Change from the Middle with Brandon Weil

For maintenance and reliability programs to be successful, often it will be championed by middle management. These are the people who interact and report on progress and challenges faced on the plant floor. Brandon Weil joins us on this episode to shed some light on how middle managers can contribute to productive change in an organization.

Key highlights from this episode are:

  • How often the drive from change comes from middle management
  • Strategies for influencing up and down the organization
  • Challenges and solutions to win and implement change

How often does the drive come from middle management?

Change from middle management is not uncommon. Because these are the people implementing the company mission, they will have concerns about areas of improvement. 

In many conferences, the attendance is biased towards middle management. These trends also reflect their desire to learn more and bring new ideas that improve the company s output. 

Challenges that face driving change from middle

Positions in the middle of the organization are somewhat in limbo. Whereas they have some authority over junior members and even purchasing, they might not have direct control of decisions made by senior management. This leaves them to only influence top management, which can often be a long-winded affair. 

Also, given their nature of working with the front-line plant personnel, they have limited time to sit and strategize around their propositions. This work regime, therefore, adds a layer of complexity to their influence.

A time solution you can implement

To go about this, intentionally block small chunks of time from your schedule to plan your propositions. Make sure you take a systems approach that considers the various mindsets and influence levels across the organization. 

How to influence up the organization

The approach towards senior management and executives is different from those below middle management. Rather than leveraging on the given authority, middle managers will often use influence to drive change. 

The approach here would be to understand the current mindset of the management, and introducing new knowledge in a way that is understandable to them. Using white papers, conference proceedings or webinars, middle managers can package presentations to pitch their ideas. 

A strategic pitch would involve discussions with immediate seniors so as to get early feedback. The pitch would also be focussed on the pain points, and demonstrate how the management is set to benefit. Finally, the pitch will go beyond the value proposition to show the steps that can be taken in getting started. 

How to influence down the organization

Just like influencing the top management, an influence down the organization is also a buy-in process. Typically for any new change, the recipients fall in a bell curve with early adopters and resistors being the minority, and the biggest potential being those who want to be educated and empowered first. 

To approach these groups would entail communication as the main driver. Instead of seeming to be bringing another flavor of the month :

  • Understand and recognize the current state of operations with front-line teams
  • Have closed-off meetings with smaller teams to listen to their needs
  • Identify the informal leaders and seek buy-in from them
  • Demonstrate what s in it for the implementers
  • Formulate an action plan with the teams
  • Take a project a project approach with the implementation
  • Maintain patience as different people will come in at different speeds

Having a project approach means that you will set out the goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to be tracked. 

How important is project planning?

With a project plan, it becomes easier to point everyone to the same reference benchmark. Both senior and junior managers can see the progress and update it when necessary. 

To keep the document alive,  you will need not only to have buy-in across the organization, but you also need to involve others in updating and reporting on progress. 

Other considerations the middle management can put in

As the change agent, you need to have empathy for the various stakeholders up and down the organization. Ensure you:

  1. Communicate progress as much as possible
  2. Find room to celebrate the small wins. This helps keep the morale
  3. Demonstrate what s in it for the contributors
  4. Keep track of KPIs from the start. Leave plenty of room to update and modify KPIs.
  5. (If possible) Take teams for field trips to see successful implementations in action

On another note, your interpersonal skills will be the catalyst for change. The following pointers will make the biggest difference: 

  • Patience. Change takes time to manifest in people
  • Communication. Improve communication skills on a continuous basis
  • Feedback. Always listen and find ways to improve not just the program, but yourself

Key takeaway

Communication is key. Other technical skills are nice to have, but giving people a chance to contribute also helps them buy into the implementation


Eruditio Links:

Brandon Weil Links:

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