Friday, August 11, 2006

Repeat After Me

In my last post about employee retention tactics, I touched on ways to shape corporate culture. Later, it occurred to me that I should add this caveat: cultural change can be very difficult, especially in manufacturing.

But why?

In manufacturing, when the goal is to produce defect-free parts, repeatability and consistency are traditional barometers of success. Manufacturers typically build their cultures around talented people with this rigid mindset.

Change and flexibility are countercultural ideas in this environment. And if you’re a manufacturing executive seeking to achieve a cultural shift, you must recognize this substantial barrier to success.

Employees aren’t going to blindly accept a sudden new direction. As process-oriented, rational people, they deserve a process-oriented, rational argument.

It’s a technique as old as Aristotle. Begin with a rationale for change that’s grounded in the realities of the marketplace. Follow that up with a clearly articulated, actionable plan to respond to these challenges, as well as employees’ role in the effort. Finally, and most importantly, you must show them what’s in it for them personally if they participate.

It comes down to this: you must illustrate to them why, in a rapidly changing world, maintaining the status quo in manufacturing is akin to accepting a major defect.

And, as with anything else that works right in a manufacturing environment, you must perform this task repeatedly and consistently.

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