Management Article

Jason Furness’s picture

By: Jason Furness

In part one of this three-part series, we looked at the first two layers of resistance to change. Part two looked at the second two layers. Here we look at the final two layers, obstacles to implementing the proposed solution, and unverbalized fear. We are close to achieving true buy-in, but hurdles still remain that must be diligently, thoroughly, and supportively crossed.

Layer 4: Obstacles to implementing the proposed solution

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”
—Hanna More

Luk Van Wassenhove’s picture

By: Luk Van Wassenhove

Establishing a clear and consistent focus, and knowing when to change it, is the essence of manufacturing agility. Factories don’t just make things. Viewed properly, they are where the rubber of corporate strategy meets the road of the marketplace.

Ideally, then, a factory should operate in alignment with competitive business priorities; in short, it should be focused. When a business tries to group too many different products, markets, and technologies into the same manufacturing facility, performance and productivity suffer.

This concept was introduced in 1974 by Wickham Skinner in a much-cited Harvard Business Review article, “The Focused Factory,” and was widely embraced by a manufacturing community then in the throes of a productivity crisis. No one since has convincingly refuted that, in general, focused factories outperform unfocused competitors.

Jason Furness’s picture

By: Jason Furness

In part one of this three-part series, we moved through the initial and often overlooked layers of resistance: first, why change; and second, how to overcome disagreement on the nature of the problem. Here we move on to the next two layers, namely, disagreeing on the solution and undesirable side effects.

Layer 2: Disagreeing on the nature of a solution

It is more important to know where you are going than to get there quickly. Don’t mistake activity for achievement.

Just as there are many opinions about the problem that is being experienced, there are usually just as many opinions as to what should be done about it. If layer 1 has been transited successfully, the range of opinions about the solution will have narrowed substantially. However, there will still be many characteristics of a good solution that different people desire.

Matthew Littlefield’s picture

By: Matthew Littlefield

Although there is no bad time to improve quality management maturity, an optimal time is during fiscal planning for a new year. Executives and quality professionals who are affected by the quality of products or services should ask two questions: “Just how mature is my company’s quality program?” and, “What challenges must be addressed to increase maturity?”

Look at LNS’s quality maturity graphic and take a moment to honestly self-assess. This assessment is based on six dimensions of quality maturity, namely:
• Strategy and execution
• Leadership and culture
• Organizational capabilities
• Business process excellence
• Technology capabilities
• Performance management and key performance indicators (KPIs)

Jason Furness’s picture

By: Jason Furness

This is the first part of a three-part series on the “six layers of resistance.” It’s based on the work of Eliyahu Goldratt, who has now passed away. Goldratt was the originator of a body of work known as the “theory of constraints.” His bestselling novel, The Goal (North River Press, 2014 reprint), should be essential reading for anyone in business, not just manufacturing.

The technical aspects of change within an organization are often rather simple. The complicating factors and the drivers behind failures usually can be traced back to a failure to adequately work with people to overcome in each of them the six layers of resistance. Whenever we’re faced with a change, we all work through these six layers, starting at layer 0 and—if the change is to be succeed—moving up to layer 5. When people remain at a middle level of this process, they resist the change that is being developed and can cause the program or project to flounder.

Multiple Authors
By: Gilles Hilary, Arnaud Lagarde

Eric (not his real name) was under pressure from his sales department. He was hesitant to close a large financing deal with a Chinese corporation but had little beyond his intuition to back up his position.

The company’s stock price had gained a whopping 600 percent in one year. Nevertheless, Eric followed his intuition and ran a software analysis on the company trading activity. It didn’t take long for a strange pattern to emerge: There was strong activity at the end of most trading days that was pushing the stock up. He had enough to kill the deal.

A few weeks later, that company’s stock crashed nearly 50 percent in a single day, triggering an extended trading suspension pending an investigation by the local regulator. Unstructured data analysis combined with human intuition had saved Eric’s firm from a severe financial and reputational loss.

This example, far from being isolated, stresses the opportunities of automated data management. The monetary cost of conserving data has plummeted during the last few decades while the processing technology has dramatically expanded. By now, machine-driven analysis has become as ubiquitous as Amazon or Google.

Quy Huy’s picture

By: Quy Huy

Middle managers could take the lead in a changing corporate world, if they would only recognize that their primary value is emotional, not functional. Once again, middle managers appear to be on the wrong side of history.

Bill Remy’s picture

By: Bill Remy

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that quarterly profits and revenue at big U.S. companies are poised to decline for the first time since the 2008 recession, as some industrial firms warn of a pullback in spending.

The authors point out that industrial companies are being buffeted on multiple fronts: slumping energy prices, the economic slowdowns in China and Brazil, a strong dollar, and the potential for rising interest rates. “U.S. manufacturing production rose in September at its slowest pace in more than two years, and customer inventories remain high,” the authors note.

Others concur. “The ability for corporations to take a 1 percent to 2 percent revenue line [gain] and turn it into 5 percent to 6 percent profit growth is waning,” says Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Pitt Capital Group.

Leo Sadovy’s picture

By: Leo Sadovy

Having a mentor is the No. 1 factor in increasing the steepness of your personal learning curve. So says my oldest, Garik, a Park Scholar at North Carolina State University (class of 2012), during a discussion he recently had with the incoming Park Scholar class of 2019.

To accept the value of mentoring first requires one to understand the centrality and importance of the learning curve. Garik asked the students to imagine plotting the characteristics of two people on a simple X-Y axis. Person A comes to the game with only a moderate amount of resources at his disposal, but importantly, also a relatively steep learning curve, such that a plot of his capabilities has him crossing the Y-axis at an intercept of 1 and with a slope of one-half. Person B, in contrast, has much greater resources at her current disposal: time, talent, smarts, money, education, experience, but for whatever reason has a shallower learning curve, such that her plot on the graph intercepts higher up the Y-axis at 2 but with a shallower slope of only one-quarter.

Mary Ann Pacelli’s picture

By: Mary Ann Pacelli

As a manufacturer, you don’t want workers; you want company ambassadors. Workers are individuals who show up and get their tasks done. Company ambassadors are a team of employees who are enthusiastic about their careers, and they are inspired and empowered to proactively help your business grow.

Company ambassadors are innovative and confident in their ability to achieve excellence. They serve as cheerleaders for your company to the outside public. You can guide your workers into becoming company ambassadors through workforce development initiatives.

Sometimes, small and midsized manufacturers don’t believe they have the resources for these types of efforts. “I don’t have the money and manpower to give everyone a raise,” goes the thinking. But workforce development isn’t about raises and bonuses; it’s about helping your employees become greater, and cultivating a positive emotional connection between your staff and the organization. Carroll Thomas, director for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, recently captured the thought best in a blog post by saying, “Manufacturing is about putting people first.”

Here are a few tips to get started.

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