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How to Engage the Frontline in a Digital Transformation

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!”

– Peter Senge

A few years ago my team was implementing a shop floor quality system. One of my husband’s colleagues was complaining about the IT system that my team was deploying. He called me and I went down to the shop floor during my lunch break. In the conversation with the employee, I learned how frustrating it was to add cycle time to their data input and he didn’t understand the purpose. That single conversation led me to adapt the deployment strategy.

I explained that the goal was to connect the quality process from supplier to customer and drive a systematic improvement to quality. I also shared the link to collect feedback. The implementation went smoother, and the inspector provided feedback. This feedback was included in the future design, making the system better for everyone. When the application was expanded into other areas of the factory, I had several conversations with every employee on every shift.

Throughout the following years, the end users adoption and support has become a top priority. Here are 5 tips that I’ve adopted into my process:

5 Tips for Frontline Team Buy-In

  1. Know the problem

  2. Prioritize a user friendly interface

  3. Explain the why to everyone

  4. Create a feedback loop

  5. Celebrate wins as a team

  1. Know the problem. Understanding the problem that the technology solves is important. With the ever changing technology and continued focus on Industry 4.0, it is easy to get sucked into the popular thing to do. Connecting sensors to machines alone does not add value. However using those sensors to prevent unplanned downtime is both value add and it is measurable, as an example.

  2. Prioritize a user friendly interface. Training is a cost to a business. If the user interface is easy to learn, the cost to train the employees decreases considerably. We don’t take hours of training to learn Facebook and shop floor applications should be the same.

  3. Explain the why to everyone. Take the time to have a conversation on the why with every employee. In my experience, these conversations help team members understand the value, ask questions and connect with the project.

  4. Create a feedback loop. Collect feedback from everyone and let them participate directly in the journey. Don’t forget to follow up, whether the idea is incorporated or not. Communicate ideas that have been accepted broadly.

  5. Celebrate wins as a team. Select a target, such as # of records, # of clicks, or length of time and connect it to a reward. Even a simple pizza party can help continue motivating people through the change.

In summary, the frontline team members are an important consideration in a digital transformation journey. Providing a purpose and easy to use solutions will allow the successful implementation of your digital transformation strategies, and achieve the estimated ROI.

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