Every organization has a culture, or more succinctly a set of acceptable team behaviors. The use of ‘leading indicators’ can allow leaders to earlier identify and mitigate lagging performance or even prevent a disaster. Assuming leaders recognize the leading indicators of poor performance for their workforce, how do they affect the change that drives precision operations... and more importantly, how do they make it stick?
Peter Senge, an American systems scientist, stated: “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!” Today, you can find numerous “human performance and change management” consultancies. Many are solidly grounded in the academic theory of human factors, high-reliability organizations, crew resource management etc. The challenge with any of these consultants is how to translate academic theory into lasting cultural changes to one’s work environment. How do they take the “concept” and operationalize it?
After taking an honest look at the current situation, analyzing deficiencies, and applying a liberal dose of the “academic theory”, the next question is often…”how do we DO it?” Of course good change leadership includes doing things like educating people on the need for change, painting a vision, setting goals, and engendering buy-in. But, how do we get people to change?
Real change management takes deliberate and persistent action. Jerry Sternin has another quote I often repeat: “…it is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than, think your way into a new way of acting”. This does not mean simply creating a new set of procedures, no matter how efficient or safe, and expecting your workforce to act differently.
This means being engaged with the workforce on the jobsite. Engagement means working along and with the lines of operation that influence a team’s performance: operational processes, team behaviors, and leadership. Role modeling the behaviors that leaders want is one of the most effective methods to get personnel committed to a culture change. 70% of change management programs fail...Why?
Processes and procedures should not only be efficient and safe, they should be designed to support compliance, account for the constraints of the work environment, and promote efficiency for the entire operation…not just the specific task.
Team behaviors are the markers of how team members act when no one is watching them. They are, in short, habits. The idea is to instill habits that teams exhibit before, during, and after operations that encourage engagement, trap errors, and promote efficiency and continuous improvement.
Leadership in this context is not about “traits and principles” of good leaders, although those are always important. Rather, it’s about deliberate actions that leaders at each level of the operation need to take to communicate, prepare the organization, set and enforce expectations, correct deficiencies, and sustain gains.
Every operation is different and has unique influences, therefore there is no cut and dry path to effecting change management. This is where an expert coach with extensive experience implementing change management with front line crews can make the difference between short-term gains that backslide to old habits and enduring new team actions. Given persistent leadership and time, those new ways of acting become the baseline for team behaviors. The new way of thinking is born out of one seeing the positive results of new ways of acting. When the “ah ha” moment occurs, you know you are on the path to real culture change.