Any major change initiative requires effort to bring people along and get them committed. The keys to doing so are stakeholder involvement, communication, and involvement.
A few years ago, we were asked by a large pharmaceutical manufacturing company to help transition ten of its fifteen plants to a just-in-time inventory system. The technical aspect of change was led by another consulting firm. But as the “go live” date approached, senior leaders realized that front-line operators weren’t as committed to the new system as those who had been involved in the analysis.
We weren’t surprised by this finding for two reasons. First, not everyone can participate in the scoping, diagnosis, planning, and design phases of such a large project. Diagnosis and design teams are often formed with representatives to ensure perspective from across the organization. But those not asked to participate can feel left out, confused, or even unaware of the change.
Second, because of the complexity of the technical change to processes and systems, very little resource had been allocated towards the human side of the change. There was a video in the lunchroom streaming information about the project in two different languages. But it felt more like a sales pitch than an interactive dissemination of information that operators needed.
When we were hired, they were only six weeks from “go live.” Not enough time to get real commitment from so many employees. Ultimately it took another six months to get the commitment necessary before any significant change could happen.
The ability to accelerate organizational change is arguably the most important role of a leader, yet one of the least understood. While the leaders at the pharmaceutical company had a long-range strategy and were executing on their short-term plans, few had mastered the art of getting people to change the way they would need to approach their new jobs.
Great leaders of change positively impact business performance by making change part of their leadership agenda. During this process, we were reminded of the importance of three simple yet effective tools in enabling change—tools that if used consistently will change how leaders lead change.
Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement