Leading ERP software for growing manufacturers

Manufacturing—Past, Present, and Future, Part 4

Manufacturing—Past, Present, and Future, Part 4

By Bob Sproull

Review of Manufacturing—Past, Present and Future, Part 3

In the last installment of this series, I began our discussion on the benefits of ERP in the immediate future. I discussed the major advantages of cloud-based ERP systems, which include a much smaller initial investment, a flexible pay-as-you-go subscription model, significantly lower maintenance costs, elimination of information back-up, and the virtual elimination of software and hardware updates.

Understanding the reasons for resistance to change

In Part 4 of this series, I will discuss what I believe is something very important for organizational leaders and decision-makers to address before moving to a cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Resistance to change is one of the key reasons new initiatives of any kind—no matter how badly they are needed—can fail.

We hear about this thing called “resistance to change” quite often, but just what is this all about?  Simply put, it is the act of opposing or at least struggling with changes that alter the status quo in the workplace. Throughout the history of human productivity, changes have taken place in workplaces and many times these changes have been met with resistance. 

Remember how fax machines used to be “the way” to share information?  No one could have imagined just 15 years ago that cell phones would eventually all but replace land lines and pay phones. The key for businesses who want to stay ahead of technological change is to have the forethought to see something coming before it is status quo and then embrace the change.

So why is there resistance to change and how can your organization avoid, minimize, or overcome it?  The bottom line is that employees resist change when they don’t see the need for the change being considered. They also resist change when its benefits are unconvincingly presented to them, especially if it affects their own work. Managing this resistance to change is very challenging. 

Often, employees resist change openly, but sometimes it’s done covertly. A worst-case scenario exists when employees simply refuse to adopt the change which brings the organization to the stage of direct confrontation. When this happens, it compromises the speed at which the change can take place, causing a variety of business disruptions and challenges. 

The fact is, change of any kind is uncomfortable for some employees. Feeling uncomfortable causes them to cling to their current comfort zones. So how do you manage this resistance to change?  

How to manage employees’ resistance

Change is inevitable in every company and requires new ways of thinking and doing. It forces us to innovate, and every organization needs that impetus. Yet, change also results in employee anxiety, uncertainty, and a lost sense of security as employees scramble to find their comfort zones. 

The good news is, if you have the right approach to managing resistance, you can help to reduce this anxiety. One of the keys for reducing or avoiding resistance to change is to communicate and discuss the change in advance. Then persuade stakeholders of its benefits by sharing your vision for organizational and individual job improvements, gain buy-in, and seek input from those affected by the change.

Susan Heathfield, a human resources expert and writer tells us that to effectively manage resistance to change, company leaders should follow a prescribed course of action. She explains that following these tips “will help you minimize, reduce, and make less painful, the resistance to change as you introduce changes”:

  • Own the changes. No matter where the idea for change originates, you must own the change yourself as an organizational leader. It’s your responsibility to implement the change and you can only do that effectively if you step back, take a deep breath, and plan ahead by collaborating with the people you influence or oversee in your organization.
  • Get over it. After you’ve had the opportunity to explain your recommendations to senior management and you’ve supported your recommendations on the company’s direction with data and examples, your team may still choose a different direction. If this happens, it’s time for the change—in whatever iteration it is taking—to move forward. Whether you agree or disagree with the exact implementation, it’s time to be supportive.
  • No biased and fractional support allowed. Even if you don’t support the full details of the direction, once the direction is set, you owe 100% support because partial support will undermine the change effort.
  • Recognize that resistance to change is minimized if you have created a trusting, employee-oriented, supportive work environment prior to the change. If your employees think you are honest, trust you, and feel loyal to you, they are much more likely to get on board quickly with the changes.
  • Communicate the change. One of the key factors in reducing resistance to change is widespread belief that a change is needed. So, one of your first tasks in effective communication is to build the case for why the change is needed.
  • Help the employees identify what’s in it for them. A good portion of the normal resistance to change disappears when employees are clear about the benefits the change brings to them as individuals.
  • Listen deeply and empathetically to the employees. Never minimize an employee’s response to even the simplest change. Maintain goodwill between leadership and employees by keeping the lines of communication open. Use listening to employees’ concerns as a catalyst for explanation, or for solutions (like training) to pave the way for a smoother implementation.
  • Empower employees to contribute. Control of their own jobs is among the most important things employees want in their work experience, so give employees control over any aspect of the change that they can manage.
  • Create an organization-wide feedback and improvement loop. If your organizational environment is employee-oriented with transparent communication and a high level of trust, you will have great odds of success in your implementation.

Coming in the next post

In the next post, we will explore how cloud-based ERP systems should work to maximize productivity in manufacturing environments and what benefits they deliver. Among them is full integration of different departments and functions into a single computer system, which greatly enhances an organization’s efficiency.

Until next time.

Bob Sproull

Bob Sproull

About the author

Bob Sproull has helped businesses across the manufacturing spectrum improve their operations for more than 40 years.

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