Championing Change in Manufacturing


A monthly leadership blog focused on transformational business leadership, developmental communication, and championing change, courtesy of and authored by Phil Henderson.

Doing things differently in the workplace, especially in a manufacturing setting, can be challenging – even more so when that way differs so greatly from the way we’ve always done things. We’re comfortable with our way, simply because it’s our way… and who doesn’t like feeling comfortable? Doing things differently can be hard; change can be difficult for everyone.

I’ve found that people typically fall into one of four categories when it comes to dealing with change:

  • Resisting Change: They show no interest in efforts to change, are not involved, take no risks or responsibility, and have no accountability.
  • Supporting Change: They show some interest, but still have little involvement. They take a “wait and see” type of mentality; they take a little risk, but have little-to-no responsibilities or accountability.
  • Participating In Change: They show a genuine interest and belief in the need for change. They display a willingness to learn, follow directions, and mostly say all of the right things. They take some risks, responsibility, and show some accountability.
  • Leading Change: There is a deep interest and belief in the need for change. They embody change: they create it, they infuse it in their vocabulary, they interact with others in a new, changed way. They willingly promote change to others, in all levels of the organization. They seek to better understand and influence others. They assume risks, responsibility, and accountability. They are championing change.

Culture: The collective accepted and expected actions, activities, and behaviors of a team or organization: how they operate and get things done.

How leaders engage with one another, and with their team members, has been a significant aspect of leadership development and championing change culturally at Trenton Forging Company this year – practicing “relational leadership” and creating a culture of trust and inclusion: where how things are said and how things get done are as important as what gets done. Culture is the how, not the what. However, measuring the effectiveness of a new way of doing things is challenging!

It has been my experience that improvements in a company’s culture change is determined, as opposed to measured; that determination is made by the company’s leadership team. Through conversation, leaders discuss appropriate (and previously appropriate) behavior, bringing objectivity to how leaders should operate – thereby, defining what aspirational, role-model leader behavior looks like.

Leadership: The ability to create an air of confidence in people, or groups of people, which inspires them to realize their full potential or achieve a common goal.

Manufacturing leaders and managers must ask themselves: Am I resisting, supporting, participating or leading the change effort? Ask others opinion within the organization who will be honest with you, and who you highly respect.

Leaders and managers who lead and champion change efforts meet the definition of leadership. Supporting, or even just participating, simply isn’t enough.

Be a leader of change.

taking action; organization; leadership; Phil HendersonPhil Henderson is a former Regional VP of Manufacturing Operations at Harland Clarke Holdings. He is as a Designer of Self-Directed, Team-Based Work Systems in manufacturing environments over the course of 26 years. He served 8 years as an Air Traffic Controller and Officer in the US Army, and with distinction as a Captain in the First Gulf War. He currently provides leadership development and self-directed work team design assistance to Trenton Forging. For inquiries, Phil may be reached at (210) 316-3212 or at