improvement. They articulate and implement your vision on the shop floor, in the lunch rooms, and even to your customers. You sense the change; they make it real.
Find Your Change Leaders
Small changes don’t happen by themselves, especially if they’re to be consistent. Your Change Leaders are the ones who, hour after hour, keep Process Improvement top of mind.
Think of your existing staff. They drive your company and know its inner workings better than anyone. Hopefully, your Change Leaders are there.
Who are your most engaged employees? The ones already coming to you with ideas on how to do better. The ones who care, not because they have to, but because it’s their nature.
Start with them. And let them inspire others to the challenge.
Roles in Change Leadership
People have unique strengths. Don’t be an obstacle to that; embrace it. Here are the roles your Change Leaders need to fill. Put them into the roles they’re passionate about and they’ll bring their daily A-game.
Communicators: Don’t fool yourself – you still have skeptics about this whole “Process Improvement thing” you’re up to. You need someone to not only share your vision, but articulate it with purpose when you’re not around.
Advocates: Your skeptics will say they’ve heard this all before and swear it’ll fizzle soon enough. Change Leaders will need to be consistent about why change is vital and how to make it happen. Ideally, you’ll have an advocate at every step of your process—from the office, to the floor, to the trucks.
Liaisons: Sustainable change is organizational. It affects employees and customers alike. No one likes surprises in business, so each group needs to be advised and guided through what is happening and how it benefits everyone.
Coaches: Your team will need guidance and they’ll need to be challenged. Coaches do both. Coming from a peer, ongoing motivation is a powerful thing.
Resistance Managers: You’re going to get criticism. Rather than stifling it (which doesn’t end well), your Change Leaders can engage and respond constructively.
Empower Your Change Team
How many employees are driven every day to change your business for the better? How many are doing the bare minimum until the end of their shift? And how many are somewhere in the middle?
No one is going to be proactive about positive change unless you show them that the business is worth the investment of their energy. And that means investing in them first.
Empowerment is a leap of faith. You need to give your employees the opportunity to contribute their perspective to the Process Improvement project.
Not everyone will step up, and that’s normal. But give everyone the opportunity to be a part of a special initiative, and often your Change Team will come out of the woodwork organically.
“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are sure to miss the future.”
— John F Kennedy