As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership champion, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.
We continue this week with the work of Dr. John Kotter, where we looked at a macro view of his eight-step change process three weeks ago. Two weeks ago was a micro-level perspective of Accelerator 1, creating a sense of urgency, and last week a focus on Accelerator 2 on building a guiding coalition. Finally, we look this week at Accelerator 3, forming a strategic vision and initiatives.
A successful company defines strategic initiatives as coordinated and targeted activities led by a guiding coalition to make transformational vision achievement possible. A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook. 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
Developing a strategic vision and initiatives is essential to carrying out transformational change.
There were various vision and mission statements in reviewing what I see as exemplary manufacturing operations. In all cases, the statements existed for a higher purpose beyond making a profit for the owner. As I considered one for my company, my purpose is to help others adopt practices to improve the lives of the disenfranchised, leading to:
"Where manufacturing is a vehicle that allows each citizen of the world to meet at a minimum their needs for just and healthy lives with a full opportunity to achieve their highest potential."
I see the tremendous potential of reinvigorating the manufacturing sector to develop a more just and inclusive society. A shift from the past when manufacturing operations would spew toxins into the air and pollute the land and waterways in their proximity. They often left behind a brownfield plant operation abandoned or underutilized due to pollution from industrial use once they had extracted all the local resources. Their former employees would often have to transition to lesser-paying work without benefits.
Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there. - John P. Kotter
After crafting the vision, the owner or leader should be able to describe the company's future state succinctly. A well-developed vision inspires the organization's stakeholders and becomes the North Star to guide everyone on an intentional course toward the desired destination. The journey does not end as the needs of our stakeholders evolve, but a well-crafted vision can be timeless. In his book Leading Change, John Kotter defines vision as: "a picture of the future that implies or comments on why people should work to create this future." He describes three purposes the vision serves:
1. The direction of change clarifies hundreds or thousands of decisions.
2. The organization's stakeholders are motivated to engage in actions, including some that may be painful, to work strategically to achieve the vision.
3. The collective actions are aligned to efficiently and effectively reach the vision.
The organizations I studied that I would define as successful companies develop strategic initiatives as coordinated and targeted activities executed with legitimate urgency to make vision achievement possible. A vision that presents a desirable and straightforward verbal picture communicates it so that employees can imagine it as feasible with a timelessness that allows the flexibility the organization will need to achieve tremendous success.
Successfully communicating the defined vision to the organization's internal and external stakeholders is required. The guiding coalition addressed last week works together until they can explain the near-term and long-term future states in less than five minutes. Creating a mental image of what the organization will look like must convey how it improves the situation for all stakeholders. The visualization should include the organization in three months, six months, one year, and three years. The plan needs to be shared often and in various communication forms. The message may require sharing it with others up to ten times in multiple formats for the workforce to understand expectations completely.
Communication with the various stakeholder impacted by the changes should include the following:
1. How the changes impact them individually in the following ways:
a. Physically – Are the planned changes less demanding or create a safer work environment for the employees? For example, installing assistive robotic devices would reduce fatigue and lessen the potential for injury.
b. Mentally – What will now be required of them psychologically related to the new job requirements? For example, an employee engagement program would help to improve job satisfaction.
c. Financially – If there is success in implementing the desired organizational improvements, how will it impact the members of the workforce? For example, productivity improvements would lead to bonus checks.
2. Use visual devices to show:
a. The new facility layout – Set up a small portion of the plant to replicate the operation after fully implementing the planned transformation. For example, a sample production line uses lean manufacturing with 5S, kaizen, pull systems, and visual management.
b. Simulations – Utilizing computer technology to model the organization's future state.
c. Performance indicators – Develop a set of measures to track plant performance to the strategic plan.
The ability of the various organizational stakeholders to embrace the vision is enhanced when they can see how it changes what has been known to them.
A famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke is "What we've got here is a failure to communicate" – a common theme many of us have experienced in our places of employment. The issue takes on more seriousness given that research of 400 companies and 100,000 employees in the US and UK found the costs of ineffective messaging for organizations was $37 billion, with an additional $62.4 million annually in lost productivity. The negative impact does not include a full breakdown, but the reality is that these high negative costs illustrate the need for better workforce communication. The better news is that the research found a 47 percent higher return over five years for shareholders of organizations with effective communication. Thus, effective messaging creates a virtuous cycle – where better messaging leads to happier, more committed employees, greater productivity, greater returns, and a thriving business, which leads to more content and engaged employees.
After crafting the vision, the owner or leader should be able to describe the company's future state succinctly. In addition, successfully communicating the defined vision to the organization's internal and external stakeholders is required. The ability of the various organizational stakeholders to embrace the vision is enhanced when they can see how it changes what has been known to them.
Individuals that have read my Humanist Manufacturing book or earlier blog posts know that the work of Ray Anderson significantly impacted me. I encourage you to view an excerpt from Ray Anderson The Corporation to understand his commitment to communicating the Interface vision.
I am grateful to Fred Keller, Founder & Chair of Cascade Engineering, who has practiced for nearly fifty years what I see as my company's vision. They have put programs in place for anti-racism, returning citizens, military veterans, women, and young professionals of color to support them in achieving just and healthy lives with a full opportunity to achieve their highest potential.
Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by looking at his enlistment of a volunteer army integral to becoming a humanist manufacturing organization.
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