Change Management for Warehouse and ASN Automation

You presented the ROI case to management and your proposal for warehouse and ASN automation was approved!  Now you need to implement your new solution and processes.  But that’s the easy part.  The hard part will be getting your existing staff to change the way they work and adapt to the new solution.  There are many painful stories of very good systems that were rejected by users who were allowed to stick with the comfortable old ways of doing things.  How do you avoid such an outcome and ensure enthusiastic adoption of new technology and procedures?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make the case – Don’t assume everyone “gets it” like you do.  You’ve spent hours analyzing the current state and you can visualize the new operational state and its benefits.  Your team needs to be brought to their own understanding and acceptance of where they are headed and you need to get them there, rationally and emotionally.
  • Expect resistance – it’s normal.  Find the persons and points of resistance and you will understand what’s difficult and unsettling to people about the new way of working.  You can only address what you understand.
  • Engage everyone who will be affected – up and down the line.  Let everyone know how things are going to change and what will be expected of them in transition and in the new steady state.
  • Create ownership – delegate project tasks to various members of the team.  Hold them accountable for planning and execution tasks.  They will embrace change if they have more control of the outcome.
  • Communicate regularly – let people know how the project is going, both the good news and the issues.  Participants who know what’s going on will be more committed and there won’t be surprises.
  • Tackle the changes in culture required for success – if the new way of working requires more technical expertise be sure to articulate that people need to embrace the technology.  Give them the training they need to develop new skills.  Let them know what’s expected – don’t be surprised if some people don’t want to step up.
  • Expect surprises – plan for the unexpected.  Build slack time into your plan to enable you to recover from complications and delays and still meet your goals.
  • Reach the individual – understand that everyone deals with change differently.  Be sure that you talk to key players and let them share their concerns and how they see change impacting them for the better.  You can only speak to their issues if you are aware of them.

Many managers find change management the most difficult part of their job.  It’s hard to reconcile their own enthusiasm for their future vision with staff reactions of resistance and attachment to the status quo.  Great managers find a way to bring their teams along, winning commitments step by step with open and honest communication.  True success is changing the people for the better along with the process.