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Fairly early in my career I was hired into a company in the automotive industry to solve a problem. I had no real job description; they just wanted me to start by resolving the issue. That was fine by me because I love solving problems.
The problem: the customers (representing the big 3) were on site every week for a good portion of time meeting with the leaders of the company because we needed to resolve a quality concern. The operations leader said this kept him away from getting his main job done – producing air bag parts. After a little over a week attending the meetings and understanding the issues, I had the answer.
The meeting agenda was centered our managers brainstorming solutions with our customers. Meanwhile, our engineers were off brainstorming their own solutions and testing theories ad hoc. In some cases there was duplication of efforts. Determining the root cause and fix for the problem really was the job of the engineering team but they were not working efficiently.
The solution: utilize the automotive industry 8D problem solving process to determine all potential root causes and then prioritize which were most likely to be the cause, test each item to eliminate the item until they had the true root cause. And to best serve the customer, this work would be handled as a project so that we reported progress on a weekly basis (no more long meetings!). The engineers could see that this got them to the answer faster.
Did this new way of working change the organization? Of course not right away. Now that the leaders saw that I could be the single source of contact with the client, they were happy about that – their problem was solved. I explained to the president that we actually needed to make a culture change to become a proactive and more efficient organization to avoid this problem in the future. The structured problem solving and project management used to resolve the immediate issue needed to be implemented across the organization.
Bringing process to an organization that has not used structured processes is not easy, people resist. When I first started at the company, I actually thought that the lack of internal processes might be a fun environment. This was not the case. Important issues were not resolved in a timely manner, resulting in a tense internal environment.
Now to convince the organization of the benefit of this change! I had planted the seed that we could speed up problem resolution by systematically prioritizing root causes as we investigated required fixes. And I showed we could improve customer satisfaction by resolving our own issues and reporting progress to our customers on a regular basis. I developed a companywide campaign to convince the organization of the benefits from this new way of working. Moving from ad hoc work to establishing Project Management was no easy task. Once I got the president on board, he sponsored the change. He made sure everyone heard from him that this was very beneficial to the organization. Advocacy for the change spread quickly after that.
Major change is not easy and is generally met with a good deal of resistance. Communication about the benefit and good sponsorship of the change is instrumental in leading to a successful change. The individuals in the organization must see how the change will work well for them. In this case, turning around customer dissatisfaction was very compelling to the leaders of the organization. For the engineers, resolving problems faster was very satisfying.
This blog was contributed by Carolyn Reid, MSS Consulting Manager
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MLA: Reid, Carolyn. “Weathering the Storm of Organizational Change.” MSS. MSS. Blog. 08 April 2015.
APA: C Reid. (2013, Jun 12). Weathering the Storm of Organizational Change.