Dairyman advocates change to boost profit
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Dairy managers are confronted with change. As part of the Center for Dairy Excellence’s series on the “People Side of Dairying” Dr. Charlie Gardner presented a webinar on “Dealing with Change.”
Gardner first pointed out that successful farms constantly seek improvement of profit and sustainability of the farm. This requires change.
However, change is scary. People handle change differently, he said, and for some, change is very scary. That leads to resistance and to conflict.
Some conflict is needed and natural. But when destructive conflict arises, someone feels threatened and someone is fearful. Also, change is often the cause of conflict, and it is usually between family members. But, the change that is feared may not be the change being discussed.
Gardner illustrated an example of a family meeting where as a team, they agreed to try a new milking routine. At that time, the son was enthused while the dad was reluctant but agreed. Later, the son became angry when the dad was not following the new routine.
Gardner explained that possibly dad felt a loss of control that would undermine his future authority, and the son felt the need to assert himself. Both, Gardner said, may be caught up in old programs that neither recognized on a conscious level.
A strategic plan, Gardner noted, helps clarify why change is needed. Plus, it provides motivation to make the changes. With a strategic plan in place, the circle of control is increased despite the changes in the world. Gardner added, the players need to be proactive instead of reactive.
Gardner categorized three main factors for succeeding through change. Readiness relates to the organization and the key people that make changes. Capability reflects the skills, people, training and resources needed to implement change. Beliefs represents the overall attitude of the organization in relation to the change. He assigned readiness at 30 percent, capability at 40 percent and beliefs at 30 percent.
The ten reasons people avoid change include risk of change/risk of status quo, peer group that does it the old way, no role models for the new way, fear of failure, already overwhelmed, healthy skepticism, fear of hidden agendas, sense of identity threatened, loss of status or quality of life, and genuine belief the proposed change is a bad idea.
Gardner addressed the common question as to whether older people are more resistant to change by stating, “Research shows people of all ages are willing to change if their experience justifies the change. As we age, we accumulate more and more experience, and are less likely to experience something different that would lead us to change.”
He suggested that helping people explore and resolve ambivalence can support change. “Make them think it is their idea,” he says.
Dairy farmers fall into one of three categories, Gardner said. The excellence group wants the lowest cell count, highest production rate and lowest calf loss, while profit is incidental. On the other hand, those most interested in profit want to know the dollar benefits versus the costs. The farmers motivated by the way of life want the past life to continue. While the excellence farmers are the most fun, the way of life group is the most frustrating. Those motivated by profit are the most likely to work with change in the future.
Gardner noted six stages of change and suggested actions. For the pre-contemplating and contemplating stages, providing information, exploring consequences and reinforcing positive change decisions should help. In the preparation stage, setting goals and tipping the balance from ambivalence to action can work. For the action and maintenance stages, support, reassurance, monitoring response, and highlighting positive results can be productive. However, in a relapse stage, no logical explanation can sometimes happen. Excessive cost, stress, and simply discomfort may play a part. He suggested continuing support, and also noted that the change may not work. Re-examining the stages should identify the actions to take place.
In working with people to support beneficial changes, Gardner suggested evoking the factors of desire, ability, reason, need and commitment in evaluating the change. Affirming the change, and encouraging more discussion on the benefits can shed additional light. Reflection and positive feedback should facilitate that discussion. In addition, Gardner noted that knowledge alone is usually not enough to motivate change—emotions drive decisions. Also, resistance can be a cue that the change strategy should be reworked.
Gardner quoted researchers, “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have, and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
Finally, Gardner referred to Charles Darwin’s analysis about change, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”
After growing up in southern New Jersey and working on his uncle’s dairy farm, Gardner attended Cornell’s College of Agriculture before transferring to Veterinary College. With his DVM, MBA and MACC, as a management consultant, Gardner has improved animal nutrition and financial performance.
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