Posted: January 04, 2013
It’s time for a change
Your business is ready. Are you?By Peter Holtgreive
In today’s economy, businesses that are still around typically fall into two categories: Either they have survived the economic downturn because they made major changes through cost-cutting efforts such as layoffs, or they entered the downturn buffered by large profit margins.
Businesses in the first category have had to make tough decisions to stay afloat, including reductions in travel, bonuses, and in some cases, employee benefits and employees. Ultimately, these workforce reductions aim to provide a little less or the just the right number of employees to meet projected, and usually falling, demand. These companies have limped through the year hoping to avert further cost reductions, accessing credit lines or facing further difficult decisions.
Many companies blessed with high profit margins have survived not because of management but rather because they have few or no competitors. These companies continue to do well despite minimal changes to their business.
There actually is a third type of business: thriving companies seemingly impervious to the recent economic struggles, but not for lack of competition. These companies have made positive changes to the way they do business.
As a facilitator of business change working with Colorado companies, I see all of these types of businesses. In all cases, the businesses have made changes. Why have some of the changes been more successful?
Most business leaders realize change must be made, and in many cases they even have an idea what that change needs to look like. Yet there is failure to implement.
Most trainings and events I facilitate are with the value adders of the company; that is, the workers, those who make the product or provide the service. Persuading these people that change has to happen and how to implement it is typically easy. They deal with the inefficiencies on a daily basis. But the changes made by employees often are not sustainable.
As business leaders, you cannot expect that change will just happen or that the employees will actively sustain the change by themselves. True change requires all leadership to support the employee’s efforts, up to and including changing how managers do their own jobs.The events with the highest success rate that I facilitate are those where leadership is involved. When I hear questions from engaged leaders such as, “How can I do my job differently to better support these and future changes?” I know this business “gets it.”
Change is not easy. We all struggle with it. To ensure the future of our businesses, we must change. Consumers, markets, technology, best practices – all undergo continuous change. What worked just six months or one year ago might not work now.
Changing the way the company does business has to start at the top. Your workforce will only incorporate the changes long enough to show improvement, and they will always revert to the way things were. You, as leaders, must be actively involved, yet still empowering your employees to make change and improvements. Now is the time to change the way you do your job to better support the change needed in your business.
How to start? Be involved. Figure out how to best support the value adders in the company. Spend time with them and understand the changes that they are making. There is always ways to support their change. Sometimes it is as simple as providing your labor to move things around, get your hands dirty. Other times it can be just listening to them and their frustrations. Empower them! Create a culture that it is okay to try new things, and let them fail. They will learn more from those experiences. Allow them to take ownership of their work areas and make changes to them.
Gone are the days when you could walk right to your office, go to department meetings and see others only when there are problems. All members in the organization must be part of continuous improvement. Your employees know the solutions to most of your businesses problems; it is your job to help bring these solutions out and support the changes.
Peter Holtgreive, Project Director for the Colorado Association For Manufacturing And Technology (CAMT), has nearly 20 years of experience managing the manufacturing operations in a variety of industries, including high-speed telecommunications components, test and measurement devices, aviation and marine, as well as custom window coverings. His experience includes serving in the Navy on submarines, overseeing operations related to customer satisfaction, increasing production efficiency and gross profit for multiple company locations, ensuring revenue goals are met, and implementing Lean manufacturing from the beginning stages. As a CAMT project director, Peter works with CAMT clients to create and maintain customized continuous improvement programs for operational excellence.