Ops 4.0—The Human Factor: Engaging your people

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, for companies embarking on an Ops 4.0 transformation, the capabilities of their people are likely to be the crucial limitation. And you’ve told us that, while the challenge is clear, most organizations are at the earliest stages of their efforts to address critical capability gaps.

Moreover, your responses indicate that the types of capability building that organizations now provide to Operations personnel may not be sufficient. Barely half of survey respondents said that their organization offers learning materials that are specific to their organization. Only a minority reported that their organization provides experiential-learning programs, such as job shadowing or boot camps, which for adult learners are more effective than classroom instruction alone.

It seems apt, therefore, to use this blog to discuss how best to start a capability-building program.

Ops 4.0 will have significant implications for people’s working lives. They’ll have to get used to new technologies, new processes, and new relationships with machines. Roles will change significantly too. Some Ops 4.0 jobs will be entirely new, others will merge or expand in scope. A few current roles may disappear altogether.

For employees, the prospect of significant change is always frightening. And if your people are fearful of Ops 4.0, they aren’t going to embrace the opportunities it offers. Lack of engagement can stop the most carefully planned transformation effort in its tracks, so it’s too important to leave it to chance.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to help your people understand the potential of Ops 4.0, and that effort can begin well before they dive into boot camps, pilot projects, or in-depth technical training. Early, effective communication gives staff the chance to understand and reflect on the implications and opportunities of new digital approaches. It shows them the value of new, technology-enabled products, processes and business models, explaining how your organization’s transformation plans fit into the wider context of economic, social and technological change. And it lets them see how they will be able to contribute to, and benefit from, the coming changes.

Creating engagement in this way requires a structured communication effort. The right combination of activities and resources will vary by organization and by role, but most efforts will include at least these three elements

  • Create and communicate a compelling change story. A good change story includes a vision (where do we need to go and why?), a clear starting point (where we are now?), and a path forward (how do we plan to get there?). In addition, it should demonstrate the value of the transformation, both for the organization and for individual employees (what does it mean for me?).
  • Don’t just tell, show. Toyota’s chief engineer, Taiichi Ohno, emphasized the importance of genchi genbutsu (“go and see”) in operations. His priorities are equally valid in the world of Ops 4.0. Nothing beats first-hand experience of a problem, challenge, or innovative approach. In the pre-transformation phase, staff can get a real understanding of the possibilities and requirements of digitally-enabled operations by learning from companies that are further along the journey.
    During a go-and-see visit to a bank, for example, managers will see how the organization is scaling up its transformation, with several digital labs and projects to digitize specific customer journeys. They can see how the company is introducing agile ways of working, integrating new technologies with existing infrastructure, automating core processes, and building on legacy back-end IT systems. Most importantly, they can hear the organization’s transformation story from core team members and discuss the challenges they have faced.
  • Invite staff to take an active role in their own development. People are happiest with change they understand. And if they know change is coming, staff are usually keen to learn as much as they can about it. Take advantage of that appetite by making it easy for people to access information and resources on new technologies and approaches. Publish blogs on your intranet; highlight public-domain articles on relevant topics. Encourage people to visit conferences on agile development, automation and robotics, or the Internet of Things.

Get these early elements right, and you will be laying a robust foundation for the transformation to come: overcoming skepticism, addressing people’s concerns, and creating excitement about the personal and professional opportunities that Ops 4.0 creates.

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