Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization

Posted on December 8, 2010  Comments (13)

Continuation of How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted

Target something that actually provides a good story. It often helps if there have been failures in attempts to solve a problem in the past. That makes the new success more impressive. Something that is relate-able to the audience you are trying to win over is also useful. Even if senior management cares about an issue, if the solution is so technical they are completely baffled, they will be happy with a solution but they won’t be as excited about expanding the strategy you are trying to encourage when they can understand the process that lead to a solution.

Favor efforts that will help you build organizational capacity to do more of what you want going forward (adopt lean thinking, use design of experiments…). Some of this is about building expertise in the organization. It is also about building your circle of influence. Growing your ability to influence how the organization grows will help you encourage the improvements you believe in.

It is very helpful to show connections between individual efforts. Often you build using various tools: in several instances using PDSA cycle to guide improvement, in others mistake-proofing to cement improvement, in another adopting one piece flow to make problems visible and encourage improvement, in another assuring the respect for people to build the right culture for improvement, and in another using an understanding of variation to make evidence based decision rather than jumping to faulty conclusions with limited information. These management tools, concepts, methods and ideas any many more, are used together for a reason. They support each other. So it is very helpful if you tie them together. As you start adding new tools, ideas and concepts to the management system show how they support each other. Individual tools can help. But the gains they offer are minor compared to the gains possible with a systemic change of management.

Another good strategy is picking the right people to involve in an effort. If you are trying to gain support, find those people in the organization that set the tone that others follow (which are not merely those with organizational power due to their job title). It is nice if you can find such people that have generally positive outlooks and like new challenges (this is often the case). If the culture is very toxic you may well have some who are likely to try and discourage hope in others (often because they have been disappointed so many times themselves they have finally decided not to be disappointed again). Often (though not always) you can win these people over.

If potentially troublemakers are a significant issue, one strategy is to take some time first just focusing on them. What don’t they like. Fix it. Much of the time they are annoyed with idiotic pointy haired boss behavior. That should be fixed anyway. So if it will win over a few key people go ahead and do it. While doing so, use some of the tools to make the improvements. Get people to see that the organization is serious. We will fix the things you care about and we have real strategies and processes to do so. Don’t believe our promises of some distant improvements. Let us show you improvements. Then we can go forward together building on our initial success.

Another tip: with adopting tools it is good to encourage the use of several concepts and tools (so you don’t try to use a “hammer” to fix every problem). But you probably are better off really focusing on using a few tools and concepts (for example: mistake proofing, visual management, kanban, PDSA) over and over and over again. Becoming expert (as people and an organization) at using a few is normally far better than continuing to try to adopt too many new ideas and not really doing any of them particularly well.

Related: Good Process Improvement PracticesBuilding on Successful ImprovementLearn Lean by Doing Lean

13 Responses to “Building Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your Organization”

  1. Curious Cat Management Blog » How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept Adopted
    December 8th, 2010 @ 9:11 am

    Another key is to, target what people actually care about. Solving some problem no-one cares about (even if it is good) doesn’t help much in gaining support…

  2. Robert Drescher
    December 9th, 2010 @ 4:23 pm


    In this piece you make another critical point when any change will face a powerful hostile force in an organization you first need to win over some of the leaders of the hostile force. Many change efforts in unionized facilities fail because they forget to bring the union on board early. Even changes that result in benefits to the workers can be killed by failing to deal with them head on early. Yet if handled properly these union leaders can become your best partner. I have seen at least one CEO, who dealt with a powerful militant union leader, and during his time as CEO not once did the union stand in his way. His tool was talking with them, he showed that he cared about them and his workers, respect them for their role, proved that if they work together everyone ended up winning. For a Plant that handle 30 ton rolls of steel and painted them, in the days before Womack and Jones ever wrote a book that plant was a shining example of 5S, you could eat from the floor it was kept that clean. I say him walk through the plant and spot an oil drop from a lift truck on the floor. he got rags and cleaners and clean it up himself, because his people were busy during a roll change. No safety risk was allowed by him period, and everyone respected him for it.

    People will end up following a leader if he can connect with them personally, if you want change to happen you first need to get connected with the people involved. Get their emotions on your side and keep them there, it takes time and effort, but in the end it is what will deliver results.

    Thanks for the great ideas John.

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  4. Kevin
    October 12th, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    Nice Post. I always try to give things a second chance. If i fail the one day, i will never do this mistake again. So there is always a good thing in a failure. You will always be more efficient if you can manage to build a way around a mistake.

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