The U.S. dairy industry will see more change in the next five years than we have seen during the past 25 years. To see the rapid changes, just look at who produces the milk—and where.

In 1996, 120 counties produced just over 50 percent of the milk. In 2002, the top 78 counties produced more than 50 percent of the U.S. milk supply, and less than 9 percent of U.S. dairy producers produced more than 57 percent of the milk.

In this environment of change, producers must decide how to turn change into opportunity

Become a change leader
One of the biggest challenges is to recognize which changes can be turned into opportunities. To accomplish this, dairy producers must have the “right” attitude about change and take a leadership role. These change leaders must have the help of change navigators who implement the actions needed to take advantage of the change opportunity.

However, some people do not embrace change. Watch out for change sympathizers and change resistors. The first merely sits on the sideline telling you that he or she knew it would or wouldn’t work, depending on the outcome. The second will do his or her best to derail your efforts.

Many family dairies that I have worked with have found change sympathizers and change resistors in their midst. Once identified, you must deal with them. In the case of change resistors, there is no room for them on the dairy.

Address transition
Transition is the “secret” to being successful at addressing change. Transition is a three-step process.

  • Come to an “end.” Give up the things that don’t have a positive impact on your business.
  • Enter the “neutral zone.” Identify those things that you want to continue or implement to bring about the desired change.
  • Create a “new beginning.” This is where you adopt the agreed-upon actions to bring about the changes desired.

Be sure to include family and employees in all three stages of transition. And, be sure to practice the "five Ps":

  • Purpose. Why are we taking these actions?
  • Picture. What does success look like and what’s the desired outcome?
  • Plan.  How will we accomplish the desired outcome?
  • Participation. What’s each person’s role, responsibility?
  • Performance. Was each person committed and did they fulfill their responsibilities?

Usually, when a producer is not successful with a change opportunity, it’s because he skipped a step. If family members or employees aren’t involved in the discussion stage, the transition stages and the development of the five P’s, how can one think that success will be obtained?

Engaging family members and employees in the process will provide a much better response.  Producers who have followed this format and had success with a change opportunity report that the next change opportunity becomes much easier to define, implement and accomplish.

Putting it all together
Part of addressing change is having clearly defined goals. “Result goals” define where you want to be in the future. “Value goals” define the impact we want to have on our family, our employees, our suppliers and our community.

Your success with change starts by first identifying the change that is happening, or needed, and then committing to a step-by-step process for turning the change into an opportunity. Remember, having the right attitude toward change is a must.

Change will happen. Your success is up to you!

Monte Hemenover is a dairy industry consultant and president of Avenues For Change, St. Louis, Mo.