What one piece of advice would you give someone implementing change management in supply planning?

People are the heart and soul of change

Don’t forget that people are at the heart of every change.

The success of deploying a new tool, process or framework depends not only on meeting technical or functional requirements but on how impacts on people are managed.

This must be visible on every side of a transformation. From working with senior management to define and execute a vision. To working with the shop floor worker to understand what does change means for her/him and how each individual contribution plays for the common good.

Change management must be at the heart of every transformation.

-Joao Gil, SmartChainLLP

Have a sense of urgency

I think the sense of urgency is quite important when trying to implement change management.

People need to be shaken out of their comfort zone, and feel “threatened” (in a non-threatening manner) that if they are not willing to change then they’ll miss the boat! I recently rewatched the film “Hidden Figures” and while the first time I watched it my focus was really on the segregation side of the story, the second time I was more intrigued by the story of the woman who decides to proactively learn Fortran as she sees the computer NASA had bought as a threat to her position. She takes a proactive approach to it (she understands that the change is inevitable) while the other team is quite oblivious to it. At the end of the film, they go to that woman asking to be trained.

One other thing that is quite important with change management is the journey.

It is a bit like weight loss – it is not because you have signed up to Weight Watchers that you are going to lose weight. It is all the little things you do (or don’t do) day after day that will bring the results.

I have seen over the years too many change programmes that did not work, because the focus was on the big prize at the end, and no attention was paid to the little steps that had to happen to get there. It should be about small steps with a constant check & adjust.

-Melanie Tiersen

Get management buy-in at the right level from the very start

It’s vital that senior managers are aware of, and buy into, the change programme from the beginning, throughout and and beyond its completion. The ‘right level’ is at least high enough to have oversight of all the different areas touched by the changes.

By its very nature a supply chain is connected to multiple areas of any business and any change will have some impact upon them – indeed some changes may be perceived as negatives in particular areas of the business, whilst still contributing to an overall benefit. Individual departments’ own motivations can easily undermine the big picture by focussing only on the local impact. By having the right level of management oversight, these hurdles can be overcome. Without it the risk is the project collapsing into inter-departmental squabbling and an erosion – or even complete loss – of the benefits available.

(Note: a good example of the above is implementing changes which result in lower production capacity utilisation, due to more effective planning, when the shop floor managers have targets and bonuses based on maintaining throughout volume).

-Ashley Wilcock, Orchestr8

Separating strategy from execution

Not separating supply chain strategy from day-to-day execution is a mistake often made by supply chain functions. This needs to change. The two are different, but both are necessary for business success.

Supply chain execution is the day-to-day operations of supply chain, keeping things moving around the world, and solving issues as they come up. During the pandemic, we have seen delays in processing imports and exports, delays due to extra cleaning, and services that have been shut down or are operating on minimal schedules. Mitigating risk in supply chin execution comes with experience and being able to understand and pursue alternatives as needed, and to solve problems quickly to keep your pipeline full and freight moving. But supply chain execution is no longer enough. Companies need supply chain strategy, too.

Supply chain strategy is different. It is the long or longer-term vision of what should be done next. It is planning for known potential risks of things like natural disasters, bankruptcies, and even pandemics, as well as potential business opportunities. Alternative supply chain plans and responses must be crafted. It is more of an art or vision than day-to-day know-how. Generally, companies don’t execute supply chain strategic planning as a rigorous annual or semi-annual event. Clearly, this must change as we finally recognize the enormous effect that disruptions in supply chain have on the health and wealth of our businesses.

-Rosemary Coates, Executive Director,

Assign an owner

Assign an owner, all too often this is not done. Most companies agree there will be a significant change to users workflows and activities and that everyone will participate, but nobody manages this process – nothing is formally put in place to manage this, there might be a project team and a gazillion meetings, but there is now change ownership.

My experience is that they believe the software will manage this process for them. It will define what the users do and in a roundabout way they are right, but this is only one part of the change, users have a mind of their own, they are empowered to make decisions and we see a lot of people deciding to do what they are comfortable doing which results I deviation from the new ways of working. They find ways to manipulate the workflows and the system activities to allow them to do what they are familiar with and understand. This then leads to reduced benefits and a perception that the ‘change’ is not effective.

Therefore I believe a change agent needs to appointed. They should clearly know what the current situation is and what the ‘new’ situation will be in terms of workflow, approach, understanding and more importantly the project expectations.

Implementing metrics will help but this is not enough therefore the change agent needs to be responsible for compliance. They need to be responsible for flagging non-compliance and the reasons why; lack of training, lack of understanding, interference from other senior team members, etc.

This needs to be fed back to the project steering group which should consist of O8 representation (e.g. O8 should be part of this team for an agreed post go live period – maybe 6 months to 1 year). This will ensure issues raised are known to the stakeholders, they understand the impact of the change is or is not having on their project and against the projected benefits and provide a platform for re-training and philosophy refresher sessions at the correct point in time……during the change period from current situation to new.

-Raymond Brown