Third Installment in the Manufacturing Webinar Series focuses on pivoting as a method for change management
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. —Eventually, every manufacturing executive runs into a situation where the longstanding processes that have driven their business and systems are outdated and in need of change. But properly managing those changes for the benefit of the organization can often present a challenge, particularly in times of volatility or crisis.
Change management was the topic for the third installment in the 2021 webinar series, “People, Process, Product: 3P Approach to Total Manufacturing.” The four-part-webinar, co-hosted by manufacturing experts from the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center - West (The Center West), The Right Place and MiBiz, focuses on best practices for small and mid-size manufacturers.
This webinar centered on the “pivot” as a framework for change management. Experts from The Center West defined the pivot as a way for manufacturing executives to remain rooted in the fundamentals of their business while also evolving their company to the next level. The first step of the pivoting process involves taking a moment to pause, gather data regarding the businesses' issues and fall back on the company’s foundational philosophy, said Justine Burdette, regional director of The Center-West and vice president of Technical Services for The Right Place.
“How many of us in the last 15 to 18 months have just been firefighting no matter your role or position,” Burdette said. “It feels like you have limited data and you’re being asked to make decisions in a flash… Even if it’s just for the briefest of moments, building a pause into your business and way of operating can create a little more of an intelligent decision.”
After pausing, executives should focus on their company’s internal operations, make changes and restructure where necessary, said Terry Hossink, a business development specialist with The Center West. Oftentimes as a company grows, the leadership team does not take the time to revisit older processes and procedures, something that Hossink cautions against.
“Can you step back and minimize these processes, don’t give up your quality or reputation, but are there steps that you really don’t need anymore because your business has moved beyond them,” Hossink said, noting that executives must empower their company leaders to make the changes necessary to streamline processes. “You need to look at what they’re doing and give them the permission to make those decisions so you can move forward.”
During the webinar, experts from The Center West also spoke about the importance of company culture when it comes to pivoting, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re finding that for manufacturers making these changes, it may be a little more challenging than they anticipated because their culture and people have changed through their pandemic,” Burdette said. “To manage this shock of change and disruption you have to have the underlying culture to support the absorption of this.”
For example, Burdette pointed to a manufacturing company on the lakeshore which maintained a strong company culture, however that culture was primarily driven by one individual. When the individual stepped away from the business, the culture began to degrade and worker morale slipped. To combat this, Burdette and Hossink suggest executives work to ensure company culture is spread throughout the organization and driven by all employees.
“How do you make the culture truly the culture of everyone in the business,” Hossink said. “We all know that there is an overall culture of the company and culture of each department, so how do you build a cohesive culture from the bottom up and top down.”
In addition to changing processes, pivoting can also be used as an opportunity to enhance company culture and attract workers in the current highly-competitive labor market. In another example, Hossink and Burdette point to another manufacturing company where an executive noticed his normally punctual and enthusiastic employees would show up late and unmotivated when they were scheduled to work at certain stations and equipment.
Instead of berating his workers, the executive opted to implement advanced technologies including computer vision and camera systems on the particular stations to decrease employee involvement in the undesirable task while improving morale and productivity.
“The leader saw that something had to be done. For him to pivot he stepped back, brought in The Center West in and talked to his team. The people on the floor see that and they understand the purpose of it. It helps with his culture, the labor shortage and everything in the business.”
To view any of the first three webinars in the 2021 series on 3P and Total Quality Management, visit the MiBiz GoToStage Channel.