What Managers Should Understand About Change on the Floor

Change on the floor © Erik Back 2005

Lately I have been thinking about how change agents implement changes in companies. I have an academic background in strategy and management; I have studied a lot of theories and methods about change and it is all very exciting.

Most change agents are very good a making managers understand how important and how good change would be for their companies. The agents and managers meet to make a strategy to implement change. Until now everything is good. Both agent and manager speak the same language.

People on the floor don’t care

I have worked on the floor among non-academics and it has been a great experience. I have had jobs like warehouse operative and sales assistant; my family are all workmen. What I have experienced is that they put pride in their work and their craft; but they hate change and they especially dislike when academic managers tell them how to do their work.

Management has to find a way to gain trust and then initiate change in a non-academic language. The manager needs to understand that people on the floor do not care about LEAN, kaizen and positive thinking. They care about doing their jobs.

“Managers are just lazy academics sitting on their chairs all day drinking coffee!” I have heard this sentence many variations countless of times. Most people at the floor will agree with the statement and help maintaining that image.

If you want to initiate change you have to change yourself first. Next you have to show appreciation and communicate what you want. If people are pleased with you appreciation they will give you what you ask for.

The Habit of Positive Thinking

Glass Mirror © by Lel4nd

Make positive thinking a habit. I think that having a positive attitude is important to lead a happy and successful life. Often I meet people that have a profound negative attitude toward everything. They all have the same problems: They are unhappy and unsuccessful. People that are always negative also seem to be sicker than people that have a positive attitude.

On the other hand if you talk to very happy and successful people you will soon realise that they are incapable of seeing anything negative. Every time you present a problem to a profound positive person he will immediately turn the problem into an opportunity and he will most likely be very excited about it.

There is evidence that a positive attitude will strengthen your immune function. If you are into scientific reading you can look up “Positive Affect and Immune Function” by Anna L. Marsland, Sarah Pressman and Sheldon Cohen.

How to choose a positive attitude

I don’t see any reason to choose a negative attitude. Most people want to be both happy and successful – I know I do. Basically it is all about how you perceive the world; it is about how you look at the world and translate the information you get.

Imagine that you have to pairs of glasses in front of you. One of them is carrying a label saying “Negative” and the other one has a label saying “Positive”. If you put on the glasses with the “negative” label you will only be able to see the negative things in the world. If you put on the glasses with the “positive” label you will only be able to see positive things in the world.

It is your choice which pair of glasses you put on! If you put on the positive pair of glasses you will be able to see all the positive things and you can pick and choose among them, as you like. If you choose to join positive activities and to be with positive people you can construct your own success.

There are many ways you can see the world and the reality. It all depends on the glasses you put on. I chose the positive glasses and this worldview is supported by the theory of social constructions by Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. You can read about their work on Wikipedia.

Think about your language; do you use negative words or phrasings? Try to rephrase what you want to say and minimise your use of negative loaded words. Seek positive events and positive people.