A resource for effective change management basics in manufacturing.

Welcome back to TST, Troubleshooters! Thanks for joining us again. This week we’re continuing with our series on change management in manufacturing organizations. Last week, in Part 1, we looked at what change management is, and some of the challenges involved. We looked at the story of William Sims, (a.k.a. the crackbrained egotist!), and his efforts to introduce a game-changing new warfare technology into the US Navy in the late 1800s. If you’re a manufacturing executive in an organization facing some kind of transformative change, you’ll want to check that out.

Change management in manufacturing is a needed process. As we mentioned last week, every organization will eventually face the need to change in order to survive because the external and internal environments are always changing. Whether the competition starts doing something new, or customers start demanding something new, or society, technology, or the political environment changes, your organization will have to respond. In fact, organizational change is happening all the time in the form of mergers, takeovers, reported losses, layoffs, new management, new products, and so on. 

Organizational change (OC) focuses on what is happening inside existing organizations and their environment, and how they work together. OC can bring tremendous benefits to your business, such as increased ROI, improved productivity, greater efficiency, reduced costs, better employee and customer satisfaction, and other new opportunities. 

Seventy percent of organizational change programs fail

Having said that, it’s well known that OC can be a difficult process. Organizations have tasks and try to perform them routinely; introducing change is disruptive by its very nature. In 1996, John Kotter published his seminal book Leading Change, which revealed that only 30% of transformation programs are successful. Twelve years later, in 2008, McKinsey & Company basically found the same thing. 

Top 6 reasons most organizational change programs fail

Most OC change programs fail due to employee resistance (like the kind William Sims faced). Let’s face it, people are psychologically hardwired to resist change. Much of change management in manufacturing is. 

Here are some of the reasons the experts say most organizational change programs fail:

  1. Fear of the unknown (people fear what they don’t understand)
  2. People’s preference for inertia (we all have our comfort zones and would rather remain inside them)
  3. Vested interests (potential changes may appear to go against an employee’s own ambitions)
  4. Threatened job security (employees may fear being made redundant by changes, e.g., robots) 
  5. Lack of preparation (if things are being done too quickly without proper preparation, people lose confidence in their leader)
  6. Lack of communication (the benefits of change have to be communicated clearly and shown to outweigh the downside, or employees won’t on board)

Lack of resources, placing a higher priority on systems than people, and inadequate change leadership skills are other reasons sometimes given for this failure. 

Employees, including management, may resist and even sabotage organizational change efforts for any of the above reasons. The good news is that planning and preparation will give you a better chance of success.

Change management models

There are many different models for successful change management in manufacturing. Among the best-known are John Kotter’s 8-step change model, Lewin’s 3-stage model of change, the ADKAR model, and McKinsey’s influence model

Although these models differ, there’s definitely some overlap. These models all acknowledge that change is difficult for people for various reasons and seek to apply common sense psychological principles to make that change as easy as possible. For example, they all advocate clear and regular communication of the goals, benefits and requirements of the proposed change because people need a bit of advance warning to get used to ideas, and they need to feel that the change will benefit them personally. Most of the models acknowledge that people will tend to go along if they see other people doing the expected behavior, so the models advocate leadership teams and role modelling. Many of the models recognize that fear of the unknown and worry about job security are huge issues for most people, so they recommend some form of training or skills development to equip people for the new tasks and to demonstrate their ongoing value to the organization.

If you are going to be implementing change in your organization, it’s best to become familiar with these models, or others, to help you form your change management in manufacturing plan.

And that’s it for today, Troubleshooters! Tune in for Part 3 next week, when we’ll look at specific steps for managing your organizational change.

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