By Rick Forsgren, CONTROL Events DirectorCOLLABORATE, SHARE,
co-operate and work together to increase performance. That’s the mantra, but does it really work? According to Larry O'Brien, Research Director for Process Industries, the ARC Advisory Group
first introduced "Collaborative Manufacturing Management" around the year 2000 and "Real-time Performance Management" about three years ago.
We’ve been talking about ways to improve productivity using process automation systems for more than thirty years, and the gains have been impressive. Where they reach the wall, however, has always been at the level of actually changing the way people in the process industries work.
Although some large companies have taken on the challenge, it would seem that there has been little real movement toward adopting collaboration as a management style. What conditions must exist for companies to capitalize on the collective abilities of their knowledge workers? What unmovable force is it that causes organizational drag? Drag is an organization’s natural resistance to change. Awkward organizational structures, ineffective processes, internal politics, contradictory information and disorganization are the biggest sources of organizational drag.
Consider the significance of Information Literacy to an organization’s ability to readily adopt change and remain competitive in the current “knowledge based” economy. Information literacy is a person’s ability to search for, find, evaluate, use and share information from a variety of sources. These sources include the myriad communications, books, databases, the Internet and everything else gushing from the proverbial “information fire hose” from which we sip each day.
Peter Senge wrote about “learning organizations,” where people continually learn how to learn together, in his book The Fifth Discip
line. Fifteen years later we don’t seem to have made much progress, even though the tools to do it all exist.
The two concepts—information literacy and learning organizations—used in harmony can help process companies develop the “change workers” needed to create a real advantage. Change workers are knowledge workers who embrace the constant of change as a way of life and exploit it as a real competitive advantage for their organizations. In other words, they expect change and use it instead of fearing or resisting it.
Knowledge workers can become frustrated when their inability to find, evaluate, use and share information effectively causes them to make poor decisions. It is often not the lack of information that creates this frustration, but rather the vast amount of contradictory information. This type of poor decision-making costs organizations money in the way of missed opportunities, lost time and, in some cases, legal liability. Consider this the human equivalent of tuning a PID loop. You have little or no chance of hitting your target value if the feedback you receive is conflicting. Often, decisions are made out of personal or departmental consideration because employees have limited knowledge of the bigger picture and limited power to act on new information or change their current course. Many do not know how to get critical new information into the hands of those who possess the authority to act upon it. This disconnection creates an environment where people are hesitant to change the status quo, making it a large contributor to organizational drag.
Manufacturing process analyst and guru Eli Goldratt
said years ago that if you ask and incentivize people to do insane things, they will do insane things that often have the opposite effect from what was intended. If you ask them to do things that work, they’ll do that too.
People often take the path of least resistance when they lack the tools to communicate effectively or defend new ideas. This skill deficiency can result in the creation of mindless “worker-bee” type employees who become incapable or unwilling to create new knowledge from the data they gather and use on a daily basis. Instead, they become focused on carrying out the tactical portion of their mission and lose sight of any strategic vision. They comply with policy and follow instructions they know to be counter productive because they are not remunerated for new ideas, but rather reprimanded for taking risks and making mistakes.
Florence Mostaccero, Vice President of Technical Services & Business Process Development for MolsonCoors (Golden, Colo.) says, “Coors encourages its employees to embrace and accept change through multiple approaches. First of all we paint the picture that describes the value and need for the change.” Mostaccero goes on to say, “We set up and describe ‘the burning platform’ or the ‘why.’ We then do detailed stakeholder analyses to find out what the change means to the affected individuals and thus can address what's in it for them. Leadership at Coors then helps to set up the recognition and rewards systems to motivate their employees to move and adjust in the direction that is needed to win in the beer business.” Mostaccero says that by using these simple change management techniques, leadership can move people through the change effectively, and keep engagement high through the process. In their experience, Mostaccero says, “Coors has found that people in general just want to understand ‘why,’ ‘how it impacts me,’ and be rewarded to move in the direction that's needed. If these areas are addressed up front before change is sprung on the individuals, the results can be very good.”