Change Your People – or – Change Your People

Last week I attended a wonderful event here in Milwaukee that the WMEP ( produced called “Manufacturing Matters”.  This event was loaded with networking opportunities, information sharing, classes on different subjects, and some really inspiring stories.  The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, helped open the conference; and the keynote address was delivered by Dan Ariens from the Ariens Company.  Ariens builds and markets snow-blowers under their name and lawn tractors under the brand name Gravely.  (

I really enjoyed Dan’s direct and unflinching look at his company’s journey with Lean, and their struggles to constantly get better.  One of his statements about initiating change was the profound and slightly cryptic “Change Your People or Change Your People”.  My entire job is about change and continuous improvement, so you can see how those words might have struck a chord with me.  I’ve been mulling over that phrase since then.

I’m sure you can interpret that phrase however you’d like, but for me what cracks it like a fastball off a wooden bat is the fundamental motivational challenge for leadership.  “Change Your People” – change their attitudes and expectations for what success looks like.  Change their ability to “own” their work and instill a sense of craftsmanship, and desire to constantly seek improvement opportunities.

The back half of “Change Your People” is about not settling for that person that’s getting in the way of progress.  Another great line Dan shared was about a “CAVEman” – Critical About Virtually Everything – and the need to drive these people out of your organization.  Do you have someone in your company like this?   They constantly complain about everything, but never offer to take charge and lead?  Where are their ideas?

Continuous improvement is always tough sledding.  Identifying challenges is pretty easy.  Working on the problem usually isn’t bad either.  It’s the follow through, and the discipline to keep the change going months down the road that is always the hardest.  When it comes down to it, it isn’t the policies and procedures that score the home runs, it’s the people that you have working for you that do so.  Their attitude, skill, talent and creativity are what you need on your team to be successful.

Change Your People – or – Change Your People.


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