Monday, May 16, 2011

“But We Are Different”

These are four words that I hear at the beginning of every reliability improvement journey but I’m sure you could hear it at the beginning of any major change where comparisons are made to “best practices”.
Let me first explain why it is so common. It is all driven by the way people accept change also known as change dynamics. The Kubler-Ross model for grief gives us a great place to start understanding this common phrase. This grief model was the genesis of many of the organizational change models that exist today including the one that was shown in my July 9th blog on change dynamics. In Kubler-Ross the first stage is denial and the individual is denying that they can make the change. They are denying it could work for them. The list of reasons are long but for fun I have included a few that I have heard at the beginning of what became some very successful change project:
We are different because…
                                          we are smaller
                                          we are bigger
                                          we make smelter power (still not sure how this one is different)
                                          we are older than the others
                                          we are a new facility
                                          we are on an island
                                          we are in the city
We as change leaders, have to help the group discover that they are capable of operating differently and that it is normal to think that they are different and that the improvements or tools will not work for them. This is a great time to show them examples of others who have made the journey and just how different they weren’t.
From a reliability improvement project standpoint we show them the deliverables, tools and process and then we describe how they were used in two completely different locations. We convince them of the existence of our version of the “The Grand Unification Theory” which states that standard improvement tools are universal and they work no matter what you do or where you do it. For instance process mapping works in hospitals and aluminum smelters. It works on all business processes. Root Cause helps the Navy solve problems just as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Failure modes analysis works on equipment and it can also be used on change projects as a risk identification and mitigation tool.  In the end these and other basic tools work to shape a solution that is tailored for their culture and can help them make the transition to "best practices" levels of performance.
So when you hear the words “but we are different” you know that this is your opportunity to educate on the dynamics of change, what they can expect during each stage, and the “The Grand Unification Theory”
Be different and make a change

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