Supply Chain turnaround is one of the most exciting, challenging, developmental and rewarding tasks that a leader and their team can ever undertake!
With some effort, the results and rewards can generate transformational change in organisations and launch extraordinary trajectories in careers!
And yet, plenty of organisations who need this type of very significant turnaround refuse to acknowledge their current position, which is the fundamental starting point. They continue to believe it’s impossible for them, and cite reasons such as:
- Financial hurdles
- Supply chain level of maturity (too old, too young etc)
- Recent expenditures(which have only generated little value)
The really tough question though is: How are they still in business?
You may be struggling to stay afloat but you are staying afloat nonetheless. That means change (even the smallest and seemingly insignificant change) in the supply chain is still technically possible. You think concepts and processes like TQC developed overnight? Their conception is essentially a history of incremental changes! And no matter how complex, there are still plenty of simple, straightforward tactics you can deploy to make meaningful improvements to your supply chain network.
- Focus on your team
You need to link your organizational values to your supply chain, and in particular generating supply chain improvements.
Can individuals in your team really live your organisations values and still have an underperforming supply chain?
If they can, you need to add some operating guidelines to your supply chain to ensure that when these are implemented, your supply chain is continuously improving.
If they cannot live the values without improving the supply chain then it’s easy to frame this to your team as an organizational values necessity!
Nothing ‘new’ works without someone committed to modelling and living the values so that they can be integrated eventually by the team. You’ll need to use some sort of template to ensure that this change works. (I suggest Kotter’s 8 step change management process. There are plenty of other examples around though.)
- 2. Keep all eyes on deck.
It is not unusual for SC managers to deem their situation hopeless simply because they cannot see/understand the full extent of their network. This might be due to a number of low-visibility causes such as insufficient tech infrastructure, lack of transparency everywhere, middle-men who are ensuring there is no visibility purposefully, and/, incorrect or incongruous data, and poor ability to cleanse and interpret the data.
When such is the case, ramping up your visibility can deliver significant change in and of itself. The best part is that it will soon cascade into more changes as you finally empower your team to notice problematic areas that no one knew were there before and work together to create innovative solutions.
- 3. Don’t abandon ship, but abandon what doesn’t work.
You need to adopt a stricter policy when it comes to evaluating and implementing processes, as developed and agreed in your supply chain. You also need the team to commit to modifying the processes that simply don’t work and are just wasting money, resources and time.
Do you have your supply chain processes mapped? If not, why not?
Or, perhaps they have they been mapped by consultants and are sitting in a cupboard gathering dust, not even on the internet?
This is just basic. If you don’t know your processes (or more specifically, if your team doesn’t know your processes) how can you all implement anything consistently? How can they then modify the process to improve when it doesn’t work? Are they still blaming each other rather than the process? How can they put a line in the sand and honestly say, this is your starting point, we will improve from here, we can never go backwards from this point? (Of course, they cannot and neither can you but at least make sure that the level of governance that you want to be in your supply chain is actually there).
Having your SC processes mapped is an asset for your business. And as a side note, remember that when/if your division or your business is to be sold, having process maps in place means the buyer will pay more!
Ultimately though, the decision to abandon an inefficient process is one that must be firmly communicated across the board. It doesn’t matter how long you have been ‘doing things this way’ or how much money you had poured investing in an unsustainable process. A loss is a loss! Make the choice to finally move on and focus on what works instead of continuously hemorrhaging because new market conditions have made that ‘old process’ unviable.
- 4. Expect to tailor-fit your solutions.
When you want really meaningful change in your supply chain, you need to expect this change to be very exclusive to your business needs. There is no one-size-fits all solution, for whatever problems you are currently facing.
This is a mindset that is often neglected by those who are looking for a ‘magic bullet’ to their supply chain woes. For example, they complain about the SaaS solution they acquired, bemoaning its limited ability to really grasp the more complex areas of their supply chain management.
Little do such people know that there is actually nothing stopping them from adopting a more hybrid solution. The real moral of the story is that you should not frame your expected change entirely within a single solution but a combination that is custom-fit to address all your roadblocks and bottlenecks.
All in all, the truth is change of any kind is difficult for everyone mainly because of we all like certanty and the current state (no matter how hopeless it actually makes us feel)! But if you are really being intellectually honest about it, there is no authentic certainty in a supply chain in dire need of a turnaround.
It’s not safe, secure, agile, sustainable or resilient.
The possibility of change in the supply chain is however, always there once you decide to simply start, expand your view of your supply chain to believe that it can be tamed, turned around and transformed, independent of your current circumstances. Furthermore, understand that the journey on which you are embarking and leading will be one of the most exciting and rewarding of your career and the most developmental for your team, placing you in the box seat for extraordinary progression!