New Ideas – It’s About Managing Change

            “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX!”  It is a phrase we hear over and over again.  The point is to come up with different ideas and new concepts, which are fantastic but I see two things usually occur: 1. new ideas are not accepted or 2. new ideas are not implemented correctly and fail.  The problem, I believe, is as new ideas or new process changes are discovered the first thing upper management does is question – How much will it cost? What is the impact?  Yet the designer of the fresh concept probably does not have the answers right away.  Upper management has legitimate questions and concerns; that is why businesses stay focused on their target areas.  However, if a unique idea is immediately shot down or poked so full of holes with negative comments, then the creativity that generated the new idea is diminished.  I find that many business leaders want a new approach to processes yet fear the change that is automatically involved.  This is the time for business leaders to face that fear but not so far as to jeopardize the organization.  If a leader is asking for help with coming up with fresh concepts, then he or she must also be ready to support the idea at least through an initial phase of research and testing.  I suggest the approach to prove the concept won’t work – come up with all worst case scenarios FIRST!  Then the hard work of proving that the new concept is able to withstand the trials is already accomplished.

                Once an innovative concept passes the test of acceptance (at least by upper management), the next challenge is correct implementation.  Many great ideas fail to live up to expectations because of poor integration – into the current processes and into the company culture.  People are inherently resistant to change, and an implementation means change.  The best thing is to work on the plan for implementation so the entire team knows the steps involved and its expected role.  The next step before anything else must be education and training.  The more communication the better! For example, I always share good news and bad news as soon as I know it because no one really likes surprises (except on their birthdays).  If it is bad news, then the initial shock can diminish and I can be better prepared later on. Good news means happiness, but I can still be prepared for the upcoming changes.  I feel the worst when something is different from what I expect and I figure it out on my own, and THEN get the memo about it.  At this point I’m already unhappy about the situation; telling me the details after the fact will not help.  In fact, my trust in the process and in my leadership has been negatively affected by this lack of communication.

                After communicating the changes early and often, the new idea is ready to roll out to a prepared environment.  It takes time, planning and effort but it is worth it to see something really make an impact!

 

          Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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  1. #1 by Ikonographi on April 23, 2012 - 10:33 am

    Such a valid topic in business today!

    The higher your level of responsibility in any organization, the more difficult it is to matain the balance of innovation and risk. No serious business person will claim that strict adherence to “tradtional” models leads to growth, and yet few embrace change without first pondering every possible scenario by which it can lead to disaster.

    Part of this stems from the fact that middle management is always looking for a path to the corner office. Be the one who saves the company a million a year by combining two divisions and you’ll be on your way to a VP billet…loose a hundred thousand contracting an outside marketing asset, and you’ll be in the unemployment line. Equally significant is the fact that, as you indicate, execution, particularly at the factory floor level, can be much more difficult than projected.

    Recently, my company went through the “Five S” process; we debated the required changes for months at the management level, and even included the inputs of the Manufacturing Division; still, when it came time to actually “move the furniture”, there was resistance. Why? Because a concept is exactly that; it doesn’t alter your procedures or negate your expertise. Applying change has the nasty habit of slaughtering “sacred cows”…many reared towards the express purpose of preserving or serving as surrogate for quality and sustainability measures. Ultimately, we survived our “changes”…expanding our capacity and gaining greater insight into our product offerings. Still, we could just as easily have erased “undocumented” procedures which had served us well in the past.

    I think the only way such potentially poisonous alterations can be approached is from a “total committment” posture…disucss and revaluate at all levels of the organization without fear of reprisal or reward merely for questioning or championing a “concept”. Roll over the stones, look the risks in the eye and as a total organiztion only…move forward.

    • #2 by The Professional Development Team on April 23, 2012 - 11:15 am

      Thank you again for commenting so thoroughly to this blog! I agree with your statements. However do you really think people can have an open and honest discussion in a room without fear of reprisal? That is part of why I refuse to let a CEO or any other C-level participate in a Kaizen other than as the champion. There is no way to get past that elephant in the room when the point is to openly express issues and thoughts. It seems to be easier if there is one manager but no one as initimidating as an upper executive.

      • #3 by Ikonographi on April 23, 2012 - 11:38 am

        You make a valid point; however, what I’ve experienced is that the mid-level managers become de-facto “filters”, preventing critical decision making information from getting to the executives. In both my fleet and corporate careers, I’ve found it to be universally true that if you give the guy on the line the floor, he will speak his mind. Obviously, in any event, the people at the top must be willing to “clear the air” without falling to the temptation to launch “witch hunts”. I think an organization with executive leadership that cannot tolerate honest feedback suffers from greater internal issues than may be solved by instituting new ideas…The reality of that situation is that whatever progress is made in seperate session, executive management will simply veto anything they don’t like.

  2. #4 by The Professional Development Team on April 24, 2012 - 9:12 am

    Once again I agree with your sentiment that managers will try to prevent bad news from filtering upwards in order to preserve their own position. I think the root cause is what you mentioned – the upper echelon’s must be willing to hear the honest truth about the inner workings of their own companies. This doesn’t seem to be as big of an issue for small businesses as it is for large corporations. So how can anyone help upper management realize the value of the internal feedback without reprisal? Is it something that another internal manager can do or must that kind discussion be had peer to peer between company leaders?

    • #5 by Ikonographi on April 24, 2012 - 10:08 am

      Managers must take ownership of their divisions; I read a very good point in one of the other postings here concerning inter-employee friction, and this is the greatest threat to open lines of communication. The simple fact is that those who don’t make high salaries, enjoy flexible hours and “cocktails with the Boss”…mistrust and at times resent those who do. If managers are so consumed by their own internal issues that they fail to consistently and competently tend to their subordinates, it only exacerbates the situation; particularly going into a risk-laden policy implementation. The relationship between managers and production employees must be such that when an “open forum” is held with executive leadership, there are no “surprises”. The managers must be able to provide inclusive suggestions towards resolving any issues, long before their foreman or engineer presents the problem to the CEO or COO. When such forums devlove into “gripe” sessions, executives feel that something is “out of control”, and will more often than not, make an immediate decision to correct it. On the other hand, when a production employee says, “We cannot meet current capacity on a single shift”, and the manager says, “Thats a great point, Laura; I’ve completed an analysis of our back-log and am confident that the added profits from completing this work on schedule, and making way for more will adequately cover the added costs of the second shift.”…the CEO feels that there are wise hands at the wheel and will tread cautiously before vetoing. Managers must always remember that the primary stake holders number one concern is profitablity…not their careers.

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