Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Psychology of Change is Often the Trickiest Part of Process Improvement

Comments on, The Time I Volunteered at a Distillery and Couldn’t Help Doing Kaizen

It’s “Kaizen” because it made my work easier. It improved quality and consistency. I did it because I WANTED to. This is really repetitive work and not particularly skilled work. But I discovered there was a “knack” to it. Doing repetitive work allowed me to exercise my brain to do problem solving and come up with a better way.

So Then What?

I’m an individual worker, but there are others doing the same work.

An interesting thing happened... I tried sharing my discovery with other volunteers.

“Hey, can I show you something I learned about doing this?”

The general response was, “Nah, I’m doing fine… thanks, though.”

I have had a similar experience when volunteering. In my case it was primarily compiling a packet of information - very repetitive. It didn't take me long to figure out ways to improve the process. Getting people to accept changes to the process is tricky when people are unfamiliar with each other (I have found). I was tried to get my group to change but they didn't want to, but another group did so I showed them (they had overheard bits of it). At the end I think 4 of 6 groups switched (one of those that didn't was my original group).

Even once it was obvious the new way was much quicker (over twice as quick) the group that decided "no" to switching stuck with their original decision. My guess is this relates to psychology and I bet experiments would show a group that decided "no" would be among the most stubborn at sticking with the old method because they would have to accept they were reversing their original decision.

I knew it could be tricky to get people to change and I tried to present the case for change in a way that had a good chance to success originally. Even so it failed. The psychology of such efforts is usually much trickier than the process improvement. This point is actually one of the reasons creating a continual improvement culture that has respect for people at the core. When you create such a culture the psychology of change piece becomes much much easier which and as you continually improve processes the most obvious process improvements are made. If you don't create the right culture continuing the continual improvement process gets more and more difficult but if you do create the right culture it gets easier.

Related: Businesses Need to Capture Potential Information and Use the Creativity of Employees - The Importance of a Work Culture That Values and Supports Critical Thinking - Change Management: Create a Culture Seeking Continual Improvement or Use Band-Aids? - Communicating Change

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