How to Get Buy-In for Lean Changes
June 03, 2014
In a recent post, Laurel Suchecki examined the cost of disorganization in the workplace and how it can adversely affect productivity and morale. She made the case for 5S as a way to combat the creep of workplace entropy. As with any Lean initiative, though, a successful 5S effort requires the workforce to embrace change, and that’s easier said than done.
It’s the rare individual that enjoys change. As a result, very few businesses can pursue organizational change without at least some measure of resistance from within. The people who must drive Lean (or other) improvement initiatives and make sure they stick need buy-in from everyone participating in order to have success.
How to Get Buy-In for your Lean Efforts
One of the primary issues in any organizational development project is the need for the individuals involved to accept and embrace change. In many cases, that change will be perceived as a direct challenge to their sense of ownership. The changes associated with Lean projects will most likely be:
- structural – organizational changes, modified workspaces
- technological – new processes, new equipment
- cultural – new communication paths, new continuous improvement mindset
Don’t Convince, Enlist
It’s a misconception that the first step is to convince the players involved to accept change. Instead, we enlist them to help author that change. Authorship leads to ownership, and by involving them in the process, asking for their input, and really listening to both their ideas and their concerns, they will have a real sense of participating in the change. That will make it much easier for them to view this as something not only nonthreatening, but positive.
Consider Personality Types
Personality type plays a big role in this acceptance of transition, and it’s no surprise that the more creative and flexible personalities tend to handle change with greater ease. This is due in large part to their ability to imagine what could be, and it makes them outstanding candidates for the role of Lean champion.
Increase Your Buy-In Odds with a Capable Champion
With a capable Lean champion, whether it’s someone from within the organization or a third-party facilitator, you increase the odds of employee buy-in. This individual will not only be able to head off potential interpersonal conflicts, but they can mediate the discussions that need to take place. Kaizen, 5S, and other projects will require a fair amount of open and honest conversation, and a champion who can lead that discussion—particularly among peers—will make the process run much more smoothly.
Strike the Right Balance
Remember that the best Lean champions also need a balance of open-mindedness and “street credibility.” It’s natural for the disparate members of a team to think and organize differently, and a strong champion will navigate those differences with objectivity and expertise. The former is an important part of motivating the rank-and-file, while the latter enables them to speak up for the group if the need arises.
Choose the Willing
Remember that buy-in begins with the champion. Too often, an organization will point to someone and say “you’re it” without much thought as to how this person feels about the impending changes. Whenever possible, seek a Lean champion who wants that role. And don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious. Rather than assigning the shop floor manager who already has a hard time motivating his staff, consider someone who hasn’t had a leadership role yet but shows potential and may be eager for an opportunity to prove themselves.
Invest Time in Team Building Exercises
One excellent way to help teams develop is to engage in one or more transitional/team-building exercises. The best of these are both experiential and intended to increase empathy. They may present the participants with a scenario or situation that makes them understand the emotions others do when they are feeling insecure, being praised, suffering under micromanagement, or—worst of all—being ignored.
Anticipate the Road Ahead
Keep in mind that there will be bumps in the road. In any worthwhile change effort, you will face resistance. When the time comes to enforce discipline, be open and assertive. Make it clear when resistive behavior is impeding progress, and state the consequences of continuing noncompliance. Let the players involved decide if they want to succeed or fail, and then follow through if your expectations aren’t met. But in all cases, treat people like the adults they are.
Reach New Levels of Success
When properly led, 5S, Kaizen, and similar Lean events can lead your business to new levels of organization, productivity, and growth. CONNSTEP’s seasoned Lean practitioners are ready to help you manage these changes and realize the benefits of continuous improvement.
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