Daily Archives: August 4, 2008

Overcoming Worker Resistance in Process Improvements

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, certain members of your organization will resist change tooth and nail. That’s why a recent Industry Week article on How to Bring About Process Improvement When Workers Resist caught my eye. The article, about Dover Corps. efforts to reconcile processes and operations between a plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma (Norris) and in Edmonton, Alberta (Alberta Oil and Tool), overviewed a good approach that might help you convince two competing divisions, or even two businesses within the same conglomerate, to play nice.

The article started off by noting early that processes are only as good as the people who implement them, and if John doesn’t like Bill and Bill thinks John is an idiot, no change initiatives can succeed and that systems are held together by purpose, relationships, and information. This is important because, at the very least, you will need a team that is willing to work together if you are to have any hope that your efforts to integrate disparate processes will work.

Dover Corps. began its process by putting all types of employees — union factory workers, maintenance personnel, front-line supervisors, engineers, and scheduling personnel — through three programs: on-line assessments, a relationship workshop, and individual sessions with an executive coach. The goals were to demonstrate:

  • the behavioral style of each individual to them, and how their style affects their communication with people throughout the organization
  • the best way to communicate with people of different behavioral styles
  • that many communication problems can be solved by adapting your style to better understand what another is trying to say
  • the ability for everyone to learn new ways of doing things

The process was very effective for Dover Corps. Results included:

  • recognition, and improved focus, on the strategic constraint for both companies
  • increased profits, despite the fact that 33% of constraint capacity at one location had to be taken temporarily out of service for repairs and upgrades
  • 87.5% reduction in setup time at one location
  • 80% improvement in rework

Finally, the article shared some key lessons learned, which contain some useful advice:

  • Work on relationships before you work on an issue.
  • Folks are folks (are folks). Whether you’re in the executive suite or on the shop floor, relationship building should work.
  • People need to be engaged in a proactive manner before they are pushed into a new process.