We live in an ever-changing world.  Change is the only thing we can count on anymore, yet we all process change differently. You have seen it in your employees, where some embrace change and look for ways to be ahead of the curve, while others are more cautious or even fearful.  

Here are three possible responses:

change -> opportunity -> > creative response -> VISION

change -> compliance -> > play safe -> MAINTENANCE

change -> threat -> -> reaction -> RESISTANCE

When we become aware of a change, we evaluate it, process it, respond to it, and express a behavior as an outcome. Knowing how we respond to change provides further perspective, so we can see the effect not only on ourselves but others around us.

Change for the sake of change is not a good business practice. Change must be driven by a specific goal for your business (i.e. expansion, new milking parlor).

And, change needs to be handled properly.

Let’s evaluate the following example. A dairy decided to hire a bilingual, full-time veterinarian. Only three people knew ahead of time that the change would be coming — the owner, the general manager and the assistant manager. But at least five other people would be impacted. Three months into it, the dairy was caught up in a negative emotional undercurrent. The people assigned to work with the new veterinarian expressed discontent and apathy stemming from a confusing set of responsibilities. 

What caused this initiative to fail? Based on my experience, it boiled down to three factors:

  • Lack of clarity at the management level (which filters down the organization) as to what the change initiative is all about. Intended outcomes and individual responsibilities are not well defined.
  • Little or no communication with employees as to the change being implemented (what, why, how).
  • The structure for implementation is either inconsistent or lacking and does not provide adequate follow-up with employees.

People need information through times of change. The more information, the less likely the chances for ambiguity.

Managing change is one of the biggest challenges facing dairies today.  Too often, we want to make change happen overnight through quick fixes and silver-bullet approaches. Change should be managed in transitions to help people see the change, evaluate it and embrace it. This will create long-lasting changes that improve the bottom-line.

As your operation evolves and situations call for change, consider the impact it will have on your people. Look for ways to get those people involved. Make change happen through your people. 

Jorge Estrada is president of Leadership Coaching Intl. in Puyallup, Wash.

Key practical considerations

Follow these steps while making change happen through people on your dairy.

  • Model the change. Be the leader that people want to see embracing the change (new behaviors, new practices).
  • Communicate the change. Give people the vision of upcoming change, and how it affects their areas and the dairy as a whole.
  • Involve everyone in the change. Consider cross-communication needed, depending on the areas involved and affected by the change initiative.
  • Help break from the past. Challenge everyone to let go of old practices.
  • Create a supportive learning environment. Provide training and the opportunity for everyone to learn new practices.