Change Is Hard

That's one key reason companies have not taken advantage of RFID technology to nearly the extent possible.
Published: September 12, 2018

I was speaking with a change-management executive at a large multinational corporation not too long ago. “Change is hard,” I said. “A lot of people just don’t like to change.” He disagreed, noting that while change is hard for organizations, it is not as difficult for individuals. “If CEOs grasp that,” he added, “they can effect change successfully.”

It was an interesting distinction, one I had admittedly not considered. But it’s one of the things holding many companies back from fully exploiting the potential of radio frequency identification technologies.

If companies train workers on a new way of doing things, the change-management expert told me—such as using an RFID handheld reader to perform inventory counts in a fraction of the time previously required to complete the task—then employees will quickly embrace change. But such training doesn’t happen without the CEO and upper management embracing change and reinforcing it when change is resisted.

I think that’s right. Let’s consider two companies. One has an energetic supply chain manager who understands RFID and convinces his firm to adopt the technology to achieve unprecedented visibility and efficiencies. The CEO signs off on the project, but never fully embraces it. The system is installed and workers are trained, but there is no push from the top for the whole organization to get on board. As a result, if workers fail to use the technology properly, they are not retrained. If executives resistant to change don’t embrace the new technology, they are not reprimanded and eventually replaced if they don’t get on board as well. This kind of deployment will simply not succeed.

Contrast that with an organization in which the CEO understands how important RFID (or another technology) is and encourages the entire organization to adopt it. If managers are slow to get on board, they are educated about the value of the new system. If they still don’t get it, they are moved into other jobs or are let go. Workers who don’t use the system properly are retrained. Those who refuse to do things the new way are replaced.

The first organization is likely to get some benefits from an RFID system, but will never receive the true value of the system. The second organization, on the other hand, is far more likely to reap the rewards of changing the way it does business. Once executives know they are valued for embracing change, they are more likely to propose new and innovative ways to utilize the new technology, which adds even more value to the system.

If you are planning to implement an RFID system that will have an impact across your company, I encourage you to embrace change at the top.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.