‘Your product really looks great, and would solve our issues, however our team isn’t ready for change.’ Last week I was conducting a demonstration; and upon completion of the meeting, the prospect hit me with this response.
That got me thinking. Why are people afraid of change? I often hear; ‘change is hard,’ ‘if it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.’ But really, I believe that it’s something else. It’s not the fear of change… it’s the fear of failure. If I implement a change, and it fails, then I, in turn, have failed. In a time where culture discourages failure; ‘failure is not an option,’ ‘second place is the first loser,’ the ability to embrace change is at an all time low.
Think back to the early ‘90s. If a manufacturer implemented something different, and that change failed, then it was no big deal or at least minimized. Today, with companies tracking every single penny, searching for every single dollar saved, the willingness to merely suggest change is met with skepticism and high-stakes. In manufacturing, down time, lost time, and unproductive time affect the profit margin, and of course, commitments are increasing to higher rate production, and higher output. So, for someone to try to implement a change, and that change doesn’t meet expectations, or at some level fails, or takes too long, that individual will get more than a slap on the wrist. They may get demoted or even lost their job.
So, how do we combat this fear of change a.k.a. fear of failure? Let’s take a look at someone that did change because of current failure or even status quo. After winning his first Masters tournament, by a record setting twelve strokes, Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. He knew, that although his swing was working for the time being, it wouldn’t be a practice that would sustain throughout his career. So, he made a change, and you know what? He failed his first year after implementing the change. Then two years later, Tiger launched one of the greatest sustained periods of dominance in the history of men’s golf. My point of this story is, we shouldn’t be afraid of change. We should be afraid of NOT changing. If we don’t change, and then embrace that change, we ultimately solidify our fate of failing.
Now, change doesn’t get implemented because someone feels like it. Even Tiger Woods, before making the decision to change his swing, spent hours analyzing his current situation. He gathered data, researched others’ swings, and then, based on factual, logical data, determined the change was necessary. For us in manufacturing, we should incorporate the same strategy. Do your research, understand the status quo and if it is truly sustainable, gather data, research other’s that were faced with the same situation, and based upon the information, suggest and incorporate the change.
Finally, change does not happen overnight. Implementing change is a process. By implementing a change process you not only reduce your risk for failure, but also set achievable expectations and results. Tiger did not change his swing overnight, but spent time practicing, going through trial and error, understanding the best new fit for him, and then implementing the change over time.
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