By John Clemons, International Board Member at Large, Americas Board Member, and Marketing Committee Chair of MESA International
I was talking to several people recently and I mentioned the importance of change management to them and they didn’t know what I was talking about. It seems that most people still haven’t heard about change management, or behavioral change management as some call it.
And even the people who have heard about don’t really know much about it or why it’s important. Maybe it’s one of those things that people talk about but never do. Anyway, I thought I’d spend a little bit of time discussing change management and explaining what it is and why it’s important.
To start, if you do projects in the engineering space or in the IT space like with PLCs, DCSes, HMI/SCADA, MES, or even ERP -- you are probably doing a lot of things which are supposed to have a significant impact on the way the company does business. If the project goes well, you hope to boost the bottom line for the company.
But, realize that your project will impact the way the company does business and will affect a lot of people and the way they do their jobs. If you’re putting in a new DCS, HMI/SCADA, MES, or ERP then you’re going to affect a lot of people. In some cases you might be affecting every single person that works on the shop floor. That’s huge influence.
You need to plan to handle that change. Change management is all about managing these kinds of changes proactively, not reactively.
Said another way, everyone knows about the importance of project management to keep the project on track with scope, schedule, budget, and so forth. Well, change management is all about the people side of the project.
It’s about making sure people know what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how it affects them. And getting them on board with the changes. Whatever you’re doing there’s a good chance that it will be met with resistance at many different levels. Change management is about proactively managing the change and managing the resistance.
Based on research, and my personal experience, change management is the number one success factor for shop floor projects of all shapes and sizes.
Here’s seven contributors to change management success:
1. Active and visible sponsorship – get the key sponsors on board with the project and make sure everyone sees that they’re committed to the project.
2. Buy-in from front-line managers and employees – get these people on board and let them know that what they’re doing is going to have a big impact on the company.
3. Exceptional project team – if it’s worth doing it’s worth doing right – make sure you have a good project team that knows how to work with people on the shop floor and knows how to make these projects successful.
4. Continuous and targeted communications – the communications needs to come from the sponsors, the executives, and the project. These communications need to be targeted at every single person being affected.
5. Well planned and organized approach – the change isn’t going to just happen by itself. You need a well organized approach to proactively manage the change.
6. Solid knowledge transfer plan – call it training, knowledge transfer, or what you will, but make sure everyone thoroughly and completely knows what to do and how to do it.
7. Entrenchment – you need follow-up, long-term metrics, ongoing training, and support – in short you have to keep it all going for the long term.
So, in a small nutshell that’s change management. It’s like project management but it’s the people side of projects. It’s proactively managing people for change to achieve desired business results. And, it really is the number one success factor for shop floor projects.
I hope all this makes sense. I’ve covered a lot of materials in a short space. If you’ve got some questions or comments, let me know. I also welcome any and all feedback. Good luck!
John Clemons is the Director of Manufacturing IT for Maverick Technologies. He is on the MESA Americas Board of Directors and is Chair of the MESA Marketing Committee. John has been working in the field of Manufacturing IT for over thirty years. He is the co-author of the book Information Technology for Manufacturing: Reducing Costs and Expanding Capabilities.