Change Management ⇔ Good Management

Change management is a dreaded assignment in many companies. It is not leading edge and is normally associated with what a newbie would be asked to do when they joined the company. Those working on new products work hard to avoid any type of sustaining responsibility, which is viewed as a cleanup job to be handled by the less talented.

The company culture that lets this attitude prevail is one that will operate at a less than optimal or productive level, reduced profitability with substandard product quality and customers that question why they purchase their products. Employees at all levels recognize the problems producing products in this environment. What do they see?

  • Engineering documentation that is red lined or out of date requiring knowledgeable individuals to recall how it was last built.
  • Bills of material that are incomplete resulting in shortages of parts actually needed to build the product and the accumulations of obsolete material that is no longer needed. This material may ultimately be scrapped signaling to everyone that waste is acceptable.
  • Products that do not perform as they used to due to variations in incoming material quality or vendor production processes.
  • Delivery schedules that cannot be met on time due to material shortages and quality issues.
  • Product cost that is above standard because of excessive material cost expediting material in small quantities and excessive labor cost in overtime assembling and testing products to expedite delivery.
  • Employee morale suffers because no one seems to care that the job is done right, or that things are done and ready when they are supposed to be, or that the product is not built in a quality environment.

A quality change management process is the foundation of an excellent company. Having products that have sizzle is certainly valuable but sizzle will not carry the day unless the product can be produced consistently at a high level of quality with predictable cost and delivery. What are the key steps to do this correctly?

  • All parts of the organization devote and invest in change management for existing and aging products just as they would for the next best thing coming out of product development.
  • Phase-out and phase-in of design changes are PLANNED and SCHEDULED reducing and possibly eliminating excess unwanted material, documentation is reviewed and walked through manufacturing and test as the new change takes over to make sure all stations in the process are communicated with and changes or exceptions are incorporated back into the engineering package.
  • Discoveries of weak design points are addressed and dealt with to eliminate the risk of future failures.
  • Purchasing and incoming inspection make sure that the quality and reliability of incoming material is high, changing vendors that cannot consistently deliver quality components on time that meet cost objectives.
  • Employee morale is high due to the company wide attitude toward doing things right for all products – and not just for new products.

Examine the balance of commitment in your company. Is the “back office” just as committed (and resourced) as the “front office”? Don’t let your organization side slip toward the highly visible functions (product development, sales, etc.) and starve the fundamentals of your business model. Listen and look for the signals – cost, quality, schedule, customer complaints – that indicates that this is happening.

Good change management is good management!

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