Respect the minds of people by going to where the action is – a fundamental rule of change management

All through my professional life, I have been connected to improving something on the shop floor — be it a machine, process or a quality problem.

And I have seen that it is very difficult to improve anything on the shop floor by just passing down verbal instructions or by commanding someone to do something or by conducting a training program in a classroom or handing over a well-documented piece of paper complete with all instructions and a to-do list.

In most cases, people don’t get the idea. As a result, workers on the shop floor soon lose interest in the improvement process and don’t like engineers and managers who just pass down orders sitting at their desks. Respect for engineers and engineering is soon lost. And improvements don’t take place. The company suffers as a result.

Respect for engineers and engineering comes from respecting the minds of workers and supervisors.

This is best done by engineers going down to the area of the shop floor where the improvement is to be made and then explain what they want the workers and supervisors to do and what exactly is to be done. It can be explained verbally by physically touching the parts or equipment where the improvements are to be made or through rough sketches quickly drawn on scraps of paper to instantly clarify the points.

This is an important point in making a change, which is often forgotten by engineers. I call this rule — ‘Respect the minds of people by going to where the action is.”

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