In the early days of manufacturing business systems, implementations could be somewhat stressful and demanding. Learning how to use unfamiliar, software-driven processes invariably took place in tandem with stories of - ‘it’s not doing what we thought it would’ or worse. With delays and issues, it was not uncommon for long hours to be worked until systems were running smoothly. For the most part, people considerations weren’t given a great deal of thought; change management principles were barely on the radar.
Why change management?
We’re now in a very different place. With a much greater understanding of implementation processes; IT experience and expertise has moved on in leaps and bounds and crucially, thankfully, the ‘people factor’ has the necessary prominence. Change management has rightly become centre stage for manufacturing IT projects.
Now IT is a people business
Defined as ‘the ongoing adjustment of corporate strategies and structures to cope up with changing organisational objectives,’ we agree with the experts that there’s a direct correlation between managing change and business success. Our own, finely-tuned processes – our project managers are Prince2 accredited, not only embody change management principles, but are designed to support our customers on a step-by-step basis. Essentially, we’re in the IT and people business now.
Change isn’t always easy
It is a given that manufacturers’ reliance on process automation, means that any new initiative is going to involve IT in some way. The business case may be proven on paper, but implementation will not be a ‘walk in the park’. For one thing, everyone in the business will be too busy with their day jobs to think about new systems. Operationally, the business has to keep going, customers have to be kept satisfied and existing systems maintained. And yet somehow, there’s a new project to be delivered on time and on budget.
Vital ingredients –leadership and communications
Clear leadership, as distinct from ‘management’ and a team, representing the required skills and disciplines are fundamental to success. The team who will create the ‘mission and vision’ must be empowered to make decisions. Championing the project and promoting ‘go interactive’ communications – the right information needs to go to the right people at the right time. Fostering ownership involvement is key – particularly given any additional workload required to get the job done.
Expect the unexpected
Although projects are usually tightly managed with Gantt charts, RAID (Risks Assumptions, Issues, Dependencies) logs and others, it’s rare to have a clear run without an unforeseen event or issue to deal with. Delays can be costly, focus can suffer and therefore, insofar as is possible, it’s preferable to keep things on schedule. As partners, whilst we can’t legislate for every risk, we strive to do everything possible to help keep the foot on the gas.
Flexibility for stakeholder needs
In any given manufacturing project, different stakeholders have varying needs and levels of involvement. From a factory operative to senior manager everyone should be lead on a ‘change journey’ that’s right for them - matching how they are affected. Equally, change is much easier to deal with if there’s consistency and stability for the project’s duration. The leadership team has to see things through as a unit and it’s certainly best to avoid other major initiatives concurrently.
Managing change is essential
We believe that with the maturity of business systems, IT presence in our daily lives, higher levels of expertise and experience, change has become a slightly more comfortable, if not natural process to endure. But there’s certainly no room for complacency either. In manufacturing especially, change still needs effective leadership and professional management.