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Meeting the Challenge - Creating the Right Environment for Change and Growth

The global competitive challenges business faces often seem daunting, fast moving, ever changing, and difficult to define for solution implementation. Consultants will always come up with 'the best solution' for your challenges (maybe); but, will those solutions be short lived or off the mark?

The role of senior management, middle management, and all employees is to work together to create the right environment that embraces a philosophy of continuous improvement and innovation. Some improvement is accomplished through evolutionary step function.

"Continuous improvement beats postponed perfection".

Other improvements may require revolutionary process changes that bluntly break with the past, and speedily move change forward.

"Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead ".

The key ingredient to effect timely and innovative change is the people in the organization. Through appropriate selection of employees (aligned to the business goals/objectives) supported by focused training and development of all employees, the leader(s) can develop an organization that 'makes change and improvement' the organizations way of life.

Leadership’s Role

The environment that promotes change and growth starts with the leader. The vision of the leader must be clear, understandable, and available to all employees. The vision should be made visual and reinforced at every opportunity. One highly effective leader listed out his vision for the organization and started every staff meeting with….

*Our Vision: "To build the highest quality product at the lowest cost, that customers love."

*Everyone will have clear performance goals.

*We will have one plan.

*Everyone is included. Everyone is involved.

*Use of data for decisions will set us free.

*No secrets.

*Propose a plan. Find a way.

*Listen to each other/help each other.

*Lead… promote change and growth

*Have fun. Enjoy the journey and each other.

Employees' Role

Leadership, in alignment with the vision, has the responsibility to provide the tools, the training, the processes/procedure/methods, the motivation and support to employees to display those characteristics and abilities that will embrace change and improvement.

As each employee becomes engaged in the 'improvement' process (along with day/day regular duties), he/she must feel comfortable that change/improvement work will not endanger his/her employment. This is critical! Once this is established, the role of the employee becomes clear…


- look for new approaches and improvements to existing processes/procedures and methods. Recommend change.

- Participate on teams that are working on improvement projects


- look for best practices of others (customers/suppliers/industry leaders) that should be considered for adoption. Recommend best practices for consideration.

There is also a special role for new employees. These employees will be learning the new job, trying to adapt, and finding their way as they learn and grow. Even the new employee can and should become part of the change/improvement process.

It is understood that the new employee 'isn’t experienced in 'our way'. That may be detrimental, maybe not. Fresh eyes, fresh thoughts, bring a level of diversity to improvement work. Immediate engagement benefits everyone.

Fresh eyes, fresh thoughts, bring a level of diversity to improvement work.

Creating the right environment for improvement and growth, when effectively embedded in an organization, establishes a strong foundation for employment security, business growth, and sustained/ improved profitability.

Utilizing all stakeholders in the improvement process (Leaders/Employees/Customers/Suppliers) will deliver the optimum results.


Ret. Vice President and Chief Procurement Officer, The Boeing Co., and author.

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