A Supervisor’s Role in Change Management | SOS Podcast

A Supervisor’s Role in Change Management | SOS Podcast

On average, organizational change efforts achieve desired objectives less than 30% of the time.  When frontline resources aren’t engaged or involved, the rate of success drops to less than 10%.  In this episode, we discuss the supervisor’s role in getting needed buy-in, support, and commitment from employees and other stakeholders that must ultimately adopt change initiatives to practice.

 

 

 

Transcript: 
                                           
Jack Welsh once said, "If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near."
                                                       
Today's topic involves transformation and change. Stay with us.
                                                       
Hello and thank you for joining us. My name is Joe White. I'm the host of Supervisor Skills Secrets of Success. The SOS podcast series is produced to create ongoing development opportunities for mid and frontline managers. With each episode, we take on topics of interest and share insights and perspectives for the benefit of our listeners. In today's SOS short episode, we're talking about change management. More specifically, we're talking about the frontline manager's role and leading change, a topic of utmost importance and one that's not given nearly enough attention. I hope to shed some light on the responsibilities supervisors have in making needed transitions. That said, let's jump right into our topic.
                                                       
Transformation and change is everywhere, and it impacts everyone. In a pre-COVID survey conducted by Prosci, 98% of companies indicated they had undertaken a major change initiative in the previous five years. In a post-COVID era, I would dare say there are a select few, if any, organizations that haven't dealt with change in one form or another. Transformation and change can take on many different identities. Typically, it involves an initiative to reposition a company for needed improvement, growth, or better alignment with recognized needs. Examples of change initiatives include, but certainly aren't limited to, integrating new information systems, improving operational safety performance, implementing time management systems, launching new products, and so forth.
                                                       
Regardless of what the change initiative entails, there are three critical factors that must be identified and accounted for in planning and performance:

  • Current state
  • Desired future state
  •  Steps that must be taken to transition from the former to the latter 


As for the process of change and the rate of success with making needed transitions, most organizations struggle, and only a select few achieve desired outcomes involving it. On average, 70% of all change initiatives fail to meet desired objectives. When supervisors and frontline personnel aren't involved, the rate of success drops to just 3%.
                                                       
Understanding roles and responsibilities associated with change is important to success. Integrating the process of transition into the organization is key and is the primary focus of our discussion today. Whereas senior executive leadership has the responsibility for setting direction, frontline supervisors must implement the direction they're given. This requires the ability to get needed buy-in, support, and commitment from the stakeholders that must ultimately adopt a practice that changes needed for future growth, improvement, or repositioning.
                                                       
To help clarify what that looks like and to outline the steps required for doing so, here are five recommendations for consideration.

 

1. Understand the business case.

The first step in building an alliance for needed change involves understanding the business case supporting it. Companies don't commit to change just for the practice of doing so. Chances are there's a very important need driving the initiative. Familiarize yourself with it and gain comfort speaking to it.

 

2. Develop your own why.

With an understanding of the case for change, it's important to internalize the need for it from your own perspective. This requires reflection and big-picture thinking. How will the initiative improve your ability to compete, produce, or better face market conditions? Equally as important, what are the consequences of doing nothing? Develop a set of talking points you feel connected to and are willing to argue for when conversations with employees begin.

 

3. Get buy-in.

A change imposed is a change opposed. Before the process of transformation can begin, you must get employees on board with a need for change. This is all about selling the why. In most instances, this important step is best achieved through face-to-face discussions and involves dialogue with employees and other stakeholders around why change is needed. At this stage of the journey, it's about getting agreement on the benefits of transitioning to a different place.

 

4. Gain alignment. 

Whereas buy-in is built around the need for change, alignment involves support for the course of direction and response to it. This step of the process is all about the what. At this stage of the journey, supervisors must share details involving the scope, impact, and timing of planned initiatives. Where possible, it's also important to provide to employees an opportunity for input and involvement with changes ultimately impacting them. Transparency and trust are important and should be a foremost objective throughout all communications.

 

5. Gather commitment.

The last major step in implementing change on the shop floor job site is built around commitments needed for the transition to occur. This is all about the how. Supervisors must convey expectations, define roles and responsibilities, and prepare employees for the changes they'll be required to make. In many instances, this requires the development of or modifications to existing standard operating procedures and validation on revised operating practices. Most importantly, it's about providing support throughout the transition and making sure the company and its employees succeed as a result of it.
                                                       
Supervisors are ideally situated to affect organizational change. The role frontline supervisors have is instrumental to the success and primarily involves the implementation of direction developed by senior management. Implementation is dependent upon strong communication skills and requires employee buy-in, support, and commitment. Through it all, supervisors must support employees and help them succeed in making needed transitions. When this process is followed, growth, improvement, and repositioning are possible. Without it, opposition, resistance, and frustration should be expected. At the end of the day, it comes down to a choice. It's my sincere hope you'll accept the responsibility of implementing change on the front line and do everything possible to lead the way.
                                                       
Thank you for joining us. I hope this information will help you grow and improve as a supervisor.  We look forward to sharing additional podcasts with you in the months ahead and welcome any suggestions you might have for topics you would like to see us cover. We're always looking for a guest and enjoy sharing insights and success stories from the field. If that's something you would like to be a part of, just let us know. The SOS podcast series is brought to you by AEU LEAD, a consultancy dedicated to the needs of mid and frontline managers. We value and appreciate any feedback. I would encourage you to review and rate your experience with this show wherever you access your podcast. For additional information about AEU Leading or to follow us on social media, please use the links in the show notes accompanying this episode. That's it for now. Stay safe and thanks for listening.

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About the Author

As Director of AEU LEAD, Joe White focuses on helping members transform operational goals into actionable plans through a structured change management process. Prior to joining AEU, Joe was a senior consultant for E.I. DuPont’s consulting division, DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS). He joined DSS in 2011 to develop the next generation of safety practices using extensive research in behavioral sciences he’s compiled over a period of nearly two decades. His efforts resulted in the development of The Risk Factor, which is now the flagship instructor-led offering for the consulting division. Combined, Joe has 26 years of operational safety experience, the majority of which was with DuPont. Joe has been published in Occupational Health & Safety Magazine for his prominent work in safety relative to behavioral and neurosciences and is an event speaker at many leading industry conferences including National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expos, American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), and National Maritime Safety Association (NMSA). Joe is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University and has a B.S., in Safety and Risk Administration.

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