Change challenged!

Posted on 24 May 2010 by The Manufacturer

How many roadmaps must a manager walk down before he understands how change really works?

On May 20 The Lean Management Journal (LMJ), sister publication to The Manufacturer, launched its first flagship event with a flourish. Change leaders and improvement experts from across service and industry rated the day as a unique and valuable learning experience.

Co-produced with Suiko consulting and Chaired by Brenton Harder, MD Operational Excellence, Credit Suisse, the Inspiring Operational Excellence event really pushed the envelope for delegates, engaging them in thought provoking debate and encouraging them to share and propagate ideas with their peers.
Some key themes and discussion points from the day were sparked by the opening keynote from Harder who explored the difficulty of getting businesses to start ‘pulling’ lean expertise and acumen into key strategic areas and stop pushing projects onto perceived problem points in a system. Harder also highlighted the danger of creating “improvement tourists” through training excessively and without clear purpose for the skills created.

As the day progressed it became clear that this was a commonly experienced problem in large manufacturing and service organisations which were failing to measure meaningful returns on training and simply taking the level of training activity as indicative of an improvement culture with broad engagement.

The challenge posed by creating engagement and empowering front line staff to take ownership and control of strategic objectives was explored in panel debates and workshop sessions with speaker representation from health care, manufacturing, public sector, financial services, academia and more. The effect of changing circumstances was a particular cause for debate as Andrew Board, project director at BT Billing + explained:

“We realised that our project would not achieve benefits unless the business-case reflected what was happening on the ground – our business-case did. It was thorough, professional, expensive.

But nine months down the line when we came to implement it – the world had move on. It wasn’t relevant anymore.”

Acknowledging that organisations need always to continuously change the way change is effected in order to adapt to a world that will never stand still to allow comfortable goal completion was a key learning point for the day. To facilitate this the importance of clear job roles and reporting systems, visualisation of strategy and an ingrained knowledge of core organisational values from frontline staff to chief executives were identified as critical success factors. A pinnacle for the day came from the insight which LINPAC Packaging gave into the way they were attempting to embrace all of these considerations into their improvement roadmap and the development of their own operating system. Dominic Mahony, Europe Practice Director and Chris Rodgers, author and facilitatior at Lane4 also contributed value by providing new perspective on the impact of informal cultural dynamics in organisations and revealing how powerful they can be in either accelerating or blocking strategic initiatives.

More detail on the key findings from the day and the learning points emerging from the individual sessions will be available soon online as will copies of session slides. A full summary of the event along with guidance on next steps from change experts and LMJ editorial board members will be available in the next issue of LMJ (due to be published in July).