As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership practitioner, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
The work to drive transformational change requires a comprehensive plan that addresses the many challenges companies face to make it a reality. An approach that I endorse is that developed by Dr. John P. Kotter. We will look at the importance of Accelerator 6, generating short-term wins and the impact of brain science this week and building on the previous one of removing barriers from last week.
A successful company working through the change process must celebrate short-term wins. A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook by Dr. John P. Kotter. The steps are now known as accelerators that include:
1. Create a sense of urgency
2. Build a guiding coalition
3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives
4. Enlist a volunteer army
5. Enable action by removing barriers
6. Generate short-term wins
7. Sustain acceleration
8. Institute change
Transformational change is nearly impossible if we do not combat the natural tendency of our brains to focus on the negative aspects of our work.
Developing a transformation plan that generates a sense of possibility is essential. The workforce majority is teetering between following those who embrace the transition and those trying to maintain the status quo. Therefore, it is imperative to establish a positive environment where success occurs early and often. The following rules guide transformation success:
• Ensure quick successes – Set a stage for early and regular wins.
• People are reassured – A snowball effect occurs as initial small positive results build upon one another, accelerating the pace of change.
• Restores morale and increases confidence - The past anxiety falls, and motivation rises as success begets success.
• Mark and celebrate the ending of the old system – The organization pays proper homage to the past, recognizing the value of what was once critical to success.
• Mark and celebrate the beginning of the new birth – It is essential to define the point where the launch begins towards attaining the transformational vision.
Celebrate early and often to:
• Recognize early successes – Helping the workforce see where they accomplish the necessary change.
• Reinforce desired behaviors – Focusing on positive improvements and using others as an opportunity for learning.
• Remind people of the value of the new beginning – Continue communicating the benefits of the plan outcomes to company stakeholders.
We are not looking to give everyone a participation ribbon. The celebrations must be authentic and recognize those making the change necessary to achieve the company vision. We can enhance the work to generate these desired actions by increasing our knowledge of brain science.
Our ability to understand the human brain continues to evolve as further research and technological capabilities allow additional insight into this complex organ. For example, we have recently begun to understand the role of mirror neurons, which fire both when we act and see positive actions performed in others, thus enabling higher concepts like connection and compassion that employees can learn through mimicry of others. Therefore, leaders must understand how to recognize, understand, and manage our feelings to effectively and efficiently identify, understand, and influence the emotions of those in our care in a responsible manner.
I adopted the positive lens approach during my last plant manager assignment. Unfortunately, when I arrived, the plant was experiencing significant downtime and quality problems, and most production lines failed to make their daily production rate. Applying a positive perspective, I would go to the whiteboards at the end of each line, where the line leader posted the various production results for each shift. I would look for favorable results and write comments about them. It was difficult to do early on, but there was increasingly good news as the weeks and months passed.
I began to have line leaders routinely come to me smiling from ear to ear to share they "made rate" during that shift. Our quality defects went down, productivity increased, and machine uptime improved. If I were away or returned to the plant late and went home without writing these notes, they would ask me why none were left the previous day when I returned. It was not the only change we made, but I know that focusing on what the hourly workforce was doing right was a key driver in our success. Think about your experiences – did you achieve the most in a positive or negative environment?
Leaders looking to drive transformational change must establish a positive environment where success in generating short-term wins occurs early and often. We can enhance the work to develop these desired actions by increasing our knowledge of brain science. Understanding the natural tendency of our brain to focus on the negative allows us to understand the need to pay proper attention to the mental aspect of change.
Individuals interested in learning more about brain science can read a white paper on The Neuroscience of Talent Management, which introduces the SCARF model. The domain of Status looks at the brain's response to positive or negative changes to react and manage the impact favorably. Certainty deals with our predisposition to prefer familiarity requiring support for employees to deal with change more effectively. Autonomy relates to the brain's desire for stability and control, where losing either creates stress. As social-environmental creatures, we desire Relatedness and are adept at evaluating whether new people will be friends or foes. Fairness rounds out the list where our brain triggers threat and reward responses to perceived fair and unfair treatment. A comprehensive neuroscience program can lead to enhanced talent management—one of many examples of the potential for more significant human potential in the workplace that increases our success in driving desirable change.
I continue to be grateful to those pioneering the study of brain science. I have worked through some mental challenges through the process that allows us to rewire our brains. While a work in progress, I see enough positive results to know there is merit to the work in this field.
Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by considering his recommendation to sustain acceleration integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
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