WATERLOO — Having a vision is important when a business makes changes, but there are many other factors that determine whether an effort will succeed or fail.

Gary Higbee talked about the five critical components necessary in managing complex changes Wednesday during his keynote address at the Cedar Valley Manufacturing Conference. He is the founder of Johnston-based Higbee & Associates, a safety training and consulting firm.

“The vision isn’t just where we’re going, it’s where we’re at and why,” Higbee told those attending the event at Hawkeye Community College’s Van G. Miller Adult Learning Center. “You have to articulate a vision of where you want to be.”

Before founding his company, Higbee had a career in manufacturing, including decades at John Deere, and developed a matrix to help with organizational change. Along with vision, it includes skills, value, resources and an action plan. Change is possible, he suggested, if those factors are accounted for in the effort.

If managers and employees don’t understand the value of what they’re doing, the changes may come too gradually. “You’ll get it, but I’m not sure you’ll get it fast enough,” said Higbee.

“You have to have the resources available to execute the plan,” he added, or risk frustrating those trying to implement it. His matrix also suggests the result will be confusion without a vision or anxiety without the necessary skills. And the whole effort will be a false start without an action plan, said Higbee.

He noted that there is a lot of natural resistance to change, especially when it comes from the top leadership without buy-in from a team of “influencers” — those with a lot of seniority or highly respected in the company. “Change has to be driven by the team,” said Higbee. Success is driven by moving those who passively support or have no opinion of an initiative to much more active support, as well as gaining support of those who object to it.

Higbee also lead a workshop on employee engagement. Among the other sessions was a student and teacher panel from the advanced manufacturing program at the Waterloo Career Center. The conference’s theme was “Timing is Everything: A Revolution in Manufacturing Evolution.”

This was the conference’s ninth year after separate events that were held by Hawkeye and the Greater Cedar Valley Chamber and Alliance were combined. It was sponsored by Hawkeye, the Cedar Valley Manufacturers Network and the Iowa Advanced Manufacturing Sector Partnership. People from about nine companies in Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Waverly and Independence attended the event, according to Pam Wright, Hawkeye’s director of business and community outreach.

“The whole purpose is having best practices,” she said, as well as providing opportunities for networking.

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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