Much is often spoken about culture and the need to change culture in a constantly evolving environment, but it’s a subject that is very complex and variable and success often depends on how well you understand the local situations and how they’re playing into the site operation as much as more macro organizational changes may be. Today we all too often hear that we need to change the culture of the a group or site, but less often do we see situations where time has been taken to understand what’s not working and whether there are nuances that will still affect success going forward. This is true for changes proposed even if they’re the most effective macro organizational changes being made that could be a duplicate of success story at another site. So, in trying to map out a roadmap for successful change and its management there are perhaps some considerations that are worth mentioning to help provide a few elements of guidance.

Often overlooked is whether the site is ready for change! This is not a given, and the degree one can be successful in a transformation of this type is often dependent upon how well you start. This is true of most things in life! Since it is a human personality and group dynamics process, it’s important to canvass opinion among the staff involved to gauge feelings, receptiveness and overall dynamics/enthusiasm. In presenting the approach to the group, the plan needs to be a summary, appear rational and structured, should contain many opportunities for the staff themselves to color in the plan outline so to speak, to cover actual details of how something is to be achieved. Yes you will be providing technical training on how to use tools like 5S, value stream mapping, kaizen events for example, but be prepared to let the staff at the site of a specific kaizen event develop their own plans, implement the change and measure the improvement- even develop their own metrics and score cards to gather their data.

The goal here is to create buy-in and reduce resistance as this will impact the success of the program. Remember, everyone wants to be a winner, and the goal is to create as many winner disciples of this process as possible, as quickly as possible. Not everything is easy in this process, so accept that some people will be early adopters of the approach and others will take more time. Patience will be required to maintain momentum so that the new philosophy becomes part of the operational lifestyle and not a quick fix like a crash diet. It’s vital to avoid the flavor of the month tag! Understand that you are asking people to fundamentally change habits that may have taken decades to develop, so people must buy-in for them to let go of the old ways.

A key starting point is to identify a transformation coordinator to make them the focal point to roll out the plan and provide local leadership for the program. Next, it’s important to lay out the localized plan and listen to feedback from all those impacted by the proposed changes. In performing this exercise, take careful note of those staffers immediately receptive and designate them as your champions. These individuals will be invaluable, particularly in the early phases, to convince others to give things a chance and help create momentum. This is vital to prevent things from stalling. Together use these people to maintain enthusiasm for the approach. As more people see themselves personally winning in the process, the easier it will be to address tasks associated with the technical transformation. The goal should be to have things go viral, so the coordinator becomes someone guiding the process rather than pushing the process. Using this approach, the staff drive their own changes and gain confidence in the transformation ideas as it is rolled out.

It’s true most people don’t like change and don’t deal with it well, so provide the opportunity for them to design their own win. Look for “low hanging fruit” type problems that they can solve themselves, implementing their ideas and measuring how they improve that working environment and/job task. This is one basic mechanism of how to start a successful culture change process and using an experienced consultant to guide this important phase will assure a positive winning outcome.