Why do we struggle with change management?
Perhaps the biggest reason is because we do not like to be changed: if it is not our own choice, intentional or not, then we resist. By not making a conscious choice to change, even after we’ve declared our support for it, we set ourselves up to resist.
Let’s take a hypothetical situation to help illustrate this. One client is implementing a new computer system to overlay on a well-known and “user-hostile” enterprise system. Enter a new superintendent, newly arrived from a sister plant, who has mastered the “user-hostile” system at his old site and is used to it. Naturally, he doesn’t believe they can make the new system work, even though it is clearly easier to use and well liked by those at his new site. His lack of belief is real trouble because he can use his position to throw barriers in the way of implementation in his attempt to force the site to use his preferred system. His belief is that it won’t work. His action is to force a change the site doesn’t want. He is setting them up to fail — and ultimately, he will look bad for it.
There are many ways to resist change. Perhaps the most easy and least obvious is our “self-talk”; to ourselves we say things like, “This is really tough to do,” “This will pass” and “I know a better way.” All these are ways of shooting yourself in the foot. We express, to ourselves or even openly, our belief that it cannot happen. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right.” He was right, too. We can shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t believe and say that we can do it. That superintendent needs to believe they can and will make the new system work.
Coaches do not let a team that’s losing mope and sulk. They give them a pep talk. Sometimes it sounds like a kick in the pants, but it is their way of inspiring the team to do what the coach already knows it can do. It works. When was the last time in your plant or operation you had a pep talk that really roused you and your team? The superintendent is giving orders, not a pep talk.
Talk and words matter. When you speak, your mind listens. The superintendent believes the old system is better and that belief is leading him down a path destined to failure. He needs to believe in his team. He needs to prove to himself the new system can work. Why not go out and look at another site that uses it?
He needs to join the party — not spoil it.
James Reyes-Picknell of Barrie, Ont.’s Conscious Asset Management is a certified management consultant specializing in operations excellence and asset management. You can reach him at email@example.com.