The new information technology platform was not perfect, but it was a huge leap forward in comparison to the old, now outdated and cumbersome system that they had before. Data, and specifically artificial intelligence about buying trends, had been impossible to retrieve previously – the new and more innovative digital foundation would now finally empower the organisation, or so they thought. The leadership trusted that information gathered would influence strategy and planning in a positive fashion, but they didn’t take into account the huge resistance to all the changes amongst employees. Some employees felt threatened that their jobs would be replaced by technology. Some of the older employees felt that their competence would be questioned if they could not manage the new technological requirements. Others complained that there was now more work to do and that they were not going to be rewarded for this extra effort. The project was at risk.
Many initiatives, like the one described above, fail because insufficient focus, energy and resources are invested in the human factor. Yes, technical training is provided for users on the new system, but the organisation’s culture is not in a place of readiness for the introduction of new or more refined processes. “Re-engineering” behaviours to enable the technical solution, accompanied by systems and processes to create compliance, is not something to “tack on” as an afterthought to get buy-in from the workforce. As Gaurav Bhatnagar and Heather Gilmartin Adams (Co-Creation Partners Inc.) note: “This approach leaves managers and operational excellence professionals struggling with three key challenges:
- Generating sufficient momentum and enthusiasm to begin necessary improvement projects
- Overcoming the inevitable resistance to change
- Sustaining change after the initial work is done”
The “human factor” is all about culture – the way we behave around here. The inter-personal and intra-personal dynamics of individuals and teams within the organisation encompass not only visible behaviours, but also the invisible and complex world of mind-sets, thoughts, beliefs, feelings and assumptions that drive behaviours. These aspects of the human factor are profoundly difficult to alter, but when effectively transformed, they can lead to multipliers in performance previously unimagined.
Employee engagement and effective communication (particularly dialogue) are key ingredients in transforming the culture to a place of readiness. From the beginning, consultation with all in the organisation not only stimulates ideas, creativity and involvement from staff, but has the potential of sparking early adoption of the new processes to come.
The development of a robust culture is a daily activity, not an event. Time and resources should be allocated to link the company’s values to employee behaviour, customer service, mission and vision, strategy and systems and processes. Operational excellence follows investment in the human factor.