During my career, I have implemented a number of improvement initiatives where one of the major challenges was to assure that the "technical solution" for process improvement was going to be accepted by the "local team" and even further, that the implemented solution would stick over time and that the old habits would not come back.
First things first, you have to have a clear Vision, a direction of where this change will lead the organization to. Without a clear vision, you will not create the "sense of urgency" on the team, and simply nothing or very little will happen.
Once the Vision is set, it is time to get the top management team committed to the change and fully supportive of the initiative. This part of the process is very sensitive, specially because during a process improvement change initiative, you may have some leaders of the organization to "gain" more power and responsibility with the newly implemented process and others who may "loose" power or area of responsibility in the same process. The fear of loosing space can create a high resistor for change within your leadership team and any signs of such fear and behavior have to be addressed by the project leader.
Win-win situation is always a must. You cannot have an initiative that will benefit the top management of the organization, but will have negative effects on the shop floor employees. I could give an example such as a project where you will improve manufacturing productivity by improving the manufacturing processes and reducing waste and after the project is successfully implemented you take the decision to lay off a number of shop floor workers as they are no longer "needed". This is a clear no-go initiative! All, and I mean All, have to benefit from an improved process, and by having this clearly stated at the beginning of your journey you will assure that most of the employees are on your side.
Clear communication to the whole organization and two way communication policy is very welcome in such projects. You have to be able to clearly communicate every major step of the project, from the initial phases of identifying the key root causes of the issues, from the definition of the actions and build up of the action plan, to the training of the employees, and implementation of the new processes. The more you communicate and clarify major concerns or misunderstandings of the direction of the project, the better off you will be in succeeding the results of the project.
While building your cross-functional project team, you should always be careful at your criteria for selecting the resources for the team. To my mind, the key criteria for project resource selection is to find people who have high influence on other employees and who are able to effective communicate to their colleagues. These will be called the key change agents that will be part of the cross-functional project team and will drive the change together with the project leader.
With all this in place, I believe another key action to make sure your change is successful is to involve as many people as possible during the project. The more people are involved again from the validation of the root causes, creation of the action plan, attending training, and throughout the implementation of the new process phase, the higher the chances of assuring that the improved process will sustain over time after the project is "officially" closed.
Having gone through a number of change initiatives during my career and following these key steps mentioned above has assured a high rate of success during implementation and sustainability of the process implemented.
How about your experience in change management and driving change in your organization? Have you gone through similar experiences as mine? Have you had different approaches with as great results as I have achieved? Share with us your experience!!!