Although sometimes we get improvement without effort, most would agree that if you need to improve a something then a change is required. And while we sometimes may ‘know’ in advance that a certain change will produce a better result, we also know changes are not guaranteed to work as intended. Nonetheless, many changes have anticipated negative effects initially, but will create better results over time. For example, many managers are willing to accept that a new hire is less likely to perform perfectly than one that has years of experience. In this example, poor results from the change of a new hire are temporary and even expected. This failure is easy to understand – it takes training and practice to gain the knowledge of how to do certain procedures.
It gets more challenging, however, when you have an experienced team that must respond and improve but is currently performing well. External or uncontrollable factors can impact performance. The economy can change, key supplies can be cut off, situations that can impact employee attendance and new competitors entering the market can all come into play. So even in high performance situations, there are times when change may be required.
Many operators seek constant improvement. Striving to improve keeps you growing and the old adage comes to mind – ‘you are either growing or dying.’
Regardless of the motivation any change implies risk of failure. Great managers encourage failure but also manage the risks. This is where leaders earn their keep. Knowing how to encourage and motivate staff to take risks and grow is one of the keys to long term success. Many managers know from experience that allowing experiments can lead to big improvements but they can cause problems as well. In ‘Challenging Success Versus Failure’ by Carlin Flora, Carlin discusses the point that ‘There is no guarantee that failure will lead to success, but if approached head-on, with emotional openness and intellectual suppleness, it will lead to psychological growth.’ In short, while it can be emotionally brutal, facing a failure head-on can provide insights that lead to improvements. She explains, ‘Once we face failure, embracing it honestly and fully, its true gifts, which are subtle, nonflashy, and not easily quantifiable, can emerge.’
For example, you may choose the wrong product, but have great promotion, timing and placement. By failing on one item, you may learn that you can successfully garner attention of customers but you have to also provide what they need. Certainly sun screen in the summer near the beach may sell better than during cloudy winter months. You may want to offer stock-up promotions during those grey months to compensate for the expected lower sales so you can get more with each transaction you may have. The placement and timely positioning however, will work with the right product at the right time.
Of course, learning and experience applies to all aspects of running operations: hiring, motivating, training and just about everything that you manage. Thinking outside of the box or seeking change in the way things are done can sometime be the only way to solve a problem. Teaching your team to do so with risk reduction in mind is an art. Helping your team to have a safe way to take risks may allow them to grow and ultimately succeed in significant ways and solve your problems.