Now, we’ve talked about how value can help manage the friction that comes when you are implementing a change programme in your supply chain. Of course, there are still other factors that can crop up that will ultimately lead to the failure of the programme and it is not entirely because everyone else did not see the value in it (although that is still part of the reason).
In this post, we’ll be covering other, perhaps more technical, causes behind a change programme’s decline and what can be done to bring it back into motion.
#1. Unclear communication among leadership.
How closely do you monitor the messages being sent to both internal and external leaders in your supply chain network? Sometimes an office-wide email that is more easily understood among employees at headquarters is not so clear when sent to, say, your overseas logistics partner.
There can be nuances (such as language, culture etc) but the most important thing to do is to make sure that each party firmly understands that a change programme is being pushed forward. Encourage people to ask for clarification and double check your means of sending a message (for example, it may be better to hold a conference call rather than just an email).
Some change programmes can be revived with but the simple act of making sure a message is communicated effectively across the board. Use all tools at your disposal to maximize your reach.
#2. Vague, undefined set of goals.
Given the complex nature of even small and medium-sized supply chains, you cannot afford to carelessly set aside the specifics of goal-setting. Often a change programme fails because the goals were deemed ‘unrealistic’ or ‘incomprehensive’ or even the latest in a long line of fads that will pass!
But in reality, it is because the goals were never truly defined and all parties involved had still plenty more questions about them that weren’t clearly answered. It can also be the reason why the transition to new processes becomes rushed and incomplete, which compounds the likelihood of failure.
Before trying again, review your goals and really refine all the details. Review the stakeholders and ensure that every group’s needs are defined and a measurable deliverable is put in place to address their needs consistent with the goals of the overall programme.
Re-calculate the estimates you set down and break your change strategy into smaller, bite-size chunks and time frames. No matter how urgent it can be, it is better to ‘measure twice and cut once,’ plan it out properly, get buy-in from all concerned, make sure your stakeholders understand the value and then proceed. It might take a little longer than initially thought, but isn’t it better to take a little more time and be successful that to hurry things up and fail again?
#3. Ensure that results can be replicated.
No change programme can truly call itself successful until its results from the first run are consistently repeated and cascaded throughout the network. Maintaining this consistency is arguably the hardest part for some organizations because the pioneers of the change programme represent a bar that is still too high for others, which might include new employees and partners.
Rolling out a successful programme will require you to go beyond the programme’s initial ‘success’ and start developing training modules and other materials to ensure the new processes are continuously implemented. You will need to look for particularly capable employees who have proven their worth, trained others and been able to step back and allow the newbies to make their own mistakes learning and correcting in the process. These critical employees will be placed in key positions to ensure that the next phase of the change is successful.
It might also pay to look into what enabled the first success. Some might grumble and think there was much luck involved, but it can be surprising when you discover ways that ‘luck’ (aka ‘preparation meets opportunity’) can be replicated.
#4. A Guiding coalition.
Even doing all of the above, if you have no guiding coalition, you will not be successful. This guiding coalition was first discussed back in 1988 by Professor John P. Kotter in his acclaimed business leadership guide Leading Change. Today, it is now a part of everyday change management language and practice. If your senior executives don’t want your SC change programme to be successful, then it won’t be.
So here’s where you need to create a guiding coalition including senior leaders and more junior ones along with a smattering of representatives from operations.The role of this group is to handle head on any issues emerging which could cause senior management to bail out or take an action that could condemn your programme.
It’s not easy being in your guiding coalition. However, this is the team that needs to be kept informed, advised, in the loop, as much as possible on the going-ons of your programme, your results to date, your issues, challenges obstacles and remedies, path forward and next steps.
Overall, there is no need for heavy disappointment when a programme stalls. It’s pretty common in supply chain actually.
You simply need to remove the subjectivity, evaluate and assess, what caused the earlier failure, what we learned, how these lessons will ensure we are successful in the future, and why it’s imperative that we try again with this new level of knowledge working for us.
Some of the greatest supply chain triumphs have been borne from supply chain failures so it’s possible. You just need the drive, the desire, the direction and the dedication to make it work, (And if this is not something you can do, then for the sake of driving progress in our supply chains, get out of the way and let someone who has these characteristics deliver!)