Leading Operational Change



I read an interesting post on maintenancephoenix.com about change management and reactive vs proactive maintenance.  The article, by Ricky Smith, was thought-provoking.  He talks about culture change in the organization and how to determine if you are in a reactive or proactive organization.

As leaders, regardless of department or function, it is our duty to create and build the right culture.  Below are 5 tips on how to do this in an operational setting.

  1. Set the expectation.  It seems easy, but it isn’t.  Expectations must be realistic.  That is not so simple.  It takes a bit of educated guessing and self-temperment.  Often, as leaders, we expect others to be as capable or more so than ourselves.  That is not always the case.  Don’t underestimate the ability of people, but don’t set the bar so high as to create discouragement.  Remember that there is a limiting factor to the progress that can be made, find that and then set the pace.
  2. Create the game plan.  Here is strategy.  Don’t confuse strategy with goals.  Strategy is the route that you plan to get to the destination.  Jim Collins has had some great books and one of the lines that has stuck with me is the “20-Mile March” from his book Great by Choice.  Pick your march.
  3. Don’t be a flavor of the month.  You can’t be a fad (read more here).  Once this happens you lose all credibility.  Trying to recover from a lackluster start is just as bad as never starting.  Don’t let up and keep your strategy in view.  Even when times get rough, continue your march to make sure that you can gain what is needed.  If you said you would shut down the line once a week for maintenance, do it…even if the schedule is tight.  It will be worth it in the long run.
  4. Get the team on board.  Make sure your teams are supporting the change.  There can’t be any undercutting of the program behind closed doors.  Encourage your team to vent to you if they are frustrated with where the change is going, but make sure they don’t vent to anyone else.  The team must have a united front everywhere in the organization.  If not, this is poison to the change process.  It is painful to do it, but you may have to cut loose those that aren’t supporting your culture change.  One rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch.
  5. Celebrate success.  Celebrate your accomplishments.  As milestones are achieved, make sure that people know you are proud of them.  Don’t celebrate if you don’t succeed something, that makes it superficial when you do celebrate for just cause.  Culture change is a long road and these celebrations keep people motivated along the way.

Change is never easy.  In any organization where deadlines and customer demands are put before everything else, you can never accomplish your own goals.  We tell people that they need time for themselves, so do companies.  Treat your company right and your customers will notice.


Can You See the Storm Coming?


Meteorologists have the best job in the world; they can be wrong 100% of the time and still be employed.  But if we miss the big storms we can be left exposed to the elements.  What we often forget is that the storms can be brewing from within our own back yards.

Beware the Calm Before the Storm
If the birds aren’t chirping watch out!  If there is no noise going on there is probably a problem brewing.  There should always be constructive conflict happening.  That means you will hear a little bit of heat in a discussion, and that isn’t all bad.  If the air is too calm, people are sheltering you from what is really going on and that can be a sign of bad things on the horizon.

Where there is Thunder there is Lightning
Too big of blow-ups are the other extreme.  If people are exploding with emotion that means they are having a hard time coping with the stress of work.  That stress can come from many different things.  This is not something to sweep under the rug.  If you hear of a blow-up then someone is having a rough go of it and it needs to be addressed.  A Leader will make sure that the underlying issue (the lightning) is found and dealt with appropriately.

Reaching Steady-State
Small storms are a good thing.  We need some rain and weather is always about nature trying to reach a steady-state.  Introduce a few storms every once in a while to make sure that you are always making improvements.

Remember, we can’t always control the weather.  Not every day will be sunshine and a warm breeze.  Be prepared and understand that storms will come.

What are some other signs of storms?

How can Leaders better control their weather?