The May/June issue of APICS Magazine features an article by Gary Smith, a VP with New York City Transit with over 35 years of supply chain, process improvement consulting and team-management experience. Smith’s insights about what makes a successful project – and the challenges that brings – are worth reprising here today.
First, to quote him directly from his APICS Magazine article (“Change from All Sides”):
“A successful project implementation demands that the people who are affected by it understand the benefits, are full owners, and participate from the beginning. When the benefits of a project are clearly seen by all in terms of how these advantages align with the organization’s vision, mission and purpose, then acceptance, buy-in and ownership are possible.”
He goes on however to note the most important consideration, too often missed in projects:
“When a company implements projects both large and small, it is introducing change. The nature of global competition requires businesses to adapt and transform in order for it to remain relevant… There are two types of change – mechanistic and organic.”
Smith describes how the two types of change differ. Mechanistic change is often revolutionary, coming in the form of new ideas from management or consultants. He gives the example of a new receiving process which is put in place, with employees trained – but in some cases receiving department staff were not involved and, even though all agreed a past system was outdated, the ideas they had for improvement were seemingly ignored. Or worse still, they were done without giving proper credit. When the consultant leaves, it’s no surprised if the new process is abandoned quickly.
Then there is the organic form of change, which is more evolutionary in nature. It’s a change that becomes a part of an organization’s culture. It tends to permeate from the bottom up. Often, it’s taught by experienced employees to new hires.
And therein, emphasizes Smith, lies the secret: “In order for change to become permanent, it must successfully transition from mechanistic to organic. That is quite literally the only way to create sustainable change within an organization.”
How does this happen? The key, in a word notes Smith, is ownership. People have an innate desire to succeed. They desire a stake in providing solution to problems. Intrinsic motivation – the internal gratification derived from solving a problem – can be more satisfying and lead to better results than any external reward. And, those intrinsic motivators can provide lasting change. When intrinsic change is recognized by leaders who inspire action through change, people feel like part of the process. It takes time and patience, but it is possible, and the results can be, as Smith puts it, “staggeringly successful.”
True ownership, then, is the “surest way to build a successful project, avoid failure, and create lasting organizational change.”