“This sounds like just another ‘flavor of the month’ ”
“We’ve had several like you (meaning consultants) through here already—none of it (these new initiatives/changes) has stuck because we are always moving on to the next thing”
“Just you watch—wait a month, two, six or maybe a year, but it won’t last—it never does”
Those were just a few of the statements I heard from various managers, supervisors and leadership team members of a company that I was to assist with a Lean/Ergonomics transformation. Do those surprise you or do they sound very familiar? I would bet that you’ve heard them before or have even stated them or something along those lines yourself. As a consultant who specialty crosses over several business functions (EHS, HR, Operations, Finance, Marketing/Sales, Quality, Supply Chain, Product/Service Development) I have often had the privilege (not exactly!) of hearing from leaders, managers and front line staff of clients of previous “flavors of the month” and how this (i.e. what I’m bringing in or doing) better not be another one of those. Nothing makes me feel more warm and fuzzy inside than to hear this! Of course, I and Kelby Ergo Design (KED) don’t want to be another flavor to you or anyone else. I want what I and KED bring, do and assistant you—our clients with is to be effective, sustainable and to become the flavor. The last thing I want is to have you and I invest in significant time and effort only to have it go away when the next big thing comes along. That is why I and KED have developed the “Do More With L.E.S.S. approach to avoid becoming a flavor but to become “the way we do things around here”, i.e. making it stick!
Note: L.E.S.S. stands for Lean—reducing waste, Ergonomics (Human Factors)—improving human & system performance by addressing the physical, cognitive and organizational, Six Sigma—reducing defects and variation and Systems Thinking—embedding the entire mindset and new process/systems throughout the entire organization.
So are you happy with the results of your policies, department or company? If not, what are you going to do about it? Do you want to change the culture of your company? There are many “it” cultures right now—Lean culture, Innovative culture, culture of Excellence, Safety culture, Just culture, the ‘Disney Way’, Apple culture, etc. How many of these or other new culture change initiatives have you tried to implement or experience? Did it stick or was it ‘just another flavor’?
Insanity, Flavor of the Month or Real Change?
If you don’t like the results you’re seeing in your numbers, the metrics measured for organizational success, i.e. productivity, sales, safety, or otherwise, what are you going to do about it? If you stay the same you’re insane at least according to Albert Einstein. You know the quote: Insanity—“doing the same thing over and over again (maybe with some tweaks) and expecting different results”. Another company, an equipment manufacturer, had efficiency issues so they tried Lean (this was before I knew them). They said they made some changes such as implementing 1-piece flow and work cells in some areas of the company but overall Lean just didn’t take hold. The “lasting legacy of Lean” was minimal in that they did a Kaizen here and a little 5S there but otherwise the time and money spent on training and trying to get everyone to “do Lean” failed. Lean became another flavor.
Why do change initiatives become flavors instead of the flavor? Why don’t things change and then stick? Based upon experience from having initiatives done to me as an employee, experience from doing them as a consultant, and most importantly from listening to numerous others who did the pushing or were pushed here are:
8 Reasons Why Initiatives Become “Flavors” Instead Of Sticking:
1. Poorly defined vision, purpose, value/benefit to organization, departments and individuals of the new initiative
2. Ineffective communications (messaging and methods of messaging) of the above
3. Lack of being intentional about the intent of the initiative by leadership
4. Only planning for the “roll out”, i.e. Day 1, and avoiding/minimally thinking about Days 2-1000 and beyond
5. “I don’t have time to do my job and do Lean (fill-in-the blank initiative)!” Having people do both systems, i.e. current and new initiative, instead of replacing old systems with the new way to work.
6. Performance metrics not aligned with new vision, goals and expected responsibilities and results of the company, work teams and individuals, i.e. continuous improvement, operational efficiency, safety, new product/service development
7. Employee compensation doesn’t directly relate to performance goals
8. Forgetting to teach and give tools for leadership, managers and frontline employees know how to adapt to change and transition
So what’s the best culture? What is the flavor to have? If we were talking about ice cream I’d say that every company would want to strive to be vanilla. You might say that boring and old fashioned. But take a closer look and you’ll see that vanilla is the number flavor ice cream for the past century. Other funky flavors come and go but vanilla stays and stays and stays. As to what culture/system is best, well that would make for quite the debate but I’d say it would be one that envelopes exceeding customer expectations, always looking to improve and innovate, and valuing employee health, comfort and performance. Those principles, values, and mindset never go out of style and those are the ones that are the backbone of the “Do More With L.E.S.S. Approach”. If you and your organization could do and be that day after day, month after month, year after year you’d be very successful and have a system that produces the results you want.
The rest of the story
You may be wondering whatever happened with the company that started this article. Well, another flavor came just after I completed meetings with every department/cross functional team work group for that company—over 10 meetings. I had learned from them what crashed and burned in the past, why and what they wanted/needed for this Lean/Ergo transformation to take hold and become ‘the way they do things around here’. The last meetings were the week that a new Vice President (‘new sheriff in town’) came on board and the very next week the entire Lean/Ergo transformation plan that was 5 months in making with the next 3 years mapped out for sustainability was halted. The Lean/Ergo team manager that I worked with called to tell me the news. Needless to say, I was very disappointed but she also told me something that made me very happy but sad for the company was that all of the managers were excited about this Lean/Ergo initiative (although admittedly they still had a bit of skepticism) and happy as I was the first consultant who insisted on meeting them—listening and learning. This was so different than before when every other new initiative was, in their words, “pushed” on them. For that I am very proud, very glad of my culture change and transition approach. At the same time I knew that I just became “another flavor of the month”—not because of anything I and KED did, but because supposedly, another better flavor came along. The morale, good will and enthusiasm that was built up was deflated in an instant.
Lesson to Be Learned
Be intentional of your intent and stick with it. And when you’re ready for the true, long lasting vanilla flavor to become your business mindset and systems, call me. I’m ready when you are.