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Let It Go: How Open Are You to Change?

Shannon Wetzel

This is hard for me to admit, but I’ve been proven wrong a few times this week. I was not keeping an open mind, and I was making assumptions based on outdated information. I needed to change my mindset. 

Many of you probably have had meetings or weeks or months like this—where you are trying to be a change person but you are still basing your thinking on the business capabilities of three, five, 10 years ago. Or perhaps you work with someone who has. You can’t say you are open to change and then continue to make decisions—under the guise of growing—based on what has been true.

Whenever I write about companies that have gone through a significant change—new leadership, new mission, new policies, etc., four groups of people usually emerge: (1) those that completely buy-in all the way with the new direction; (2) those who don’t care—just tell them what to do and where to go; 
(3) those who are really against the change; and (4) those who want to go with the change but are unconsciously having trouble letting go of what they know.

One way to check your reaction or decision is to ask yourself if something has changed since your information was last known to be true. If your business is continuously improving—like most foundries—it’s likely. Do you have new equipment, updated software, different personnel? Have your vendors made changes to their logistics or customer-service programs? Is your business facing new competition? Have external factors changed in the community—new neighbors, new city council, another job provider competing for employees?

This issue shares three examples of foundries making significant changes in order to be more sustainable on page 24. To make those improvements, the associates kept a growth mindset, ready to explore what they didn’t know yet, to see how to get from point A to point B. 

The case study from John Deere Foundry, in particular, illustrates how difficult change can be yet how beneficial it is when the pursuit for change doesn’t end. The foundry needed a new avenue for sand disposal after the local quarry said it wouldn’t have the capacity to take much more sand in the future. The hope was to find a way to beneficially reuse the sand but John Deere Foundry ran into three major hurdles. Each hurdle could have been significant enough to halt the idea, but for one key challenge, the team reexamined their known variables and saw their existing software had an as-yet-unused solution for them. Ultimately, the foundry found a cost-neutral path for diverting its spent sand to a cement manufacturer, and eventually even began to realize significant annual cost savings. 

If you have worked for more than a few years in an industry or company, your knowledge is a significant asset, but so much more is left to learn. I often have to remind my young son before baseball practice, “You don’t know everything, remember to listen to your coach, and when the coach is in the middle of explaining something—don’t cut him off by saying ‘I know.’” 

Accepting you could be wrong about something is humbling, but growth happens after you say, “I don’t know, let’s find out how we can.”