Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Organizational Change

by Mike O'Neill

Resistance to change is human nature. It’s uncomfortable, and it’s scary, but in the business world, it’s vital. The manufacturing industry changes every day, and in order to keep up with it, you have to successfully coordinate your team’s transitions. This is called change management.

If you don’t manage change successfully, you or your team will become frustrated by the process. New policies will become jumbled and forgotten in the sea of meetings and new procedures. Employees will be hesitant about your leadership and dread future changes. 

When you’ve lost the confidence of your employees, you miss out on the benefits of a cohesive team, and any mutual trust or motivation goes by the wayside.

If you’re experiencing these problems, the answer may lie in some common mistakes manufacturing managers make when implementing organizational change. 

The good news is that you can easily modify your approach to change management. After years of working with employees and changes within manufacturing companies, I’ve discovered five common mistakes that managers make that can disrupt their employees’ performance and morale. 

With just a few adjustments, you will provide all of the necessary tools and understanding they need to thrive under change. You’ll be shocked by their motivation to succeed and their renewed dedication to the company’s future.

5 Common Mistakes Made by Change Managers

  1. Biting off more than you can chew

We hear this phrase pretty often, especially when college students take too many classes and are now living in the library. If you as a business leader bite off more than you can chew, you can experience a loss of productivity, organization, and employee morale. 

Your employees look to you for direction in times of change. When you’re spread too thin, they will feel the effects. They’ll see the disorganization and lose trust in you and your capabilities to handle change.

This disorganization can also look like doing things too fast. Manufacturing managers who roll out their changes too quickly or all at once will often lose their employees in the mix. The sheer number of changes will simply be too much for them to handle. They’ll be left feeling confused and overwhelmed. 

When you plan your next organizational change, start small. Pick some changes ripe for improvement that you know you can implement easily, like running a walk-through of a new project tracking software. These small changes should be manageable, important, and very specific.

The best way to avoid taking on too much is to keep track of your progress. After every new change initiative, ask yourself:

What did we learn?

When the time comes for another change, take what you’ve learned and apply it to the new initiative. Remind your employees of what they learned before and recognize how the team has improved since the last transition.

Best of all, what you learn becomes part of who you are as a company. Successful change initiatives come from highly adaptive companies that can face unique challenges.

By starting small and tracking the effectiveness of your change management, you will generate true interest and commitment from your employees. They’ll feel motivated by their successful transitions and trust you more because they know you won’t drop everything on them all at once.

  1. Rolling out with too much fanfare

Some companies get really excited about their changes and end up adding too much “fluff” or extra stuff to their initiatives. You might be tempted to bring in the loud marching band at the beginning to drum up motivation, but doing too much will likely come back to bite you.

When you add too much fanfare to a change initiative too soon, the excitement for future achievements won’t be as strong. Your employees haven’t seen anything good come out of the change yet, so they’re likely distrustful of the process. They’ll be more distrusting if they think you’re making a big deal out of the change to appease them before the inconveniences roll in.

Instead of going all out to hype up your team for the new change, remember (again) to start small. Schedule changes to come in steps, so your team isn’t overwhelmed, but remember to celebrate when the steps are completed.

Leave the fanfare for genuine successes, even if they’re small. Make a big deal out of their achievements and encourage them to keep going.

You’ll start to notice that as success increases, the appetite for more grows. Your employees will be lining up to join the overall improvement process and help the company reach new heights. 

  1. Controlling rather than increasing

Companies commonly take communication too far in the form of control. They are too worried about controlling the message, so it’s “perfect” rather than opening up the door for thorough and honest communication.

Communication is extremely important, but these companies miss the point by controlling it too much. The goal of communication is to increase it, rather than parceling out information in a rigid or robotic way that only lets employees know a little information at a time.

Controlled communication can have adverse effects. If you’re only rationing out communication in small bits and closing the door when it’s not on your timeline, you’re potentially creating a distrustful relationship with your employees.

Employees need to feel heard. Great communication with them means ditching the rigid routine of leaking out information in controlled bits and replacing it with straightforward and open conversations.

When it’s time for organizational change, remember that trust is extremely important. You can foster it by encouraging sincere two-way communication with your employees.

You should also take heart because your employees can handle a lot more than you think. Especially change. But the only way you’ll see this from them is if you give it to them straight with open, honest, and fair communication. When they feel like they’re being treated fairly, they’ll go to great lengths to help everyone succeed.

The next time you manage organizational change, open up the lines of two-way communication and listen to your employees’ voices. They are the ones who have to handle the majority of the change, and by fostering conversations instead of controlling them, you’re ensuring that they will trust you through it all. 

  1. Planning change initiatives behind closed doors

If you’re planning change initiatives behind closed doors with only your leadership team, you’re missing out on vital support from your employees. 

Successful change initiators involve employees outside of the leadership team because they realize the importance of their employees’ trust and support. 

The best change initiatives rely on input from the people most impacted by the change. After all, they’re the ones who have to navigate the new change directly. If they have to adjust to new maintenance schedules, software, or automation processes, then they should have a say on how that’s being implemented.

For that reason, be extremely clear about what you’re trying to accomplish with this organizational change and what your methods are for achieving it, so they can provide feedback. 

After sharing your vision and potential methods, set aside time and space for your employees to be involved before making the change. Reach into your organization by scheduling meetings to discuss their opinions on your vision and potential methods. Listen to their concerns, especially how they think the change will impact them. 

When you’re involving your employees, be mindful that it’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” By letting them know their voices will be heard, you’ll secure their buy-in. This is critical for a successful change initiative and ensuring your employees’ continued trust in you.

  1. Training too fast and too hard

Many business leaders think that in order for a change to be successful, you need to roll out the fastest and most extensive training possible for your employees to get them up to speed ASAP. 

They’ll load employees up with rigorous, elaborate training to go along with the new initiative. They believe that the quicker they can prepare them, the quicker a successful transition can occur. 

When your team has to handle rigorous training on top of dealing with a new change, it can get overwhelming. Employees can become frustrated and disconnect from work because it has become too much for them. 

Finding the balance between training and rolling out a new initiative is difficult for modern manufacturing leaders. While it’s true that extensive training is necessary, it’s not as productive when you dole it out all at once.

Avoid overwhelming your employees by using a timed training approach. Instead of trying to teach them everything at once, divide their training into phases.

Determine the aspects of your change initiative and organize them into phases. Pair the phases with their relevant training. When you begin training, only train them on what they need to implement the specific aspect of the change you’re initiating. 

When you divide training into manageable, timed chunks, you pave the way for your employees’ success and thorough understanding of the new system. Your team will be more trusting, confident, and prepared for the new challenge.

Moving Forward

When you save the celebration for true achievements, provide sincere, two-way communication, and organize your transition into manageable chunks, your employees will flourish under change.

Some of these benefits look like this:

  • Improved employee morale and motivation
  • Improved trust amongst the team
  • Increased efficiency

Effective change management is essential for your manufacturing company. By correcting these common mistakes, you’re opening up the door for your employees to successfully navigate organizational changes. 

These corrections include:

  • Dividing changes into manageable chunks
  • Tracking your change management performance
  • Saving fanfare for genuine achievements
  • Encouraging honest two-way conversations
  • Involving employees in the change process
  • Using a timed training approach

Perhaps the most important correction you can make is to involve your employees. The benefits you may receive are endless. Their involvement with the change initiative will grow collaboration, dedication, and motivation.

After the first successful change, these benefits will multiply as your employees’ trust in your leadership, and each other grows. 

For high-level input or personalized solutions for your change management methods, give me a call. I’ve spent years successfully navigating change in manufacturing companies and can help you change the way your company handles every new challenge that arises.

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